Ranchers letter to Seashore Wednesday July 23, 2014

Below is a letter Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association members hand delivered on Wednesday to National Seashore Superintendent Cicely Muldoon regarding buildings at the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm

 

Dear Superintendent Muldoon,

The Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association is writing to inquire about the plans of the National Park Service for the buildings located at the Drakes Bay Oyster Farm. We are concerned that the Park Service may intend to demolish the retail sales building after July 31, 2014, and the worker residences at some later date. These buildings can provide significant benefit to the association members. They should not be demolished before their future use can be considered as part of the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Environmental Assessment process. While that process is pending, the buildings should be used on an interim basis to benefit the ranchers and the public.

After the oyster farm leaves, the retail sales building should be used to provide retail and educational opportunities for the ranchers, and to provide clean bathrooms and running water for the kayakers and other public visitors who visit Drakes Estero and use the running water to clean off themselves and their boats. After the oyster farm workers leave, the worker residences should be used as residences for workers at the Seashore ranches.

The concerns about the oyster farm, which were centered on wilderness policy, are not applicable to these buildings, which are not in wilderness or potential wilderness areas. Even the section of Schooner Bay adjacent to the buildings is not wilderness or potential wilderness. Grazing occurs on and around the building site.

As the association explained in its scoping letter for the Ranch Comprehensive Management Plan Environmental Assessment, there is a need to establish new on-farm retail opportunities, including the preparation and sale of local food items. (PRSRA scoping letter, sections 3a,viii). There is also a need for a location at which the public can learn about the history of the ranches. Ample septic system capacity and abundant water delivered by a certified public water system currently exist for the five housing units and the retail building. Adequate parking, public restrooms, walk in refrigeration and health department approval also exist for small scale food processing, storage and sales. It would require extensive permitting and construction to replicate these ranch assets elsewhere in the seashore. Here, only upgrades would be required.

The Seashore also allows other commercial uses at this site, including guided kayak trips. Presumably, the park will continue to allow this use. Currently, the kayakers and other visiting public regularly use the fully equipped public restrooms in the retail building. It seems appropriate to allow both compatible permitted commercial uses to continue on site.

The five housing units can be used for housing workers at the Seashore ranches. As the assocation explained in its scoping letter, there is a need for housing for these workers. (PRSRA scoping letter, section 3a, x). Building new housing for the ranch workers would be difficult, time- consuming, and expensive. Once the current residents have left, the units should be used for ranch workers.

The Seashore has publicly stated its commitment to the continuation of the ranches within the seashore. The assocation has made it clear to the National Park that these uses are vital to the long term viability of the ranches. Allowing these buildings to remain to continue to provide benefit to the ranches as they have in the past, to allow a transition from oyster worker housing to ranch worker housing, to transition from oyster processing to local value added farm product processing and to re-focus the interpretive services at the site to focus on history and sustainability of the working ranches located in working landscapes of Point Reyes National Seashore would help demonstrate the park’s commitment to the viability of the ranches.

Sincerely, Point Reyes Seashore Ranchers Association

Cc: US Senator Dianne Feinstein, US Senator Barbara Boxer, Congressman Jared Huffman, Assembly Member Marc Levine, Supervisor Steve Kinsey