A crowd of Tomales Bay area residents showed up at West Marin School Thursday to look over Caltrans plan to replace the Green Bridge in Point Reyes Station. The bridge carries an average of 3,000 vehicles on Highway 1 over Papermill Creek daily.

Caltrans would like to spend approximately $5.8 million to replace the 100-foot-long bridge, beginning in 2018 or 2019 and finishing three or four years later.

A team of Caltrans representatives were on hand Thursday to explain diagrams of four alternative designs for the replacement: a short, steel-truss bridge; a long, steel-truss bridge; a precast, concrete girder bridge; and a suspension bridge.

The underside of the Green Bridge.

“The current bridge was determined to be seismically deficient, and retrofitting the bridge was deemed infeasible due to limitations caused by the nature of the original structure,” Caltrans reported earlier. The bridge was built in 1929.

The alternative designs differ in: how the piers will affect the creek channel, affect neighboring properties, and alter the approaches to the bridge. They also differ in bridge height and in the thickness of the deck.

The short-steel-truss design is “very similar” to the present bridge, Caltrans says. ________________________________________________________________

The long-steel-truss design would be taller than the existing bridge.

It would have overhead bracing, which would put a limit on the height of vehicles that could use it.

Approximately 120 of the vehicles that now cross the bridge each day are trucks.

 

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Under this alternative, the bridge deck would be two feet thicker than it presently is. It would also cover more land and water, and this would have “moderate impacts to adjacent properties,” Caltrans noted.  _______________________________________________________________

The suspension-cable design under consideration would have towers at each end, anchoring the cables supporting the bridge deck.

There would be “no piers” in the creek and there would be “no change to the current road alignment,” according to the state.

 

 

 

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A spot check of residents attending Thursday’s meeting found many  people skeptical of the need to replace the bridge but resigned to it.

The hot-button issue was what will happen to traffic on Highway 1 and the intersecting levee road during the estimated 18 to 24 months of rebuilding. Caltrans has two alternative proposals for a temporary bridge, but each would be able to accommodate only one direction of traffic at a time.

Provision would be made for bicycle and pedestrian traffic, and a stoplight would be installed to regulate vehicle traffic. Vehicle delays would be “about five minutes,” the highway department predicted. The traffic jams on a summer weekend would be huge, numerous people warned.

A bridge too far?

Coming in for virtually no discussion was a smaller bridge about 60 yards north of the Green Bridge. This Highway 1 bridge was also built in 1929, but no mention was made of its condition.

Another bridge too far?

Also left unmentioned was a second small bridge, which is about 50 yards south of the Green Bridge near Marin Sun Farms. What’s the condition of its piers? I wasn’t about to wade around in the muck to find out.

A “draft environmental document will be made available for public review and comment in mid-2016,” according to Caltrans. “The final environmental document is expected to be issued by early 2017, and design completion will be in late 2018.

“Construction is expected to begin in three to four years and last approximately two to three years.”

People wanting to have their concerns considered in Caltrans’ planning can write the state at: <lagunitas_bridge@dot.ca.gov>.

Caltrans plans to hold a public meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. this Thursday, March 9, at West Marin School to discuss replacing the Green Bridge which carries Highway 1 over Papermill Creek in Point Reyes Station.

You’re familiar with Caltrans’ bridge work, I’m sure. Its star-crossed replacement of the eastern span of the Oakland Bay Bridge has become an endless story in the Bay Area news media.

Caltrans, which wants to spend $5.8 million replacing this bridge, says it has come up with four designs for a new one. The public will have a chance Thursday to comment on them.

In the mid-1800s, Olema was a far busier place than Point Reyes Station, and a ferry carried travelers going back and forth between the two towns. In 1875, the County of Marin built the first bridge in this location. Its modern replacement was obviously built in 1929.

This 100-foot-long span on Highway 1 carries approximately 3,000 vehicles per day, 4 percent of them trucks, Caltrans reports.  The 10,000-foot-long Bay Bridge on Interstate 80 in comparison carries about 240,000 vehicles per day between Oakland and San Francisco.

Caltrans questions whether the 24-foot-wide Green Bridge is earthquake safe, saying its structure is okay, but its “deck geometry” is “basically intolerable.”

— 1959 photo by D.M. Gunn, courtesy of Dewey Livingston

The old Tocaloma Bridge was built in 1927 to carry Sir Francis Drake traffic over Papermill Creek in the town of Tocaloma, which lies 1.8 miles east of Highway 1 at Olema. The bridge was designed by J.C. Oglesby.

Oglesby also designed the matching Alexander Avenue bridge still in use in Larkspur. (Wikipedia Commons photo)

Oglesby’s old Tocaloma Bridge as it looks today.

The new Tocaloma Bridge carrying Sir Francis Drake traffic over Papermill Creek is immediately upstream from the old bridge. The state built the new bridge in 1962 at a cost of $210,000.

San Antonio Creek forms the boundary between Marin and Sonoma Counties, as seen from the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road while heading west.

The San Antonio Creek Bridge along the Point Reyes-Petaluma Road straddles the Marin-Sonoma county line just east of Union School.

The 102-foot-long bridge over San Antonio Creek was built in 1919 and replaced in 1962.

The continuous-concrete-slab construction of the 1919 bridge still looks solid. However, the bridge’s width and deteriorating pavement brought about its being replaced with the wider, better-paved bridge beside it.

When I set off to shoot these photos, I was well aware that West Marin’s abandoned bridges are in scenic locales, but this view from the old San Antonio Creek Bridge was, nonetheless, a pleasant surprise.

If Caltrans has its way, the Green Bridge will likewise be abandoned in the near future. Will it then become an historic relic like these? Or will it be cut up and sold as scrap iron?

Past postings are numbered in the order they went online, with the most recent postings located immediately below the Table of Contents.

To go directly to stories without scrolling, click on the highlighted phrases following the numbers.

Weekly postings are published by Thursday.

401. Patroling the CHP

400. A sparse serving of sagacity

399. Small town slumbering and cows stampeding

398. The highs and lows of St. Valentine’s Day weekends, past and long past

397. Presidents’ Day, Valentine’s Day; in Canada indigenous people to protest

396. Eastern Door newspaper exemplifies courage in a Mohawk community

395. Documentary by ex-resident of Bolinas tells story of Burundi-genocide survivor

394. Focusing on the birdlife around Mitchell cabin

393. Wandering around in early January

392. A gallery of critters around Mitchell cabin

391. Stunned to learn French, New Anus State Park, and other surprises in the world of news

390. Some Christmas surprises

389. In West Marin the drought symbolically comes to an end

388. Occasionally the most intriguing parts of newspapers are the miscues

387. Despite a series of downpours, Point Reyes Station steps out to celebrate the Yuletide

386. A visitor from New York

385. It was the best of times; it was the worst of times

384. The Comoros solution for undocumented residents

383. Finding refuge in my surroundings

382. Remembering the past in Point Reyes Station and Tomales

381. Point Reyes Station focuses on helping preschool and preparing for disaster

380. Little Nicasio was a happening place Saturday and Sunday

379. Mowgli taught me to love jungles

378. A Scottish journalist’s observations regarding the vote to remain part of Great Britain

377. Racoons waxing and Tricolored Blackbirds waning plus a mystery in the woods

376. The autumnal equinox is upon us

375. Grito de la Independencia in Point Reyes Station

374. Some Nicasio Reservoir history is seldom seen, and some is seldom recognized

373. Tomales Founders’ Day draws a goodly crowd despite a shorter-than-usual parade

372. It all happened between two vivid dreams

371. A photographic look at signs of life

370. All in one day: displays in Point Reyes Station & Inverness of arts, crafts, & public service

369. A word with you, if you please

368. Sorry I’m late, but here are a bobcat, albino robin, and five fox kits to make up for it

367. Nurturing nature

366. Riding an old narrow-gauge train and modern Amtrak plus driving the ‘Highway to Hell’

365. It was like winning a second Pulitzer Prize

365. Well, would you look at that?

364. Photography, drama, etchings, and paintings worth seeing this summer

363. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade and Saturday’s 4-H Fair draw enthusiastic crowds

362. White House Pool enchanting despite vandalism and poison oak

361. Humor — including blonde and similar jokes — that’s gone through at least 3 countries

360. My deer friends

359. A few of my photos in war and peace from West Marin to Southeast Asia to Central America

358. Animals provide relief from an animalistic world

357. Gala for just-retired popular librarian; preparing for disasters; odd news reports

356. America owes a lot to its weekly newspapers

355. Pining for a couple of old friends

354. Creatures of spring at Mitchell cabin

353. Gallery Route One exhibiting whimsical art with messages from three women

352. Save a spaniel

351. When words fail us

350. With spring 10 days away, late-winter rains give a boost to West Marin flora and fauna

349. A gallery of photos from Point Reyes Light open house, staff reunion, and book readings

348. Misunderstandings and other ‘small’ news plus a big ‘ol party

347. ‘Picturing the Point Reyes Peninsula’ exhibition opens in Jack Mason Museum

346. Readings from ‘The Light on the Coast’ draw crowd to Tomales Regional History Center

345. Jon Langdon’s ‘Beyond Geometry’; Mr. Badger goes a-huntin’; Gypsy cobs cloppin’ downtown

344. Point Reyes Station innkeeper and former jeweler Ann Dick a prolific writer at 87

343. Oldtimer says dams, not homes and ranches, had hurt salmon runs; now it’s the drought

342. Legends of the Celtic harp wow enthusiastic crowd in the Dance Palace

341. A gallery of local-wildlife photos

340. The Ghosts of Christmas Presents

339. The holidays are the time for us in West Marin to start preparing for disasters

338. The last days of fall

337. The Light on the Coast due to gleam this week

336. Using words well and not so well

335. My 70th birthday

334. The Mitchell cabin perspective on protection and food for wildlife

333. Guatemalan murder suspect, who was hunted via social media, caught in Mexico via TV

332. Mulling a potential flap at the confab

331. My frantic flight from Latin

330. The Fall of Nicasio and Point Reyes Station

329. A dead buck, buzzards, flies…. and who else?

428. With federal parks here closed, art exhibits getting more attention

427. From Paris’ Montmartre to New Orleans’ Storyville to San Francisco’s Tenderloin

426. Masterful new book set in Alaskan wilderness is a story of conflicts that echo West Marin’s

425. The pressure on journalists as the NSA pushes US toward becoming George Orwell’s ’1984′

424. The US government’s love-hate relationship with Syrian brutality

423. Tomales Founder Day parade and party in park draw a huge crowd

422. A visit from Pepé Le Pew

421. A young leviathan dies at Stinson Beach

420. Images of many types of dogs at Inverness Fair

419. First the grim news, then the gay

418. Don’t believe everything you read; newspapers will survive

417. Don’t Bogart that smoke detector, you roach

416. Wildlife relish outdoor dining at Mitchell cabin

415. ‘The town that West Marin forgot’ celebrates its park with food, auctions, rock ‘n’ roll, and grand opera

414. Raccoon-noitering

413. Thoughts about our infatuation with animals

412. Fox News in Point Reyes Station

411. New Age detritus found to be littering roadside in Lagunitas

410. Western Weekend 2013: good weather, good fun; close call

409. The mysteries of words, birds, and the NRA

408. Remembering massacres under Guatemalan President Ríos Montt

407. My good buddy gets hit by a car and dies

406. Tormented by computers, comforted by spring

405. Way out west in West Marin

404. Enduring a week of terrible events

403. Bicyclist killed in Inverness Park

402. Of cats and bobcats, burros and burrows

401. Google boggles blogger

400. Exhibition of portraits of ‘Tomales Neighbors’, past and present, opens to kudos

399. Deus ex machina

398. Proposed law would end trapping of bobcats for their pelts

397. Postal Clerk Known for Feralhood Retires

396. Whatever Happened to Our Curiosity?

395. Filmmaker Ole Schell, formerly of Bolinas, with jookin’ dancer Lil’ Buck, actress Meryl Streep & cellist Yo-Yo Ma in China

394. The Point in Winter

393. When critters watch but don’t bother to bother each other

392. Quotes Worth Saving IV

391. Inverness museum exhibit on Swiss immigrant who came to be called ‘Mr. Point Reyes Station’

391. Our fascination with how words are used — some examples from across the pond

390. A collection of favorite wildlife photographs snapped around Mitchell cabin

389. Counting curves on Highway 1

388. The winter solstice of 2012

387. Shoreline School District blessed compared with a number of others

386. Pearl Harbor Day, Point Reyes Station’s Christmas tree lighting, and a new era at MALT

385. Quietly photographing all natural neighbors

384. The old codger connects Thanksgiving, turkeys, and NATO missiles

383. Feeding time

382. What a week for the press!

381. Our political D-Day

380. Marin agriculture as photographed between 1920 and 1950 by the county’s 1st farm advisor

379. Zen and the Art of Motor-mouth Maintenance

378. Tony’s Seafood Restaurant, a reminder of the Croatian immigration to Marshall

377. North Bend Ranch — rich in narrow-gauge railroad history — put up for sale

376. Young Kosovar refugee, whose diary West Marin read during war, sends an update

375. At the end of our line we found Cazadero

374. Typical-graphical errors and other journalistic confusion

373. Why Marin needs to approve Measure A

372. Tomales Founders Day parade bigger than ever

371. A convoluted look at language

370. Not quite what you’d expect

369. Jack Mason Museum opens exhibit on Inverness Yacht Club 100 years after it was first launched

368. Tomales High turns 100 years old as NASA’s Curiosity lands on Mars

367. Wild scene from my deck as photographed over two weeks

366. Far West Fest hot as a wildfire and lasts longer

365. The story of a ‘Deputy Sheriff in Wild and Wooly West Marin’

364. Drakes Bay Oyster Company struggles on against Park Service

363. Fighting a thorny intruder in West Marin

362. Unintentional double entendres in the press

361. Summer brings a new assortment of wildlife to Mitchell cabin

360. A short trip to exotic Gualala

359. Pictures from a fun-filled Western Weekend in Point Reyes Station

358. Marin County agriculture brought in $70 million last year

357. The agony and the ecstasy of Spring

356. History and merriment combine at Nicasio sesquicentennial celebration

355. Most 2nd District congressional candidates want US to legalize medical marijuana

354. Old Farmer’s Almanac still fresh after 220 years

353. A photographic history of Inverness Park

352. On eve of June 5 election, Supervisor Kinsey describes his grueling schedule

351. Glimpses of the narrow-gauge railroad

350. Senator Feinstein says Park Service employees ‘feel emboldened to once again fabricate science’

349. A drought for livestock but not for people

348. The origins of Point Reyes Station

347. More shenanigans by the Point Reyes National Seashore

346. Surviving another earthquake

345. Turkeys — both avian and human

344. Crowd at memorial honors beloved Realtor

343. Former National Seashore Supt. Neubacher & his boss Jon Jarvis becoming a political problem for the Obama administration

342. Grim times abroad and tranquil days at home

341. Using social media to hunt for Guatemalan murder suspect in US

340. The Great Storm of ’82 in pictures

339. Caught in the great storm of 1982

338. A roundup of wildlife at Mitchell cabin

337. Seasonal greetings can be confusing

336. Christmas Day visitors

335. How our Christmas turkeys got their name

334. A Christmas Carol

333. Who’s been naughty or nice

332. A gallery of visits from wildlife

331. The changing of the seasons

330. Artist Thomas Wood’s studio show captures nature’s beauty

329. Save America’s Postal Service

328. Symposium on National Seashore misdeeds; pancake fundraiser for firefighters & Disaster Council; barn dance — all in Pt. Reyes Station

