66. Noyo Headlands: Opportunity for a Sustainable Future
In 2002, on the ruggedly beautiful Northern California Coast, the Fort Bragg lumber mill shut down, leaving behind a devastated local economy and community. After laying off the final 150 workers from the 430-acre, ocean-front Mill Site that once employed 2000 people, Georgia-Pacific (G-P) shut the mill down. Fort Bragg residents have spent a frustrating ten years working with G-P (now owned by Koch Industries) to redevelop the property in a way that reversed the problems of land stripped of its resources; a toxic mill site; and a community without a viable economy. Instead, G-P/Koch's plans rely on developing expensive second homes and courting wealthy tourists. This fossil fuel-dependent solution will increase our climate change problems while segmenting the town into rich/poor and new/old. Meaningful job creation is forsaken. Fort Bragg is not alone in this predicament. Hundreds of abandoned mill towns have to create a sustainable economy and community while nourishing the planet.
The solution for the problems Fort Bragg and hundreds of abandoned mill towns face across the country is to develop an economy and community that demonstrates how humans can move from the extraction economy to an economy that restores natural resources, a healthy local environment and community spirit, while helping to solve the problems of climate change, our depleted resource base and the power of corporations to control our lives. The Noyo Headlands Unified Design Group (NHUDG) has been developing this strategy for moving from the extraction economy to the restoration economy for ten years. Fort Bragg’s Mill site is the largest undeveloped Northern California ocean-front sight within the boundaries of an existing city. It presents a genuine opportunity to take a new direction in human and natural habitats, focusing on the creation of local jobs through the development of local food and energy—with a special direction for restoration of the natural beauty and the ecosystem, while modeling the ways in which local communities can mitigate and adapt to the threats of climate change. The considerable Mill Site clean-up presents a new owner with a terrific opportunity to educate the community and create a model for other towns to confront the problems that the extraction economy has wrought. One of the fastest growing sectors of the world economy is the work of clean-up and restoration. This is not a return to some mythic natural past. This is moving forward into a viable, healthy, sustainable relationship with our natural world. It could begin with: an eco-industrial park; with aquaponic greenhouses; sustainable renewable energy; a Restoration With Nature Center focusing on biochar; composting and soil building; and a walkable, bike-able plan. The community supports a great deal that has already been accomplished towards this: • A Coastal Commission requirement for more open space and restoration of wetlands; • A Coastal Trail and parkland successfully acquired by the City of Fort Bragg; • Eleven and a half acres for the future development of the Noyo Center for Science & Education, which can serve as anchor for an ecological and educational campus; • Plans for conversion of a 65,000 sq foot drying shed into an industrial arts facility facilitating professional creativity and expression of the local forestry, fishing and agricultural heritage; • A successful school of Herbal Medicine; • A local brewery positioned as a centerpiece of commercial build out from the existing town, creating a co-generation opportunity for energy and “waste” to power greenhouses and a food center. • A year ‘round Farmers Market. • Sustainable “green” building principals for the entire site, including net-zero buildings, water catchment, gray water reuse, renewable energy etc.
Why it should be recognized:
Hundreds of communities face depleted resources, a struggling economy and a damaged community structure. We are well past the tipping point of environmental damage from fossil fuel pollution. We need to find solutions. There is an opportunity in Fort Bragg to develop a model of transformation from the extraction economy to an economy that is sustainable and contributes to the health of our people and the planet. This small lumber town on the Mendocino Coast is an ideal place to create a template that can be replicated in communities throughout the state and the nation. The acquisition of the remaining property on the Noyo Headlands is the necessary first step. With a new owner, there can be an opportunity to demonstrate how local solutions to local problems address urgent global issues.