JENNER — The "bar" on North Jenner Beach is now closed, the irregular skyline irreversibly altered by the recent leveling of elaborate driftwood structures that fans say brought whimsy and warmth to the stretch of sand reaching north of the Russian River.
Frequent visitors are lamenting the loss toward the northernmost end of what's known by locals as Driftwood Beach, saying the demolition and a subsequent controlled burn stripped the community of living folk art that was part of a decades-old tradition there.
"So creative — such wonderful innovation and spirit of cooperation and collaboration," said Guerneville resident Kathy Ocean, who would often send guests from her vacation-rental business down to the beach.
Jenner Driftwood Sculptures Burned
"Besides the fact that they were charming and whimsical, to me they represented a certain remnant of Sonoma County cultural history, and there's not many of those left," said her friend, Forestville musician Brian Whistler, 61. "Plus, they were an attraction, not just to locals but to people from out of town."
But for state agencies in charge of Sonoma Coast beaches and fire safety, the large makeshift edifices and abundance of driftwood in and around them posed a threat to public safety that needed to be addressed.
The structures' very allure was part of the problem, inspiring folks and, especially, kids to explore and climb, and suggesting a sturdiness that wasn't real, Supervising State Park Ranger Damien Jones said.
They also encouraged illegal camping and squatting, and the litter and sanitation issues that sometimes come with it, he and Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman said.
"People put a lot of effort into those things, (but) their concern is not the same as our concern," Jones said. "I can see how it would be neat thing to go down there and have kind of a long-term thing to work on.
"We can't share that perspective," he said.
As a result of the clash of philosophies, California State Parks employees demolished the structures before Cal Fire crews set fire to them during a driftwood burn.