Parking and trail update: June 2014:All trails are currently open for the dry season.
WILLOW CREEK ANNUAL UPDATE, NOVEMBER 2013:
Year after year, Willow Creek remains open. During this era of park closures, government shutdowns and planning constraints, that is a big deal. You are part in this success. LandPaths never envisioned the permit program beyond an interim 3 year solution. Now in year 8, we are glad to have you as a partner.
LandPaths remains committed to maintaining and growing Willow Creek as a community asset. To be a community asset Willow Creek needs to be open for public engagement. LandPaths pledged in 2005 to manage public access with a permit system—a condition required as part of the property’s protection from logging or development to be a future park. LandPaths continues to uphold our commitment despite the long-delayed transition to a traditional park. The park is open to all once completing a free one-time orientation.
LandPaths’ vision for Willow Creek extends well beyond permit-based access—to imagine a Park with an integrated trail system, well maintained trails and healthy creeks, interpretive experiences in both English and Spanish, that educates and engages participants, complete open access and a robust cadre of volunteers to assist in making it all happen. Our accomplishments this year include:
- Successful step toward an integrated trail system. We are thrilled to announce a long-awaited trail connection through the Mendocino Redwood Company Seed Orchard Tract. “Creekside Connector Trail” and “Creekside Trail” provide critical trail links that will expand your options when exploring Willow Creek. These new trails are a result of continued dialogue with MRC, and is only available to 2014 WC permit or later. Your continued support and participation at Willow Creek are critical and will create more such opportunities.
- Maintaining new and existing trails. The Willow Creek Trail Crew have maintained and upgraded Willow Creek trail for you! This trail crew meets thefirst Wednesday of every month. In 2013, the Trail Crew logged 9 workdays, maintaining 29 miles of trail including, bush trimming, down tree removal, trail clearing, rolling dip maintenance and other erosion prevention tasks. The Crew is also responsible for replacing signage at most trail intersections, and in some cases installed new signage posts. If you are interested in joining this crew, let us know! Sign up for a Stewardship Day or contact Alfredo Gomez at Alfredo@landpaths.org.
- Engaging you and others as participants at Willow Creek. LandPaths works to make the Orientations timely, convenient, and worth your time. We providemore than monthlyOrientations (12 so far this year), to ensure these orientations are frequent enough to be practical for interested participants. Additionally, we paired several of these orientations with guided hikes, making the most of people’s time and increasing the educational value of the orientations.
- LandPaths also hosted twoOutingsto expand your experience and knowledge of the area, Islands in the Sky Exploration and a very popular Puma Hike with the Felidae Conservation Fund. If you have suggestions for Outings or feedback on the Orientations, great! Please contact Heather Knoll: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your donations of money, time and passion make this happen, thank you. You support:
- a forum for an agreed code of conduct to respect nature, users, neighbors, and partners,
- liability insurance, a condition for public engagement,
- support for Willow Creek Trail Crew,
- liaison with State parks, MRC and other local public and private land owners, and
- continued bi-lingual outreach and education, building a new generation of conservationists.
Together we can:
- Train you and other volunteers to run orientations, further lowering costs;
- Offer more flexible orientations, broadening who uses the park,
- Partner with trail organizations to train you and other volunteers to take on more
- Support State Parks and other partners to continue towards a Willow Creek Addition that is open and engages participants in the land and active stewardship.
Please support Willow Creek. For donations, use the enclosed envelope or save postage and time -- donate online through our website (landpaths.org).
Your Friends at LandPaths
WILLOW CREEK HIGHLIGHTS:
This spectacular 3,373-acre "community-powered" park near Duncans Mills covers much of the Willow Creek and Freezeout Creek watersheds. Its rolling grasslands, forested ravines, and fish-bearing streams are home to an abundance of plants and wildlife. Hikers, bikers and equestrians will enjoy the 15 mile network of old logging and ranch roads, accessible through a free permit-for-use program (see below for details). These roads & trails connect with adjacent State Park lands, allowing users to hike or ride the 7+ miles from Duncans Mills to Shell Beach - all on State Park land.
Due to the ongoing State Parks budget crunch, LandPaths has been asked to continue providing access at Willow Creek through a Permit-for-Use program (started in 2005). A permit for hiking, biking, and horseback access is issued after a 1-hour orientation on the property. Read on for details about this innovative program and how you can help keep it going.
A cadre of dedicated volunteers (like you!) provide the "community power" for Willow Creek. LandPaths works in partnership with volunteers, neighbors, State Parks, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and others to ensure this beautiful land remains accessible and well cared for. See our Willow Creek calendar for upcoming dates to get involved.
PERMITTED ACCESS - HIKE, BIKE OR HORSEBACK RIDE:
If you would like to obtain a permit to hike, bike or horseback ride at Willow Creek, simply follow these steps:
1. Read these details
2. Download a Willow Creek Application & The MRC Seed Orchard Application bring them both with you to an orientation (see links in right column)
3. Attend an orientation (see calendar for upcoming dates).
This permit will allow you to hike, bike or horseback ride on the property at your leisure, subject to State Parks terms and conditions (below). As you may be aware, this beautiful 3,387-acre property has been added to the Sonoma Coast State Beach, purchased with funding from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, California Coastal Conservancy, California Wildlife Conservation Board and State Parks.
As you have heard, with the state budget crunch still looming, State Parks has asked LandPaths to continue access and stewardship programs at Willow Creek. Our goal is not only to ensure that hiking, biking, and equestrian access continues, but also to engage YOU in creating a more sustainable ‘Community Powered Park'. To accomplish this, we plan to step up our efforts, working with neighbors, park users, local businesses, State Parks, Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, and others.
