The Stornetta Public Lands, a breathtaking stretch of Mendocino County coast near Point Arena, will be declared part of a national monument Tuesday by President Barack Obama, White House officials said Saturday.
Obama will issue an executive order to expand the 1,100-mile California Coastal National Monument and take in the rugged, biologically rich expanse of 1,665 acres in an Oval Office ceremony with a local presence.
"It's finally happening," said former Point Arena Mayor Leslie Dahlhoff, who was part of a 2-1/2-year grassroots campaign to protect the lands. She will be among three local residents to attend the signing Tuesday.
Boosters believe the monument designation, in addition to offering additional federal protection for the land, will raise the profile of the south Mendocino Coast and provide a much-needed economic infusion.
News of the president's decision broke in Washington on Saturday afternoon and quickly spread west, setting phones buzzing and prompting a flurry of celebratory emails and text messages around the region.
Ann Cole, executive director of the Mendocino Land Trust, said the texts she received were filled with exclamation points and hoorays.
"People are just ecstatic," Cole said. "They've been working so hard on this."
"This is all so very exciting," said Scott Schneider, president and chief executive of Visit Mendocino County, who also will be at the White House on Tuesday.
Larry Stornetta, a partner in the historic dairy ranch that provided the initial acreage for the area, also plans to attend the Oval Office signing, Dahlhoff said. He could not be reached for comment.
Already afforded some measure of protection thanks to a series of public acquisitions begun in 2004, the Stornetta Public Lands are managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which will continue to oversee and administer the monument addition.
Extending along roughly three miles of coastline south of the Point Arena lighthouse and Manchester Beach, the area offers spectacular bluff-top views of the ocean and rugged features carved from landscape by wind and water over centuries.
It also includes the Garcia River estuary and important wildlife habitat for several endangered species.
The Stornetta lands will contribute to an uninterrupted, nearly 12-mile stretch of publicly accessible coastline and provide a link to the California Coastal Trail.
A committee of local residents already has begun developing ideas for trails within the parcel. Their work presumably will help inform a three-year planning process with public input that is required for the monument.
Point Arena, with a population of fewer than 500, already is one of five official "gateway communities" to the California Coastal National Monument, which is comprised of more than 20,000 seastacks, islands, pinnacles and exposed reefs between the borders of Mexico and Oregon.
As such, the town provides a vantage point for the marine monument without really permitting visitors to be "in it" in the way that extending the monument to the mainland will allow.
Supporters believe Tuesday's executive order will raise the profile of the community and the southern corner of the county, which misses much of the traffic headed toward Mendocino and other mid-coast destinations north of the junction of Highways 1 and 128.
"This is now going to be part of the national monument — the only land-based gateway to the coastal monument," said Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, whose district includes the parcel. "I think that's a big deal."