327. Occupy Wall Street protest expands to Point Reyes Station

326. Joel Hack to retire as publisher of The West Marin Citizen

325. Women of West Marin

324. E Clampus Vitus gives further recognition to Duncans Mills’ trove of coastal history

323. Ungulates in the news

322. Incurring the raccoon gaze

321. Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace celebrates 40th anniversary

320. Tomales Founders Day parade and picnic

319. Newswomen heroic in covering combat

318. Gopher it

317. Inverness Fair provided an antidote to Weltschmerz

316. Saturday’s opening reception for an exhibition of Elisabeth Ptak’s collages

315. Living among the wildlife

314. The threat from a runaway sand dune

313. Saturday’s Far West Fest

312. What’s in a name?

311. Tomales’ party in the park

310. The frustrations of home maintenance — a lesson learned from ‘The Arkansas Traveler’

309. The turtle

308. Hats off to Safeway

307. As expressions come and go, do you know what you’re saying?

306. We’re back following an unknown hacker’s vandalism to this blog

305. The sun shone on Sunday’s Western Weekend parade

304. The Western Weekend 4-H Fair and barn dance

303. Words, pictures, and the press

302. Memorial for Jonathan Rowe who led creation of the commons in Point Reyes Station

301. Goddamn winter’s back

300. This blog turns 300

299. Charge ahead! or pay cash

298. Daughter dies in Nevada County

297. What does the Easter Bunny have to do with Jesus’ resurrection?

296. West Marin update

295. Tales from West Marin’s forgotten past

294. When everything goes wrong

293. Writer Jonathan Rowe dies unexpectedly at 65

292. Some of the creatures that visited my cabin in a single day

291. Finding small absurdities in the midst of major crises

290. Bolinas exhibition takes an artistic look at the world

289. A fox at the table

288. The common people are revolting

287. How two resourceful women coped with crises

286. Have a happy and trippy Valentine’s Day

285. Quotes Worth Saving III

284. Facebook, the bizarre culmination of mass communications

283. A Great blue heron, mondagreens, and three cheers for Ghana

282. Video of two tributes to Missy Patterson during her memorial reception

281. Wishing a healthy, happy new year to West Marin’s critters — you included

280. ‘Tis the time of Janus, the god who looks forward and back

279. The death of a West Marin matriarch

278. Improbable politics in Wasilla, St. Petersburg and Point Reyes Station

277. Faces along the Path of Lights

276. Literary and civic news sponsored by the creatures of West Marin

275. Another round of inter-species peace negotiations at Mitchell cabin

274. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott takes turns performing with Corey Goodman and Maria Muldaur at amazing fundraiser in Marshall

273. Trailer Stash — a musical fundraiser to prepare Marshall for disasters

272. Day of the Dead celebration in Point Reyes Station

271. Point Reyes pedestrian home from hospital after being struck by deer

270. Have a happy (or scary) Halloween

269. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce — a part of West Marin’s Latino heritage — further refined

268. This fall’s wildlife census for my hill

267. Culvert project at White House Pool aims to reduce flooding along the levee road

266. Greetings from your governor

265. Bolinas boy makes good with documentary on fashion models

264. Scotland’s ill-fated colony in Panamaand why I read the Economist

263. Avoiding more victims by capping a sticky gusher

262. Crafting the Considerate House

261. West Marin remembers Duane Irving

260. The art of boating

259. Firefighters in action

258. Do you like coyotes and bobcats? How about rats?

257. Los mapaches con cacahuates; también fotos de los cuervos y venados

256. Proposal for ceasefire in West Marin ‘newspaper war’

255. The young creatures of summer

254. Eli’s coming — causing momentary dismay at The Point Reyes Light

253. Under the volcano and in the eye of the storm — a firsthand account

252. The duel between The Point Reyes Light and The West Marin Citizen

251. Santa Muerte and El Cadejo

250. Wildlife around my cars on the Serengeti Plain of West Marin

249. A big Western Weekend Parade in li’l old Point Reyes Station

248. 4-H Fair and Coronation Ball keep alive Western Weekend’s agricultural traditions

247. A tail for West Marin to bear in mind this Western Weekend

246. Point Reyes Light sells and will incorporate as a nonprofit

245. Point Reyes Station area blackout rumored to have been sparked by bird

244. Planned Feralhood desperate for a new home

243. John Francis takes a walk down under

242. A day in a small town

241. Point Reyes Station’s notorious curve is scene of yet another vehicle crash

240. The Mother Goose method for getting rid of thistles

239. A benefit so that handicapped kids can go rafting

238. Where angels fear to tread

237. The Chronicle, hang gliders, and horses

236. Crowd celebrates 80th birthday of Marshall artist-political activist Donna Sheehan

235. A classic revisited

234. Nature celebrates spring

233. More on diplomatic news we’ve been following

232. Sportscar flies off embankment; no one hurt in miraculous landing

231. A chat with the Trailside Killer

230. Life and death on my hill

229. Valentine’s Fair raises money for Haiti relief

228. Historic irony as milk truck overturns in Marshall

227. Encouraging my bodhisattva possum on her path to enlightenment

226. Benefit for Haitian earthquake survivors filled with mixed emotions

225. What drought? Nicasio Reservoir overflows

224. Disconcerting standup reporting

223. The storms begin; schools close; a near miss at my cabin

222. Spare the rodent (or rabbit) & spoil the diet

221. Lookin’ out my backdoor: some of my favorite wildlife photos

220. Careening through the holidays

219. Chileno Valley journalist working in Abu Dhabi brings new wife home for visit

218. Just what would Mayberry be like on acid?

217. The foxes of downtown Point Reyes Station

216. Interpreting dreams

215. Let’s talk turkey

214. You’ll Never Walk Alone — an unlikely story

213. A wistful walk on the bottom of Nicasio Reservoir

212. Progress in the backyard peace process

211. John Francis leaving; 4 other artists turn pages but sticking around

210. What we inherit

209. Over 200 show up at fundraiser to help pay injured ad manager’s medical bills

208. A community helping one of its own

207. A country mouse in the Tenderloin

206. News of the week reported through pictures

205. Update on injured ad manager of West Marin Citizen; benefit planned; and will there be a race?

204. Startling weather; amazing stepdaughters

203. Talented-animal tales

2o2. Saga of The West Marin Citizen ad manager’s recovery spreads around the globe — not always accurately

201. And you were there

200. Hospitalized ad manager of West Marin Citizen coming home; friends volunteering to provide meals

199. Scenes from the Inverness Fair

198. Great progress for injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen despite problems with convalescent hospital

197. Thieves use ruse to clean out till at Station House Gifts

196. Anastacio’s Famous BBQ Oyster Sauce goes on sale

195. A hillside of wildlife

194. Kaiser Permanente’s ‘Sicko’ machinations shock injured ad manager of The West Marin Citizen

193. Immobilized by multiple injuries, ad manager keeps selling from hospital bed

192. All creatures feathered and furry

191. The wildlife of summer around my cabin & an update on Linda Petersen’s condition

19o. West Marin Citizen advertising manager hurt in crash; her popular dog Sebastian dies

189. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade

188. The Western Weekend Livestock Show

187. Western Weekend parade will be Sunday despite reports to the contrary

186. The purple couch beside the road

185. A funny thing happened at the car wash Friday & other odd events

184. My brush with a badger

183. Scientists find no evidence oyster farm harming Drakes Estero; more likely restoring it

182. Why bottom of Drakes Estero can never become part of a wilderness area

181. Badger, Ratty, and the sensual raccoon

180. ‘And how the wind doth ramm!/ Sing: Goddamm — Ezra Pound

179. A tailgate gallery of bumper-sticker humor; Point Reyes weather both Arctic & tropical

178. Crowd in Inverness Friday calls for reviving park’s Citizens Advisory Commission

177. Flying over Northwest Marin

176. Spring meditations in a Miwok cemetery concerning the news of West Marin.

175. Two warning signs of Spring

174. Tomales may be little but it’s lively

173. Doe stalks cat; raccoon emulates Scripture — for the rain it raineth every day

172. Three-year drought comes to a symbolic ending as Nicasio Reservoir overflows

171. Pot busts at my cabin — again

170. Happy Valentine’s Day (as it’s evolved)

169. Blogging about blogging

168. Thinking about words

167. Point Reyes Station celebrates President Barack Obama’s inauguration

166. A reader in Ghana

165. The bittersweet story of a hardy little tree

164. A parting look at 2008

163. Blackout hits Tomales Bay area

162. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVIII: Way Out West in West Marin

161. Chileno Valley Ranch as depicted by a rancher-artist who lives there

160. Nature’s Two Acres XXXVIII: This time it’s a tale of two bobbed cats

159. Thanksgiving in Point Reyes Station

158. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVII: a bobcat at my cabin

157. Quotes Worth Saving II

156. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXVI: The migrating birds of fall; or ‘Swan Lake’ revisited

155. Election night euphoria

154. The fun and anxiety of preparing for a disaster

153. Porky Pig, Demosthenes, Joe Biden, and ‘K-K-K-Katy

152. The political zoo.

151. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXV: Mr. Squirrel

150. A coyote at my cabin

149. Preparing for the fire season

148. Telling the Raccoon ‘Scat’

147. Faces from the weekly press

146. Tomales, Tomales, that toddling town

145. How park administration used deception & sometimes-unwitting environmentalists to harass oyster company with bad publicity

144. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXIII: Photographing wildlife indoors and out

143. What government scientists elsewhere had to say about the park’s misrepresenting research to attack oyster company

142. Landscape photos & paintings in Stinson Beach

141. What’s in the Inspector General’s report on the park that newspapers here aren’t telling you

140. Point Reyes National Seashore Supt. Don Neubacher seen as ’scary’

139. A demonstration to save Point Reyes National Seashore deer; park administration dishonesty officially confirmed

138. The good, the bizarre, and the ugly

138. Alice in ‘Wilderness

137. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXII: The first raccoon kits of summer

136. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXXI: The pink roses of Point Reyes Station

135. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXX: Baldfaced hornets

134. Scenes from my past week

133. Artist Bruce Lauritzen of Point Reyes Station draws a crowd for opening of exhibit

132. Kite day at Nicasio School

131. Sunday’s Western Weekend Parade in photos

130. Early projections hold: Obama, Woolsey & Kinsey win… Leno easily bests Migden & Nation

129. Western Weekend’s 4-H Livestock Show fun — but smaller than ever

128. Humane Society of the US says National Seashore claims about deer contraception are misleading

127. Lt. Governor John Garamendi joins battle to save fallow & axis deer in Point Reyes National Seashore

126. Nature’s Two Acres Part XXIX: Cold-blooded carnality… Or, why be warm blooded?

125. Nature’s Two Acres XXVIII: The first fawns of spring

124. The Beat Generation lives on at the No Name Bar

123. ‘Still Life with Raccoon

122. Nature’s Two Acres XXVII: Animals about town.

121. Newspaperman from Chileno Valley describes his life in the United Arab Emirates

120. Point Reyes Station and Inverness Park demonstrators call for a pedestrian bridge over Papermill Creek

119. Seeing history through newsmen’s eyes…. or the pen is mightier than the pigs

118. Five Faces of Spring

117. Supervisor Steve Kinsey defends further restrictions on woodstoves in West Marin

116. Prostitution in New York, Reno, and Point Reyes Station

115. A country without the decency to ban torture

114. National Seashore’s slaughter of deer traumatizes many residents here; ‘we demand a stop’

113. A tale of Kosovo, West Marin, and a bored battalion of Norwegian soldiers

112. Dillon Beach sewage spill update

111. ‘Drive-by journalism’

110. Sewage spills into ocean at Dillon Beach

109. Nature’s Two Acres XXVI: Which came first, blacktail or mule deer? Hint — their venison is oedipal

108. Nature’s Two Acres XXV: Talking turkey

107. Here’s hoping ‘the goose hangs high this Thursday for Valentine’s Day

106. Signs of bureaucratic contamination

105. A final thought about the Caltrans worker who just did his job — and saved the day

104. Statewide campaign to legalize hemp and marijuana comes to Point Reyes Station

103. Heavy news media presence briefly halts axis-deer slaughterin the Point Reyes National Seashore

102. Storm damage bad but could have been tragic

101. Nature’s Two Acres XXIV: Buffleheads, Greater Scaups, and the 16.6 million wild ducks shot annually

100. Lawsuits against and by Robert Plotkin settled out of court

99. Nature’s Two Acres XXIII: Bambi, Thumper, and Garfield

98. Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposal to close Tomales Bay State Park to save money could prove expensive

97. Old Christmas trees, wild turkeys, and the famous cat-and-rat scheme

96. Blackouts, newspapers in the news, and poetic frustration on the prairie

95. Hurricane-force wind & heavy rain take heavy toll on West Marin

94. Marin County gets a bum rap from itself

93. ‘Eco-fascism in the Point Reyes National Seashore

92. Guess who came to Christmas dinner

91. Yuletide greetings from Santa Claws

90. Assemblyman Jared Huffman’s ominous mailer

89. Nature’s Two Acres XXII: They’re hundreds of times more deadly than cynanide… and headed this way

88. Non-native species stops traffic in Point Reyes Station

87. Blackouts bedevil Point Reyes Station area

86. Urban legends

85. Nature’s Two Acres XXI: Coyote influx benefits some birds around Point Reyes Station

84. Winter Moon Fireside Tales — an undiscovered gem draws only four ticketholders opening night (but more for second show)

83. Striptease in Point Reyes Station… well, sorta

82. Our Lady of the Chutzpah — the many faces of State Senator Carole Migden

81. Stefanie Pisarczyk (AKA Stefanie Keys): a woman of two worlds

80. Point Reyes Station’s ‘Path of Lights’

79. Lessons to be learned from the oil spill

78. Nature’s Two Acres Part XX: Where coyotes howl and raccoons roam free

77. West Marin Community Thanksgiving Dinner celebrated in Point Reyes Station’s Dance Palace

76. Giving thanks for an abundant harvest

75. Being a Gypsy isn’t enough; KPFA fires host criticized for not being a ‘person of color’

74. Nature’s Two Acres Part IXX: ‘Things that go bump in the night’

73. Point Reyes Station pharmacist decries health-insurance practices

72. Farm Bureau president quits; defends independence of wife who disagrees with his political position

71. Ship hits Bay Bridge; spilled oil drifts out Golden Gate and mires birds on West Marin coast

70. California photo book’s release celebrated with gala on Inverness Ridge

69. Coastal Post’s December issue to be its last, assistant editor says; publisher contradicts her

68. West Marin’s ‘Mac Guru’ leaving town — a friend with a knack for surviving

67. One last warm weekend before the season of darkness

66. Ranching matriarch Hazel Martinelli dies at 101

65. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVIII: Seasonal sightings

64. White House Pool: a public park where management listens to the public

63. Tuesday’s Marin County Farm Bureau luncheon for politicos

62. Hawks on the move

61. Point Reyes Station’s Hazel Martinelli celebrates 101st birthday with party at son’s deer camp

60. Vandals dump sewage at West Marin School

59. Paving Point Reyes Station’s main street at night

58. Bolinas firehouse and clinic opening party Sunday

57. Nature’s Two Acres XVII: As seen by an old, almost-blind dog

56. Despite public-be-damned management, it’s still a beautiful park.

55. Language, politics & wildlife

54. Truth becomes an endangered species at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

53. ‘Possums,’ a sequel to the musical ‘Cats’

52. The KWMR/Love Field ‘Far West Fest’

51. Quotes Worth Saving & the Inverness Fair

50. Watching the Point Reyes National Seashore obliterate cultural history

49. Congress sees through Point Reyes National Seashore claims

48. Music, wildlife, and the cosmos

42. Garbage in, garbage out

41. 76-year-old Nick’s Cove reopens

40. What we didn’t celebrate on the Fourth of July

39. Ship’s flare or meteor

38. The death of a salesman: Andrew Schultz

37. Preventing fires at home while The Point Reyes Light feels the heat

36. Monday’s demonstration against The Point Reyes Light

35. Inverness Park fire Friday razes art studio

34. Western Weekend retrospective; anonymous satire of Point Reyes Light distributed at parade; Light’s use of unpaid interns may run afoul of labor laws.

