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.
On Apr 04, 2013 paul.reiber said: This is a wonderful opportunity for our small town to remake our future
On Mar 29, 2013 charlie.stott said: The development of the Geogia-Pacific mill site, guided by NHUDG's level-headed plan, can prove to be THE (re)development model for communities transitioning to the inevitable future that includes: small scale, low-carbon and affordability. The NHUDG plan combines smart-growth development, environmental sustainability and robust economic planning; elements the City of Fort Bragg local government and community support. What is needed now is a forward thinking, creative and economically astute new owner/developer who can partner with the City to spearhead a process toward success. Please support NHUDG's proposal to find that partner, and to help make Fort Bragg the successful model that communities around the world will look to for guidance.
On Mar 27, 2013 maureen.eppstein said: I am impressed withe the care this group took in involving the community in the planning process, researching the environmental, social and economic issues, and drafting a plan that, if money can be found to implement it, will restore the health of this struggling community.
On Mar 27, 2013 charlene.mcallister said: This proposal has tremendous community support and backing. Only the funding is missing to create a unique solution to a common problem of an industry closing and leaving a town with polluted land and few jobs.
On Mar 27, 2013 karen.gaffney said: What a wonderful idea - set of - that would greatly benefit this coastal town, and develop a community that would live in cooperation with its surroundings. A very welcome guest indeed.
On Mar 25, 2013 edward.oberweiser1 said: Fort Bragg is a community in economic crisis. The Noyo Headlands Unified Design Group has come up with a sustainable way to reinvigorate the economy of the region. It would help grow the tourist industry and could create jobs for scientists studying this important ocean upwelling area. Young people cannot find jobs here when they graduate from college and are leaving in drove. The population of Fort Bragg is becoming older. If NHUDG's proposal becomes reality, Fort Bragg could become a model community for sustainably living within one's own bioregion. Fort Bragg and Mendocino County in general could become a provider of healthy organic agriculture, building, energy and much more.
On Mar 25, 2013 carol.czadek said: This is a great plan with much local support. Fort Bragg has an opportunity to do things right.
On Mar 25, 2013 arthur.morley said: The Noyo Headlands Group has some of the most innovative ideas for the redevelopment of the Georgia Pacific property. Their proposals should be provided every opportunity for implementation.
On Mar 25, 2013 grady.gauthier said: A truly inspirational project on a truly one-of-a-kind parcel of Northern California Coastline. Together with other initiatives recently enacted in the area, i.e. MLPA, this project will move Fort Bragg and Mendocino Coast from its historic extraction-based economy into a more sustainable community for all.
On Mar 25, 2013 robert.ross said: This is a cutting edge project. To accomplish this vision is to set an inspiring example for many American communities, and for policy-makers and entrepreneurs. This is something which can in fact be done, given the will and resources. I would definitely lend energy to this local project.
On Mar 25, 2013 norma.watkins said: Amen
On Mar 25, 2013 horace.mann said: A winner.
On Mar 24, 2013 david.alden said: The NHUDGE proposal addresses an area with tremendous resources which needs help in marshaling those resources to create a sustainable community. The North Coast is poised on the cusp of gradual decline or vibrant growth and fulfillment. Artists, musicians, writers, young entrepreneurs and families...all have come and are looking for a way to live and interact in a life sustaining, interesting place. A new paradigm is needed for pulling all of those resources together into a permanently sustaining community. The NHUDG proposal is the most creative approach which has been offered, and would receive wide and deep community support.
On Mar 06, 2013 vandy.oreilly said: An exciting and comprehensive plan to renew and revitalize the Ft Bragg community!
On Mar 03, 2013 george.reinardt said: Hello, friends of the Noyo Headlands. Your comments can still be helpful to NHUDG and our efforts on the North Coast. Please register and express your support for this proposal.
On Mar 02, 2013 derry.macbride said: This proposal presets a thoughtful approach to invigorating the local economy by offering an array of locally driven endeavors rather than proffering the usual menu of low-paying jobs serving a second home community. The term "win-win" has become a bit of a cliche but its use is surely apt here.
On Mar 02, 2013 brent.rutherford said: I saw the human devastation of the G. P. mill site closure up close and personal. With many others I worked to provide the workers with extended unemployment benefits and training opportunities. It was an excruciating time for many in Fort Bragg -- workers whose families had lived in Fort Bragg for generations. NHUDG's plan for the mill site is both visionary yet practical. Isn't wonderful to think that something transcending could come from an event that caused so much pain.
