Taking a cue from the national Occupy movement, residents of Mendocino County's rural Anderson Valley are staging a three-day occupation of Hendy Woods State Park in an effort to save it from the state's budget ax.
Beginning Friday afternoon, Occupy Hendy Woods will host an array of activities, including educational workshops, yoga, storytelling, community meals and a campout at the park, which has closed its campsites for the season.
"The aim is to make it a fun event that leads us into a more cohesive, organized group that can come to some kind of consensus of where we go from here," said Cyd Bernstein, 24, an organizer and Boonville native who has a degree in environmental studies from UC Berkeley.
It will be a peaceful and respectful occupation of the park, she said. Participants are asked to pay the park use fee, to take out their own trash and to help clean up on Sunday. The group also is working with park officials to make it a problem-free event, Bernstein said.
Hendy Woods is one of eight state parks in Mendocino County slated for closure. Statewide, 70 of the state's 279 parks, including five in Sonoma County and one in Lake County, are expected to close next year.
The process of choosing which parks to close has been sharply criticized because it did not consider the economic impacts on rural areas that depend on tourism for survival.
"It could be devastating," said Debra De Graw, executive officer of the Mendocino Coast Chamber of Commerce.
The Anderson Valley — a bucolic winegrowing region that stretches from Yorkville to Navarro, with Boonville in between — will lose its only state park.
"The only place people would have for a hike would be along the highway," said Kathy Bailey, a member of the Anderson Valley Chamber of Commerce. The next largest park in the area is a 16-acre county park, Indian Creek.
Hendy's closure would harm both the local community and tourism.
"It takes the heart out of our visitor attractions," which includes fine wines and good food, Bailey said.
Hendy Woods, located near Highway 128 about eight miles northwest of Boonville, features two virgin redwood groves on 816 acres. The Navarro River runs through the park, which has 94 campsites, 25 picnic sites and four small cabins.
Valley residents have a strong attachment to the park and don't want to see it closed.
Occupy Hendy Woods "was born of this tremendous love we have of this park," said Bernstein, who works on her family's apple ranch.
Her elementary school visited the park, friends held birthday parties there and she ran through the park for track in high school.
Park advocates on the Mendocino Coast also are rallying to save their parks from closure.
The Mendocino Area Parks Association is hoping to organize volunteer groups and funding so they can take over operating their parks on the closure list.
Similar efforts are taking place around the state.
Occupy Hendy Woods begins Friday at 3 p.m., at which time participants are asked to meet at the front entrance to the park.
Forecasts of inclement weather won't halt the planned occupation, which is expected to draw between 50 and "a few hundred" participants.
"It's a rain or shine event," Bernstein said.