33. Sunday’s Western Weekend parade and barbecue

32. Many fail to find Western Weekend livestock show; a new newpaper debuts in West Marin; The Point Reyes Light reports a former bookkeeper is in jail on embezzlement charges.

31. Nature’s Two Acres Part XVI: A gopher snake & other neighbors

30. New newspaper to be published in West Marin

29. Mermaids, cows, Horizon Cable, and Russia’s Internet war on Estonia

28. Nature’s Two Acres Part XV: ‘Among animals…one finds natural caricatures.’

27. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIV: ‘The world, dear Agnes, is a strange affair.’

26. Sheriff Bob Doyle stays the course despite blunder

25. Nature’s Two Acres Part XIII: ‘Who’s the Head Bull-Goose Loony Around Here?’

24. Nature’s Two Acres Part XII: April showers ‘cruel’ with ‘no regrets’

23. Nature’s Two Acres Part XI: The perky possum

22. Former Point Reyes Light columnist John Grissim, the late pornographer Artie Mitchell, Brazilian President Lula and the advent of orgasmic diplomacy

21. Nature’s Two Acres Part X: ‘Nature Red in Tooth and Claw’

20. Nature’s Two Acres Part IX: Point Reyes Station’s blackbirds

19. Nature’s Two Acres Part VIII: ‘Mice & rats, and such small deer’

18. The Gossip Columnist

17. Saying Yes to Change: A former Point Reyes Station innkeeper finds true joy by moving in with a working-class family in a poor neighborhood of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

16. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes Part II: Whatever happened to the Citizens Advisory Commission to the GGNRA & Point Reyes National Seashore?

15. The Bush Administration at Point Reyes: Part I

14. Marin supervisors refuse to tilt at McEvoy windmill

13. Nature’s Two Acres Part VII: Rats v. dishwashers

12. Nature’s Two Acres Part VI: How Flashing Affects Wildlife

11. Nature’s Two Acres Part V: By Means of Water

10. Bankruptcy court trustee lets Robert Plotkin hold onto some of his Ponzi-scheme ‘profits’

9. Big Pot Busts at My Cabin

8. Storm-caused fire razes Manka’s Lodge and Restaurant in Inverness

7. Nature’s Two Acres Part IV: Christmas turkeys & where the buck stopped

6. Nature’s Two Acres Part III: Insectivores and Not

5. My background: Biographical information on newspaperman Dave Mitchell

4. Nature’s Two Acres Part II: Living dinosaurs actually found around my cabin

3. Nature’s Two Acres: A Point Reyes Station Photo Exhibit

2. Robert I. Plokin

1. Introduction to this site SparselySageAndTimely.com plus an account of orphaned fawns being released in Chileno Valley.

The California Highway Patrol in this area needs to do better enforcing the law and obeying the law. The officers seem to be performing as expected for the most part but not always. Here are three quick examples of problems:

• A fair number of motorcycles being ridden up the coast are so loud they disturb people and wildlife all along the way. As the National Park Service explains, “Some motorcyclists choose to use modified pipes, which have the effect of increasing noise. As a result, motorcycles can often be heard far into the backcountry.”

Modifying tailpipes to increase a motorcycle’s noise is illegal, but the CHP shows very little interest in enforcing the law despite the magnitude of the problem. The American Motorcycle Association itself warns, “The AMA believes that few other factors contribute more to misunderstanding and prejudice against the motorcycling community than excessively loud motorcycles.

“All motorcycles are manufactured to meet federally mandated sound-control standards. Unfortunately, a small number of riders who install unmuffled aftermarket exhaust systems perpetuate a public myth that all motorcycles are loud.”

• A driver in Point Reyes Station was cited for tailgating, I was pleased to read in the local press a couple of months back. We need more such enforcement throughout West Marin. “Most rear end accidents are caused by tailgating,” warns Cal-Driver-Ed.com. “To avoid this, use the ‘three-second rule.’ When the vehicle ahead of you passes a certain point, such as a sign, count ‘one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three. This takes about three seconds. If you pass the same point before you finish counting, you are following too closely.

“Sometimes you will need more than a ‘three-second’ cushion. Give yourself a ‘four-second-or-more cushion’ when… crowded by a tailgater. Allow extra room between your car and the car ahead. Then, if you need to slow down you can do so gradually. You will be able to avoid braking suddenly — and being hit from behind by the tailgater.” I would add that slowing down also makes sense at night when you’re more likely to encounter wildlife on the road.

Tailgating is a recipe for road rage particularly in West Marin. Here drivers can go for several miles (particularly at night) before finding a safe place to pull off the road and let tailgaters pass.

• If a film company plans to shoot on or adjacent to a county road in Marin County, it must first get a permit from the county Public Works Department. Among the provisions of the permit are that: 1) The film company must hire off-duty California Highway Patrol officers to direct traffic since the county doesn’t want nonprofessionals doing it. 2) If filming stops traffic, the road must be reopened every three minutes to let vehicles through.

For the motoring public, these instructions are clear and explicit, but as an article by Beau Evans in the Feb. 26 Point Reyes Light reported, the Highway Patrol doesn’t feel bound by county regulations.

On Feb. 11, officers from the Sonoma County district of the California Highway Patrol handcuffed a 78-year-old driver on the Tomales-Petaluma Road when she became upset that officers were allowing a film company, Bandito Brothers, to overstay its time blocking the road. The lack of proper enforcement caused her to miss a doctor’s appointment.

When she tried to get some help from an officer, he instead tried to bully her, “aggressively” ordering her to get back in her car, she later wrote Marin County Adult Protective Services. She got back in her car but got out again 10 minutes later to ask how much longer the holdup would be, according to the summary in The Light. “Then [the officer] got very angry,” she noted.

With the driver upset at being forced to miss a doctor’s appointment, officers decided she was “irrational” and placed her in handcuffs “for her own safety.” Or so the CHP reported.

You’ve probably noticed that bullying members of the public has become a standard police practice all around the country these days. Officers use shows of anger to establish their authority when there’s no need to do so. It doesn’t earn them any respect, and it can create problems. The elderly driver received a cut hand and bruised wrists from the handcuffs. The CHP tried to dismiss her injuries as no more than reopening old wounds, claiming that handcuffs won’t cut anyone. But as the driver noted, our skin gets thinner as we age. I can vouch for that myself.

So why would the Highway Patrol be so indifferent to the needs of the public and so solicitous of the needs of the film company shooting a Kia commercial? Even though officers are on hand to ensure traffic safety, state government is not paying for their overtime. The film company is, and this too often results in CHP officers acting as if their role is to control the public for the benefit of the film crew, not the other way around.

The Marin Public Works Department has previously reminded the Marin County Area CHP that it is bound by the three-minute limit. However, the CHP officers in Tomales that day were from Sonoma County, and the spokesman there said his office wasn’t aware of Marin’s three-minute regulation.

The Light also quoted a state CHP Film Media spokesman as saying that despite the regulation, officers have “discretion” to ignore time limits on county roads. The spokesman acknowledged, however, that there’s nothing in writing that gives them the discretion to help film companies at the expense of the motoring public.

