Change does not always come easy in the Sonoma Coast hamlet of Jenner.
The 100 or so people who reside in the Highway 1 outpost take pride in its rustic façade, its dearth of services and the fact cell phone reception is almost non-existent.
“I like this place funky,” said Roz Hendy, a longtime volunteer at the Jenner Visitors Center. “That's what people expect when they come here.”
But funky is not how anyone would describe a new parking lot and boat launch that opened last month in the center of town. The new additions have an industrial look, in sharp contrast to the historic buildings that are Jenner's calling card.
Some residents of this hillside town along the edge of where the Russian River meets the Pacific Ocean said they appreciate the functionality of the new construction. But they also expressed concerns that the concrete paving and picnic benches don't fit the town's woodsy character.
“It's a little bit fancy for this town because it's new and modern, and that's not what Jenner is about,” said Joel Martin, the longtime owner of the Seagull Co. on Highway 1.
Martin said that overall he likes the new additions. So does Hendy, who is looking forward to backing her truck down the boat ramp to launch her kayak.
The parking lot and boat ramp are within the boundaries of Sonoma Coast State Beach. But the work, which cost nearly $400,000, was funded by the state Department of Boating and Waterways.
The new parking lot replaces a dirt area adjacent to the visitor's center and post office that was marred by potholes and in the winter, by a layer of mud.
Locals will no longer have to endure that mess on their way to retrieve mail or grab a cup of coffee, while tourists likely will appreciate the new lot for its ease of access off Highway 1.
The site also includes an existing public bathroom that is open thanks to funding from Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods.