As the Sierra Club’s principal advocate for Headwaters Forest Reserve and a co-founder of Forests Forever, Kathy Bailey is a seasoned veteran in the long struggle to preserve the redwood forest. But when Headwaters was protected from logging after years of protests and legal action, she was ready to disengage; she wanted to slow down and savor life in Mendocino County’s bucolic Anderson Valley.
“Then in 2011 the (California) Department of Parks and Recreation announced park closures due to the financial crisis,” recalled Bailey, “and Hendy Woods State Park was on the list. I can see the park right from my window. I knew I had to get involved.”
For Anderson Valley, Hendy Woods is a critical asset. It is both an economic resource and an indispensable recreation site, as essential to the well-being of the community as Central Park is to New York and Golden Gate Park is to San Francisco.
“We depend on tourism,” Bailey said. “We’re a famous wine region, but we have very little public open space. Really, at 845 acres, Hendy Woods is it. It gets 50,000 visitors a year. When people ask where they can take a walk, we always direct them to Hendy. And with 94 campsites and four cabins, it also supports most of our overnight accommodations. ”
Bailey observed that Hendy Woods is also a crucial to the larger redwood forest ecosystem.
“Save the Redwoods League published an analysis of the history and ecology of the coast redwoods,” Bailey said. “It found that of any area, Mendocino County had the lowest percentage of redwood forest in the most protected categories. The county had a long history of supporting ‘working forests,’ and it missed some of the big conservation waves that protected critical properties in other parts of the state. So that makes Hendy Woods and its 80 acres of old growth particularly important.”
Following the announcement of Hendy’s closure in 2011, Bailey helped form Hendy Woods Community to advocate for reversal of the decision. A board member of the Anderson Valley Chamber of Commerce, she also got local businesspeople involved in the campaign.
“Then we got a call from Ruskin Hartley, who at that time was the Executive Director of the Save the Redwoods League,” Bailey said. “He simply said: ‘What can we do to help?’ I think that really pushed us over the top. The League had extensive contacts, and it had tremendous respect for both its scientific research and its advocacy acumen. That made us heard in Sacramento.”
Bottom line: In 2012, largely due to the efforts of Bailey and her compatriots – and some state funds that had been overlooked – Hendy was removed from the closure list. Hendy Woods Community remains active in the park’s affairs.
“Our group helps run the visitors center, and we handle interpretive walks,” Bailey said. “Now when I look out my window at the park – well, I’m incredibly relieved. Our experience with Hendy proved to me once again that when people come together, they can accomplish great things.”
Learn about the new day-use area at Hendy Woods made possible by Hendy Woods Community and Save the Redwoods League members.