With officers acting as if they’re on the payroll of the film companies, could there possibly be a conflict of interest?

In learning to read, some five-year-old students are browsing through books of animal pictures. “Look,” one boy exclaims t0 the teacher. “A frickin’ elephant.” The teacher is startled: “What did you just say?” The boy replies, “A frickin’ elephant.” With the teacher looking increasingly uncomfortable, the boy adds, “See. It says so in the book.” The teacher looks, and sure enough, the picture is captioned, “African elephant.”

At least that’s how the story came to me.

This week’s posting will be sparser and less sage than usual. Just as I began working on this posting tonight, my computer’s iPhoto software froze, and for the moment I’m able to get access to only a few of the photos I’ve shot in the last 10 years. However, I always back up what’s on the computer, and I’m hoping that with a Herculainian effort by a techie, I will be able to recover the remaining photos.

Uninvited guests.

If one leaves a door open at night around here, raccoons are bound to wander in for a meal. They love pet food, and they can make a mess — as many West Marin residents have discovered to their chagrin. More than a few times over the years, people have called the Sheriff’s Department frightened that someone was trying to break into their home. When a deputy arrived, however, the intruder not infrequently turned out to be a raccoon on the roof.

A doe rests in the shelter of a coyote bush uphill from Mitchell cabin. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

The deer story that’s making the rounds these days is a recording of a call to a Fargo, N.D., radio station from a woman who wants some deer-crossing signs moved. Whether or not the recording is legitimate, it’s hilarious. Click here to listen.

This winter’s ladybug population is the biggest I’ve ever seen. It’s beneficial to have ladybugs in a yard. The variety around here eat aphids and scale insects. Good-hearted as she is, Lynn has rescued hundreds of ladybugs from inside the cabin during the past month and put them in plants on the deck. Birds don’t eat them because of their taste, but spiders have no hesitation.

A raccoon in prayer.

A raccoon drags the soles of its paws down a window, creating a racket inside the cabin. I think of this as a raccoon’s way of praying, a sort of raccoon hymn performed with the hope that it will call down a few slices of bread from above.

Just over a year ago, Tomales Regional History Center published my second book (coauthored by Jacoba Charles) The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light. The third printing is almost sold out, and it may soon be time for a fourth.

To whet the appetite of those of you who haven’t yet picked up the book, here’s a column from it that was originally written 30 years ago when these ruminations were in print labeled “Sparsely Sage and Timely.” Back then, The Light was published in Point Reyes Station’s Old Creamery Building with the newsroom on the second floor.

The Light’s former newsroom with my partner Don Schinske standing and me sitting at my desk. Back then I wrote and edited text on a computer but wrote headlines on an old-fashioned, standard typewriter and then hand-carried them to the typesetter downstairs. © 1998 Art Rogers/Pt. Reyes, who contributed 10 photos to “The Light on the Coast.”

It’s late in the evening, and I’m sitting at a rolltop desk in the newsroom listening to a dog barking a block or two away. Every minute or so, I can hear a car come down Highway 1 into town and turn the corner by the bank. Once in awhile, a car heads up the hill — probably someone who just stopped in town for a drink before heading home.

When I first arrived in Point Reyes Station in 1975, I slept for a couple of months in the newsroom of the old Light building [across the street from today's Whale of a Deli]. Despite being at a bend and intersection of a state highway, the spot was reasonably tranquil — at least after midnight. Oh, there’d be a brief flurry of shouting when the bars closed and the sound of unsteady feet scuffing past the window, but for a place to spend the night, a room on Point Reyes Station’s main street wasn’t that bad.

When I was in college and had yet to live in a small town, I chanced to read Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson’s sketches of small-town life. In one of the tales, The Teacher, Anderson describes a late evening when there are only three people awake in Winesburg.

Naturally, one of the three was a reporter in the newsroom of the town’s weekly newspaper who “pretended to be at work on the writing of a story.” At last, the reporter too goes home and to bed. “Then he slept,” wrote Anderson, “and in all Winesburg, he was the last soul on that winter night to go to sleep.”

As a college student used to cities and suburbs, I found the concept of a town where no one was awake so strange that I briefly wondered if such a place were possible. Now, 20 years later, I find myself living in a town where on occasion late at night I probably am the only person downtown who isn’t asleep.

Of course, there are some nights when the tranquility of even this sleeping town is disturbed. A few years ago, Michael Jayson told me at the time, he had been asleep in an apartment over the old Dance Palace [where Cabaline is today] when he was awakened by the thunder of hooves below his window on Third Street.

A dog had gotten into rancher Waldo Giacomini’s pasture [now the Giacomini Wetlands] and began to worry a herd of cows, which then gave chase to the dog, crashing through a barbed-wire fence in their pursuit.

The next morning, Jayson told in amazement of having seen the stampede gallop up Third to Point Reyes Station’s main street and then turn east. At the T-intersection where the main street ends in front of Cheda’s Market, the herd wheeled around and headed back west.

As it happened, a fight had spilled out of the Western Saloon and into the intersection at Second Street where it had caught the eye of a bartender across main street at the Two Ball Inn [now the Station House Café]. He called sheriff’s deputies, who had just arrived to break up the brawl when the stampede did it for them.

With a herd of cows galloping toward them, the two brawlers, along with onlookers, scattered. After the stampede had passed, however, the brawlers returned to the intersection only to have the stampede come through again on its second pass.

This time as the crowd dashed for safety, the two combatants kept on running — as did a number of Giacomini’s cows once the stampede reached the west end of main street. It was two days before the rancher got them all rounded up again. “I wish some people would keep their dogs tied up,” he grumbled to me afterward.

Down the street, the dog is barking again — probably bragging about the night when he alone provoked 50 head of Waldo Giacomini’s dairy cows to stampede through the middle of town. — April 11, 1985

#ShutdownCanada, Friday’s nationwide protest in Canada calling on the government to investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous women, was a bit of a disappointment, failing to garner as much public participation as expected.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States, last year reported that First Nation women in Canada are being murdered and disappeared at four times the rate of white women.

Although more than 7,000 people had said they would take part in demonstrations planned in Calgary, Espanola, Edmonton, Fredericton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kamloops, Lethbridge, London, Moncton, Montreal, Niagara, Oshawa, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, according to Ontario’s Two Row Times, fewer than 700 showed up, Warrior Publications reported.

Unist’ot’en camp (Warrior publications photo)

Also joining the demonstrations were several groups trying to stop environmental damage. One of them, Unist’ot’en Camp, describes itself as a “resistance community in Northern British Columbia, whose purpose is to protect sovereign Wet’siwet’en territory from several proposed pipelines.”

The Unist’ot’en clan says, “Wet’suwet’en territory, which extends from Burns Lake to the Coastal Mountains, is sovereign territory which has never been ceded to the colonial Canadian state; the Wet’suwet’en are not under treaty with the Canadian government.”

Since July of 2010, the Wet’suwet’en have established a camp in the pathway of the Pacific Trails Pipeline.

On Friday, protesters also blocked a main entrance to the Port of Vancouver. In Winnipeg, a number of protesters blocked a road. In Regina, a small group blocked a railway line. And in Montreal, protesters temporarily blocked a major intersection and then briefly occupied a branch of the Bank of Canada.

Despite police limiting the protesters’ movements, #ShutdownCanada did cause some disruption in Regina, noted Daniel Johnson, who took part in demonstrations there. “But it was not the success it could have been.” ________________________________________________________________

No St. Valentine’s event, of course, is likely to ever get as much public attention as the 1929 Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago.

This was during Prohibition, and in a fight over territory, Al Capone’s South Side Italian Gang  captured five members of Bugs Maron’s North Side Irish Gang, as well as two of its accomplices.