On Mar 01, 2013 larry.thomas said: Indeed, this is a unique opportunity for a unique site and for the city of Fort Bragg to meet the daunting task of rejuvenation and sustainability for a critically important resource of the community. An opportunity for the future of the city that must not be underestimated.
On Mar 01, 2013 rick.shoop said: A vision has been proposed that sees all positives, I agree. I think that the only thing missing is an understanding by the present owners that this will make more sense and yes even more money for them if they buy into the process. It truly is a unique opportunity and time, let's pursue it in earnest.
On Mar 01, 2013 miriam.davis said: A solid, hopeful plan. A beautiful opportunity for natural restoration, cultural and educational enrichment and economic development.
On Mar 01, 2013 sharon.bowers said: This is a terrific proposal. A local solution to a world wide problem. A hopeful, creative vision.
On Mar 01, 2013 david.alden said: NHUDG has developed the only conceptual approach to revitalizing the Fort Bragg economy and restoring environmental resources that departs from the tired old ideas of the past and which is centered on the idea of communal living and sustainable resources rather than subdivsion and extraction. This model is not only good for the North coast, but can serve as a guide to other rural areas which have been given the challenge and opportunity of redeploying resources.
On Mar 01, 2013 pilar.gray said: As the Nutrition Director for our local school district I am striving to purchase as much local food as possible for many reasons - sustainability, safety, quality, environmental stewardship, education for our students, etc. However, it is extremely challenging to find enough local foods to fill our needs. We have an incredible opportunity here to increase our local food production and a there is certainly a market for it! We also have the ideal community to make this happen. The level of dedication here is remarkable. This plan is brilliant! Thank you, NHUDGE!
On Mar 01, 2013 mike.thomas1 said: This innovative model of land use planning represents the culmination of several years of meetings and thoughtful dialogue with elected community leaders, the California Coastal Commission, a broad range of business and environmental professionals and, a very actively involved community. No time like the present, or more critical to our future, than to redefine the meaning of "highest and best use."
On Feb 28, 2013 alyson.blair said: Fort Bragg is at a pivotal point. Many people care and are striving to enact change, but the money isn't there because it's been a bare-bones economy for the past 25 years. Over 50% of the youth leave due to lack of employment, the college is failing and the hospital is in financial trouble. Hospitality has been able to slow the demise of the area, but that industry has reached critical mass as well. There are only so many lodging facilities and restaurants that can be supported by 6 months or less of steady income and, in turn, support a regions economy. The above is the answer to many of the concerns that are causing this area to die. In addition to the financial support, the PR from the project, directed energy toward a singular cause and the population increase of professionals who want the best of both worlds (small town life and financial happiness), will fill in many of the economic and cultural gaps this town is facing.
I can't write enough about how much this town needs help and how much it would devastate the 30,000+ residents and county as a whole if current trends continue.
On Feb 28, 2013 carey.knecht said: Around the United States, many small towns and rural communities are facing the same challenge: the departure of extraction industries like logging and mining left behind polluted land and high unemployment. In Fort Bragg, the high levels of civic engagement and collaboration between community groups, elected leadership, and local entrepreneurs could allow it to prototype how small towns can transition to a new economic engine.
On Feb 27, 2013 j.tarbell said: A wonderful place and time to establish the leading edge community of our sustainable future.
On Feb 27, 2013 george.reinardt said: This is a unique opportunity, in a unique community. With new ownership and a long range vision, this is possible.
On Feb 22, 2013 Daniel Rasky said: This could serve as a model community for evolution to sustainable living.
Submitted: Jan 29, 2013
Author: Jim Tarbell
  • Energy (Resources)
  • Information (Resources)
  • Culture and Engagement (Human Systems)
  • Policies & Regulation (Human Systems)
  • Leadership/Strategy (Enterprise)
  • Stakeholders/Community/Infrastructure (Enterprise)
  • Industrial Ecology & Cradle-to-Cradle (Regional)
  • Resource/Waste Management (Regional)
  • Education (Industry)
  • Food/Agriculture (Industry)
  • Air Quality Regulation (Planetary System)
  • Climate & Natural Hazard Regulation (Planetary System)
  • Energy Capture, Transport, Storage (Planetary System)
  • Habitation Systems (Planetary System)
  • Soil Vitality, Erosion & Chemical Pollution Control (Planetary System)
  • Waste Recycling (Planetary System)
  • Ocean System (Planetary System)
  • Food Production, Transport & Storage (Planetary System)
URL: www.noyoheadlands.org