Permit Terms and Conditions
Special Event Permits, when approved, shall be issued subject to the following provisions:
1. All activities and arrangements for use of the above mentioned property shall be at the direction of the District Superintendent or authorized representative.
2. Rules and regulations of the Department of Parks and Recreation unless specifically exempted or otherwise noted shall be observed by the permittee, employee, agents, or contractors.
3. The only special activities granted permittee herein are those listed in writing on the permit.
4. Vehicles under the authority of the permittee will be parked in designated areas and vehicle shall display the issued parking pass.
5. Permittee will be responsible for any and all damage to the park unit or any State property that was a result of permittee's activities. The State will be sole judge of the extent of the damage and the extent of repairs required to remedy the damage. All repairs will be performed to the satisfaction of the State.
6. The hours of operation for this permit will be 8:00 am to Sunset; all vehicles will be removed from designated parking areas ½ hour after sunset.
7. The property will be open to public use from April 1st through the last day of November. Closure dates may be altered based on weather, road conditions, trail conditions, operational need, etc.
8. Prohibited activities include but are not limited to the following: possession of firearms, overnight camping, fires, off road vehicle use, and dogs on trails.
9. Permittee must attend an approved Department of Parks and Recreation orientation prior to accessing the property.
10. Permit must be renewed each year through LandPaths.
11. It is your responsibility to apprise LandPaths of your change of email, phone, and address. This is necessary in order for you to receive timely updates on the property, including seasonal openings / closures, gate combination changes, etc.
LandPaths has been working with volunteers to provide ‘community power' to the Willow Creek property since 2001. Volunteers serve as ‘eyes and ears' as part of the Willow CreekTrail Watch program, and help with trail maintenance through the Stewardship Crew. In the past year alone, over 60 volunteers have spent hundreds of hours reporting on property conditions, inventorying culverts, installing trail signs, removing downed trees from trails, providing user data for State Parks planning, and more.
LandPaths oversees the Trail Watch and Stewardship Crew programs as part of a partnership with State Parks & Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods also offers other volunteer opportunities in the Willow Creek watershed.
Current opportunities to volunteer are listed in our Willow Creek calendar. If you would like to learn more about taking on a volunteer leadership role in this community-powered park, please contact us.
DOCENT LED HIKES:
Since 2001, LandPaths has led over 40 docent led hikes at Willow Creek. When the property was acquired by State Parks in 2005, LandPaths began partnering with State Parks and Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, increasing the total number of hikes offered on this property.
Hikes cover a variety of themes, from native-American history to badger habitat; from watershed restoration to grassland health. Routes range from the 3.5 miles Islands in the Sky loop to the 8-mile through hike from Duncans Mills to the coast.
LandPaths' docent led hikes are listed in our Willow Creek calendar. Stewards of the Coast and Redwoodshikes are listed on their website.
HISTORY OF ACCESS & STEWARDSHIP PROGRAMS:
State Park Ownership: In May 2005, Willow Creek was acquired as an addition to Sonoma Coast State Park through contributions from the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District, theCalifornia Coastal Conservancy and other partners. Without funding for access and stewardship programs,California State Parks made the acquisition contingent on LandPaths' assistance.
Since 2005, LandPaths has been working in partnership with State Parks to provide permitted access and volunteer stewardship programs, including a Trail Watch & Stewardship Crew. LandPaths has also worked closely with Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods, another local non-profit organization that provides public education and resource protection programs in the Willow Creek watershed.
The California State Coastal Conservancy funded LandPaths' programs beginning in 2005, with the goal of transitioning full park operations to State Parks by the grant's end in June 2009. As a result of the current state budget crisis, State Parks doesn't have the staffing or budget to take on LandPaths' access and stewardship programs. At the request of State Parks, LandPaths is working to further develop a "Community Powered Park" model as a means to leverage additional community investment and ensure Willow Creek remains stewarded and accessible to all.
From 2005 to mid-2009, LandPaths issued nearly 1,900 access permits, hosted over 50 orientations, & led 30 hikes, including topics to enrich people's understanding of the property and its value to the region as a whole. LandPaths recruited a core group of 60 volunteers who have posted trail signs, inventoried roads and culverts for sediment sources, and serve as the eyes and ears of the property. LandPaths also completed significant watershed-scale restoration work on old ranch and logging roads to protect salmonid habitat.
Previous Ownership: Prior to State Parks' acquisition, LandPaths had been providing free permitted public access (hiking, mountain biking and horseback) & volunteer stewardship programs at Willow Creek since 2001, working in partnership with Mendocino Redwood Company (MRC). This innovative permit-for-use program was the first of its kind in Sonoma County. A similar model is now being considered at Tolay Regional Park and Taylor Mountain Open Space Preserve.
Permitted access to the property is currently via the Freezeout Flat park entrance near Duncans Mills. This parking area is behind a locked gate. After attending a permit orientation, permit holders are issued a combination to this gate. State Parks is currently working on a Road and Trails plan for the property. This plan will involve a detailed inventory and analysis of circulation on the property and will consider other access points and guide development of additional trails.
Directions: Take 116 west to Duncans Mills, turn LEFT on Moscow Rd go through town and across the bridge, immediately as you exit the bridge look for Freezeout road on your Right hand side. Turn RIGHT (south) on Freezeout Road (immediately after the bridge) and look for the 2nd gate on your left; proceed through gate to parking. NOTE: Gate is locked except during scheduled outings and events. Permit holders are issued a combination to this gate.