The seven were lined up against a wall inside a garage and executed with Tommy guns. (See photo at left.) One member of the North Side Gang, Frank Gusenberg, lived for three hours after the shootings. Although he received 17 gunshot wounds, he refused to tell police who the gunmen were. ____________________________________________________________

Canada on Valentine Eve Friday was lucky to escape its own massacre, which had been planned for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Before the carnage could occur, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police took a 23-year-old woman from Illinois, Lindsay Kantha Souvannarath, and a 20-year-old man from Halifax, Randall Steven Shepherd, into custody on charges of conspiracy to commit murder.

The woman subsequently told authorities about plans to attack a mall. Two other men, 17 and 20, have also been taken into custody, and a fifth person, a 19-year-old man, committed suicide when police surrounded his home.

Police said the plotters were not involved with Islamic terrorism and merely wanted to kill as many people as possible before taking their own lives. Luckily the Mounties received a tip and found that on social media, the group had revealed an obsession with mass killings. ________________________________________________________

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant.

Also on Valentine Eve, the band Rusty String Express packed Tony’s Seafood Restaurant in Marshall. “The musicians play a mix of jazz, Celtic, and other styles — some traditional and covers,” said West Marin musician Ingrid Noyes.

“But they also write a lot of their own material. They give it all their own unique spin, and they have a unique sound with that mix of instruments.”

The restaurant offered plenty of meal specials, and barbecued oysters were served for only $2 apiece, which is the best restaurant price I’ve seen in West Marin in a very long time.

A Buckeye butterfly on Saturday paused for a rest on bamboo that grows in a half wine barrel on Mitchell cabin’s lower deck. Other parts of West Marin matters were less tranquil on Saturday. In Point Reyes Station, so many tourists crowded into town that a couple of restaurants ran out of food. (Photo by Lynn Axelrod)

No Name bar

The Michael Aragon Quartet on Valentine Eve played what I call “modern jazz” (think John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley) in Sausalito’s No Name bar, as it does every Friday evening. From left: Rob Roth on sax, KC Filson on keyboard, Pierre Archain on bass, and Michael Aragon on drums.

There’s no cover charge; the music is inevitably great; and at times virtually every seat in the bar is taken. When that happens, some customers inevitably retire to a covered garden in the rear to talk, smoke, meet people, or play chess.

She’s appreciated.

One of the attractions of the No Name on Friday nights is its unceasingly cheerful waitress, Sarah Burke. Just placing drink orders with her is part of the fun. I’m hardly the only person to notice this, and as a way of saying thanks, her regular customers signed a Valentine’s card, which she received Friday, along with a potted red rose.

Hunters-gatherers: Two migrating robins forage outside Mitchell cabin last Wednesday.

There are more robins in West Marin than usual this winter. Wildcare, the wildlife-rescue group in San Rafael, reported last week, “It’s songbird migration time…. In the past few weeks, we have admitted 11 thrushes and six robins with head trauma from hitting windows.”

In order to feed these patients, the Birdroom at Wildcare “needs earthworms (good from your compost) and frozen berries (wild blueberries, the small ones, are best).” The group can be reached at 415 453-1000.

The middle of February is always a busy time in the United States and Canada, and this year it will be especially busy in Canada. Indigenous activists have announced plans for a one-day, coast-to-coast version of the Occupy movement. More about that in a moment.

Both countries will celebrate Valentine’s Day this Saturday, Feb. 14. President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday will be Thursday, Feb. 12, and President George Washington’s birthday will be Feb. 22. In accordance with Congress’ Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1971, California and most other states will celebrate the two presidents’ birthdays together as Presidents’ Day this coming Monday, Feb. 16.

Beyond that, however, things fall apart; the center cannot hold, for the holiday never falls on Washington’s actual birthday although in some years it falls on Lincoln’s. In addition, some states honor different presidents with different holidays.

In Massachusetts and Virgina, only Washington’s birthday will be celebrated Monday. Massachusetts, however, will celebrate a second Presidents’ Day on May 29, honoring Presidents John F. Kennedy, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and the lackluster Calvin Coolidge. Why those guys? They were all born in Massachusetts.

In Washington and Alabama, Washington’s and President Thomas Jefferson’s birthdays will be celebrated next week on Presidents’ Day but not Lincoln’s birthday. Arkansas on Monday will officially celebrate the birthdays of both Washington and Daisy Batson Gates (1914-99), an NAACP leader during the struggle for integration.

The Big News this coming weekend, however, will concern neither Presidents’ Day nor Valentine’s Day.

Nor will it occur in the United States.

Just across the border, thousands of First Nation people plan to economically disrupt Canada for a day.

Canada geese over Point Reyes Station bring to mind two impending events: Valentine’s Day and #ShutDownCanada.

#ShutDownCanada, as it’s called, is a collection of nationwide protests being organized via Facebook, the Two Row Times of Hagersville, Ontario, reported on Jan. 21. The group is asking for “communities across Canada to blockade their local railway, port or highway on February 13th,” the First Nation publication noted.

“Don’t buy, don’t fly, no work and keep the kids home from school… The goal is to significantly impact the Canadian economy for a day and demand there be an independent inquiry into the 2000+ cases of missing or murdered indigenous women….

“Plans to demonstrate outside city halls, shut down highways, occupy high traffic areas and more have been organized by groups in Calgary, Espanola, Edmonton, Fredericton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kamloops, Lethbridge, London, Moncton, Montreal, Niagara, Oshawa, Ottawa, Regina, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.”

#ShutDownCanada intends to draw attention to both the “missing and murdered indigenous women” and to several “man-made environmental disasters [including] existing and operational fracking wells, open-pit mining projects, the Site C Dam construction [a hydroelectric dam planned in northeastern British Columbia], and the widespread devastation that tar sands and related pipeline projects brings to all life forms, ecosystems, families and communities.”

Drawing particular ire is the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative. Percentage-wise, four times as many First Nation females as white females are being murdered or disappearing in Canada. So says a recent report from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a branch of the Organization of American States.

In December, however, Harper (at right in Canadian Broadcasting Corporation photo) shrugged off complaints that his government was not looking into the disproportionate number of attacks on indigenous women. “It isn’t really high on our radar, to be honest,” he acknowledged.

“Our ministers will continue to dialogue with those who are concerned about this…. I would rather spend my time focusing on what actions we can take to improve these situations, prevent these situations than have more multimillion dollar inquiries.”

Further offending many First Nation people were comments by Canada’s Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Bernard Valcourt. When 16-year-old Rinelle Harper, who had been physically and sexually attacked, called for a national inquiry into the violence against indigenous females, he responded: “Listen, Rinelle, I have a lot of sympathy for your situation… and I guess that victims… have different views and we respect them.”

The First Nation reaction was immediate. Referring to the girl’s traumatic ordeal as a “situation” epitomized the insensitivity of the Harper government to indigenous people, one critic wrote.

Beyond fuming at the conservative government’s lack of concern about attacks on indigenous women, many First Nation people also accuse Harper of corruption, saying his government plans to take over more aboriginal land for development of natural resources in violation of a Canadian Supreme Court ruling.

In 1990, Mohawks in Quebec faced provincial and federal troops for six months in a standoff that resulted from a dispute over land ownership. Friday’s conflict will probably be more peaceable. An Eastern Door editorial by editor and publisher Steve Bonspiel, whom I wrote about last week, advised his Mohawk readers: “A unified approach without violence but with plenty of information to inform others is a sound one.”

“The Mohawk, also known as (Kanien’gehaga), are the ‘Keepers of the Eastern Door of Great Turtle Island [North America].’”

So said Kahentinetha Horn, a Mohawk Indian Elder and a member of the Bear Clan, in a radio interview with the Voice of Russia two years ago.

(The interview, by the way, had nothing to do with relations between Russia and Canada or the US.)

“We were placed there by the Great Natural Power,” she said, “and we were to watch for people who would be coming from the east.

“And so, that’s why we are called the Keepers of the Eastern Door,” Kahentinetha added.

I have taken to reading about a Mohawk territory called Kahnawake, which is in Quebec.

