Community seems pleased with ‘conservation easement’ option

By Justine Frederiksen
udjjf@ukiahdj.com @justfrederiksen on Twitter
UPDATED: 11/07/2014 02:17:12 PM PST

The following article is from the Ukiah Daily Journal, 11/7/2014 by Justine Frederiksen:

Mendocino-College-board-backs-off-sale-of-Point-Arena-Field-Station

An option for the Point Arena Field Station site discussed Wednesday was described as a “win-win”…

The Mendocino College Board of Trustees Wednesday voted to not immediately sell the Point Arena Field Station and instead explore the possibility of forging an agreement with the Bureau of Land Management that will both protect the land and allow the college to retain ownership.

Described as a “win-win” that indeed seemed to be embraced by community members keenly interested in the property, the option proposed to the board was that the BLM would consider purchasing a “conservation easement” from the college that would include both the field station buildings and the surrounding 15-acre property.
“I’m thrilled about this option, which looks like a very good compromise,” said Leslie Dahlhoff, a former mayor and resident of Point Arena. “The land and the educational use will be protected, and I don’t see a downside except that the college will get less money.”

Local attorney Jared Carter, who helped form the Friends of the Point Arena Field Station and previously made a point of threatening legal action if the college ended up selling the land to the BLM for $1.5 million, described the option as a “constructive and worthwhile proposal,” adding that he felt “the Friends’ objective of preserving the land is accomplished with the conservation easement.”

Chemistry Professor Marcus Frederickson described the field station and its land, which includes tide pools often described as pristine and irreplaceable, as “one of the college’s most valuable assets” and a way for the school to distinguish itself and “change its image from that of a small, rural college and create a national and international image (that will) increase enrollment and attract students from outside the area.”

According to a college press release, it is estimated that it will cost at least $1 million to “bring the (field station) buildings up to acceptable standards and nearly $40,000 a year are required for maintenance.”

Student Emily Scott, who has addressed the board multiple times to urge it to keep the field station, said since each full-time student brings in $4,600 a year, if the college attracted “just 12 more full-time students, that would provide $50,000.”

When it comes to attracting those new students, Scott said, “students know what attracts other students, and we all seem to agree about the field station’s value.”
Board trustee Paul Ubelhart then made a motion to explore obtaining a conservation easement with both the BLM and the Trust for Public Lands, and all but trustee Ed Haynes voted to approve the motion, which also directed staff to “develop pledges of funding and report back to the board in December.”

According to the college, if a conservation easement is obtained, “the college would retain full ownership of the property and make all decisions regarding use of the property while adhering to the intent and parameters of the accord. In return, the college will receive fair market value for conceding their rights to develop the property in the future and restrict use to research and educational activities.”

When asked how much money the college might receive under such an agreement, President J. Arturo Reyes said that has yet to be determined, and the first step will be having the property assessed. Reyes said BLM had previously offered to pay $1.5 million for the property, but that was when it would own it outright, and his understanding is that conservation easements typically result in payments of about 50 percent of fair market value.

The board will next meet Dec. 10.

The Friends of the Point Arena Field Station, comprised of 700 concerned citizens including Mendocino College students, are seeking a 3 to 5 year delay of the proposed sale of this unique 15 acres of pristine and protected coastal property, which the college has used for excellence in the science fields for the last 34 years.  If the property is sold it will never fulfill its educational potential and a rare, environmentally protected area will be lost.

The Friends want to raise awareness of the opportunity the field station represents and its educational and scientific potential.  Such work will require time to apply for grants and to form consortia among other institutions, both educational and governmental.  $60,000 has already been donated, matched, and pledged to cover the field station costs while the plan is finalized and executed.

We ask that all citizens, who have a stake in the education of current and future students, urgently contact Joel Clark, President of the Board of Trustees at joelclark@sonic.net to express their wish for the college to postpone this sale, and with the help from the Friends keep, preserve, and develop this remarkable property and facility.

Time is short. The Board will vote on this matter at its meeting on November 5th.

Questions???  Check our website at www.pointarena.wordpress.com or call Julie Bawcom at 707-468-1252.

How you can help?  Come to the Mendocino College Board of Trustees meeting on November 5th at 4:45 PM and voice your objections to this sale.  Once this field site is gone, it is gone forever.

The Mendocino College Field Station was acquired by Mendocino College 34 years ago from Federal Surplus lands. The federal government monitored the development of the Point Arena field station for the first 30 years before the deed and property was transferred to Mendocino College in August 2011. This final transition came as an affirmation of the college’s impressive environmental stewardship of the site throughout those 30 years. Mendocino College was not entitled to collect much money generated from visiting university classes until after the 30 year transition. The College Board of Trustees are preparing to sell this property. .

