RIO NIDO - One after another, Rido Nido residents drove up to their post office on Canyon Seven Road on Monday. Many left their cars running and doors unlocked as they walked inside to pick up their mail or drop off a package.
Most Rio Nido residents do not get mail delivered directly to their homes, so this small post office is in some ways a lifeline and in some ways a community gathering place.
When FedEx or UPS can’t find a customer’s home to make deliveries, those packages often wind up at the Rio Nido post office. In the past, the local postmaster even sold coffee for nominal fee.
Rio Nido residents will no longer have that convenience.
Citing a steady decline in revenue and customers, the U.S. Postal Service has decided to close the location, operated through a private contractor.
Starting today the Rio Nido post office ceases retail services, such as shipping and receiving packages.
Residents will still be able to pick up mail from their post office boxes until June 30.
After that, locals will have to drive to Guerneville to get their mail at the Mill Street post office.
“It’s sort of like our little heartbeat and they’re taking it away,” said Cecilia Fagan, who lives on Canyon One Road and visits the post office two or three times a week.
Fagan said the little post office serves as a mail and delivery hub for the community, home to 522 residents, according to the 2010 Census. Fagan, who lives in a multi-unit residential building, said delivery services such as FedEx and UPS sometimes cannot find residents’ homes and instead drop off packages at the local post office.
The postmaster often holds the packages for residents to claim later.
“This post office is basically our information center,” Fagan said.
According to the postal service, there has been a decline in customers at the Rio Nido location since 2012.
That drop in business has led to a 122 percent loss in revenue between 2012 and 2016. The Postal Service said the location has been losing money throughout that time.
Josephine Tincher, another Rio Nido resident, said she rarely goes into Guerneville and, for her, Forestville is a better alternative for her post office box.
Tincher, a consultant for a clothing line, works from home and frequently visits the post office, dropping off prepaid packages and picking up her mail, including some of her bills.
“We may be forced to do more online billing,” she said.
Augustine Ruiz, Jr., a Postal Service spokesman for the Bay Area, said a recent retail study determined there was not enough business to cover the costs of operating the contract post office in Rio Nido.
On Monday, some Rio Nido residents expressed dismay at the decision to close the post office.
Keith Clements, who grew up in Rio Nido, questioned the wisdom of closing the post office because he felt the community was growing, not shrinking. “Get the Pony Express back here to deliver the mail,” Clements said. “This is America, gosh darn it.”
Though it is still authorized by the U.S. Constitution, the Postal Service has been an independent agency since 1970.
Legislation signed that year by President Richard Nixon abolished the U.S. Post Office Department and created a for-profit independent agency of the government with a monopoly on mail delivery.