A community of only 30 square miles with a population of around 8,000, Kahnawake is on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River across from Montreal (see Google map below).

Here’s the story. Last June when I attended an annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors [ISWNE], which was held in Durango, Colorado, I met a newsman from Kahnawake named Steve Bonspiel.

As editor and publisher of The Eastern Door, a weekly newspaper, Steve was on hand to receive an award for an editorial he had written titled “Homophobia is sickening.”

His writing was great, and his arguments were on target. The surprising part for me was that they were written for a mostly Mohawk readership.

The fact that they were should be a lesson for all of us.

(Eastern Door editor and publisher Steve Bonspiel, who himself is Mohawk, at left)

The editorial took a tribal council leader to task for comments he made at a Mohawk Council meeting: “In order to be a condoled [commiserating] chief or Clan Mother, you can’t be a lesbian or queer.

“You have to have a good mind.”

Steve’s editorial responded, “This comment comes from a dark place. It’s unacceptable, close-minded and alienates the community as a whole, not just the gay community….”

“To say gays can’t hold key positions because they don’t have a good mind is a contradiction. In fact, his statement does not come from a good mind.”

In honoring Steve, ISWNE commented, “This community, like most, needs a conscience, and Bonspiel and his good mind fill the bill very well.”

There is much to be learned from The Eastern Door, and here’s how I came to start reading it each week.

Steve’s forthright commentary periodically angers some rigid readers, and last fall several of them organized boycotts of his newspaper.

When I found out about this, I immediately bought a one-year subscription to the online version of The Eastern Door ($51), having no idea what I’d be reading.

From the start I was fascinated by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake’s debating Canadian-government policies that affect who is eligible to live in the community. Equally interesting was the community’s displeasure with Enbridge Inc.’s proposal for changes to its oil pipeline through the area.

But just as intriguing is what The Eastern Door reveals about the future of small newspapers.

It’s certainly not being killed off by the Internet, even if that is where I read it.

So how does it survive?

No large newspaper would be willing to assign enough writers to give Kahnawake the same in-depth coverage. The news is too specialized and the number of potential readers is too small.

That is the same reason my old newspaper, The Point Reyes Light, has been able to survive for 66 years in sparsely populated West Marin.

Bigger papers in the San Francisco Bay Area may have more writers but only a few of them ever get to West Marin. If you want community news, you have to read a community newspaper.

There are Facebook-only news sites in West Marin, but none of them is providing comprehensive news coverage. None of them has enough writers to cover numerous meetings, research government records, and expose corruption.

That kind of work requires salaries, which would have to be financed with advertising, and selling Internet advertising is not easy. How much would businesses be willing to spend for advertising on a strictly online news site which covered only the small towns in West Marin and the land around them?

Of course, some newspapers around here have their own online editions, but the news and advertising merely piggyback on what is assembled for the newspaper itself.

Having said that, I encourage readers to take out a year’s subscription to the online version of The Eastern Door. You’ll learn more than you can imagine about the political and social issues of First Nation peoples, and by subscribing, you’ll help a worthy publication. (Click here for contact information.)

Most of us remember the Rwandan genocide, in which ethnic Hutus slaughtered 500,000 to a million ethnic Tutsis between April 7 and July 15, 1994. Less well known is the genocide a year earlier in the neighboring East African country of Burundi where 300,000 Tutsis perished.

A new documentary, Deo: Escape from Burundi, by former Bolinas resident Ole Schell tells what happened in Burundi and how one moneyless survivor managed to escape to the United States, learn English, graduate from the Harvard School of Medicine, and then return to his former village where he organized the creation of a health center. (Click here to watch the 20-minute video)

The filmmaker is the son of Ilka Hartmann of Bolinas, a renowned documentary photographer. As it happened, Deo Niyizonkiza, the survivor, visited Napa, and she shot some still photos of him that are included in the documentary. Ole’s father is Orville Schell, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at U.C. Berkeley and now director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York.

Ole Schell was interviewed last Thursday on Huffington Post Live about his new documentary, Deo: Escape from Burundi. (Click here to watch interview)

The massacre of Tutsis by ethnic Hutus was not the result of a centuries-old animosity, as many of us had assumed. The real culprit in the bloodshed was Belgium in the 20th century, Ole says. At the end of the 19th century, Germany colonized Burundi and Rwanda but after its defeat in World War I was forced to cede them to Belgium.

Although the Hutu and Tutsi spoke the same language, the Belgians officially separated them as part of a policy of “divide and conquer,” Ole says in his Huffington Post interview.

Belgian colonist measuring noses to decide who was a Hutu and who was a Tutsi.

“They would measure people’s noses, cheekbones, and height and declare some people Hutus and some people Tutsis,” Ole told the Huffington Post. “It was almost arbitrary. Some people in the same family would be a Tutsi and some would be a Hutu.

“It really didn’t make much sense, but it took hold and got in the psyche of the people.” The result was a series of genocides perpetuated by both sides.

The genocide in 1993 grew out of a 1972 rebellion when Hutu members of the gendarmerie (soldiers with police duties) tried to estabish a new republic, killing thousands of Tutsis, as well as any Hutus who wouldn’t join the insurrection. In response, Burundi’s president, a Tutsi, declared martial law, and 80,000 to 210,000 Hutus were slaughtered.

In 1993, Tutsi soldiers assassinated Burundi’s first democratically elected head of state, a Hutu, and civil war broke out in within a day.

Deo Niyizonkiza, the survivor and central character of the documentary, was a 20-year-old medical student in Burundi when the slaughter began. Ole’s video relates how narrowly Deo, a Tutsi, escaped machete-wielding Hutu militiamen.

Deo’s entire odyssey is inspiring. When he was young, he says, a class might start the school year with 50 or 60 students. Only half that many would start the next year, the others having died mostly from curable diseases. There was no medical care whatsoever in his rural village and none in the area.

So he decided to study medicine. He moved to a city and was at work in a hospital when word came that the president had been killed and that Hutu militias were killing every Tutsi they could find.

Members of a Hutu militia.

Militiamen could be heard entering the hospital and killing people either with machetes or by burning them alive. Deo ran to his room and hid under the bed. In his haste, however, he forgot to lock the door.

Ironically, that saved him. A militiaman opened the door, looked around the room, and remarked, “….That cockroach [insulting slang for Tutsi] is gone.” He then left.

Tutsis burned alive by Hutu militia.

When the militiamen finally left, there were piles of bodies everywhere. Because flesh had been burned, the smell of meat was in the air, Deo recalled.

He escaped into the woods and walked for days to reach Rwanda where a Hutu woman got him into the country by telling soldiers he was her son. After six months in Rwanda, Deo returned to Burundi.

A friend bought him a ticket to New York so he could get out of the country and study medicine at a good school. He arrived with only $200 and speaking no English. For awhile he lived in an abandoned tenement in Harlem and then in Central Park.

Deo is clearly a pleasant, diligent man, and working as a deliveryman he met a church worker who took a liking to him and introduced him to a couple who gave him shelter. They also taught him English, helped him get legal residency, and ultimately be admitted to Harvard and Columbia universities.

New health center.

At Harvard, Deo was impressed by Professor Paul Farmer, whose Partners in Health organization brought medical care to impoverished regions of the globe, and he began working with it. While working in Rwanda in 2005, Deo returned to Burundi to visit his ailing mother.

Appalled at the unhygienic practices he observed in a Burundi hospital, such as two patients using the same IV, he decided to build a health clinic in his home village, the documentary notes.

Within a year, Deo had a bare-bones clinic in operation, and it has now grown into a modern facility that includes a community center. Villagers have formed cooperatives to grow food. Most importantly, the introduction of modern medicine has had a dramatic effect on the health of villagers.

Before: What having medical care available has meant to a villager called Frederick.

After: And that’s just the start. You can see the heart-warming documentary online by clicking on the link at the top of this posting.

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