The college owes no money for the field station, runs the station with very little overhead and minimal operating expenses. Deferred maintenance resulted from the college redirecting Measure W funds to other projects. Such deferred maintenance can be accomplished in stages with funding from community fundraising efforts, grants and donations through a group of “Friends” (See Below). The college will not be required to provide funding beyond recent historic levels, which are quite modest.

The field station is truly an educational gem and has facilitated a working relationship with such powerhouse academic institutions as U.C. Berkeley and Davis, the U.S. Geological Survey and Cal Tech.

The 271 members and counting of the “Friends of the Point Arena Field Station” are asking the College Board to stop the sale of the field station to the Land for Public Trust who plans to transfer the property to the BLM. With no obvious benefit to the college, the sale will result in losing a truly unique and pristine educational, environmental and research facility.

The BLM representative has stated that as part of the Stornetta National Monument they can not protect this viable unique ecosystem or its current research and expensive equipment from the general public. They don’t maintain buildings, they don’t allow camping for students, they can’t protect the pristine tide pools. These are the facts. Rich Burns from the BLM Ukiah office also stated that an educational field station owned by Mendocino College is a compatible partner with the National Monument which includes 10 miles of coastline for the public to enjoy compared to the college’s 1,000 feet of coastline that would remain as an educational preserve.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. “We must leave future generations with a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning”, President Lyndon B. Johnson defining generosity to future generations. The wilderness Act forms an invaluable set of base lines for showing us what healthy systems look like and allows scientists to gain the knowledge to restore the damage done.

We must honor these admirable goals when we look at our 15-acre piece of coastline in Point Arena entrusted to our community college. Our community is speaking loudly as we add names of those who support preserving our field station and stopping the sale of this priceless marine ecosystem from being incorporated into the Stornetta National Monument.

Future students can’t presently speak, so we the community must be committed to the preservation, restoration and protection of our educational field station. Most of the college faculty, academic senate, some of the college foundation, county supervisors and community members ask this sale to stop and give the community time to develop a viable plan.

We ask the College Board of Trustees to stop the sale for the friends to implement a plan which includes; generate support to upgrade and maintain the classroom/laboratory and student/instructor housing using grants; expanded revenue by rents from other institutions; cooperative agreements with other universities, fundraising and community support. WE JUST NEED TIME, five years to develop the new academic curriculum programs, finalize a Memorandum of Understanding and a viable business plan. We have already identified three grants specifically for maintaining field stations.

Please add your name and voice your concerns at the Oct. 1, 2014 Mendocino College Board meeting before its too late. Read about the field station at http://www.pointarena.wordpress.com, and email bawcom@pacific.net to add your name to our growing list of supporters.

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Don’t sell it

From the Ukiah Daily Journal – Sunday, October 26, 2014:
In Our Opinion: Keep the Point Arena land and buildings
There is no question in our minds that the best choice for the Mendocino College Board of Trustees is to simply keep the Point Arena Field Station land and buildings intact and drop the whole idea of selling any of it to anyone.

Please check the Press section for additional updates …
Come to the November Board Meeting to voice your concerns!

Following is a letter to the editor published in the Ukiah Daily Journal 8/7/2014:

Keep the college field station

To the Editor:

After 30 years as caretaker Mendocino College earned clear title to the Point Arena Field Station. The public recently learned that the Superintendent of the College has signed an Intent to Sell to the BLM this unique and valuable fifteen acres, with research and educational facilities. The Board of Trustees, who has the authority to approve or deny the sale, considered the matter at their July board meeting and is scheduled to review the matter again at their August 6 meeting.

A recently-formed group, Friends of the Point Arena Field Station, believes this hurried intention to sell is wrong and must be stopped. We are convinced that our community must work together with Mendocino College administrators, faculty, staff, and the Board of Trustees in order to find other collaborative educational institutions to use and help maintain the Field Station. We also intend to explore and find new ways to properly fund the Field Station permanently.

Our group feels that our efforts have so far fallen on deaf ears of the trustees — well before our intentions, and concerns have been heard. Furthermore, under Title 5 of the California Code, an important policy of ‘shared governance’ with the college faculty seems to have been sadly ignored as well.

We are gathering a list of citizens, who favor keeping this facility. We welcome questions readers may have, and invite names for the growing list of those who support saving this unique and unspoiled site. You may contact any of us for questions, but names of those wishing to add their support should be emailed to wademary@peoplepc.com as soon as possible.

— Bonnie and Jared Carter, Bill and Billie Smith, Julie and Jim Bawcom, Wade Koeninger, Paul Poulos, Barry Vogel and Janet Mendell, Ukiah