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The people of Fort Bragg already have had some time to familiarize themselves with a nearly mile-long expanse of newly public amenities atop a bluff overlooking the majestic Pacific Ocean at the edge of town.

But on Saturday, the city is throwing open the doors to those who may not even know about a new coastal trail, public parkland and environmental visitor center that could change the way tourists think about the largest city on the Mendocino Coast.

Though still not entirely complete, the 92-acre Noyo Headlands Park and Coastal Trail offers new recreational and sight-seeing opportunities from a vantage point that was off-limits to the public for more than a century as part of a 430-acre Georgia-Pacific mill site that employed thousands of local residents.

But last Saturday, during a survey to support additional grant applications, city representatives counted more than 12,000 visitors using the trail and park over a 12-hour period, including pedestrians, cyclists and disabled individuals, according to Marie Jones, project manager for the city.

“It’s just changing the face of the town,” Administrative Services Director Scott Schneider said.

The lumber mill’s 2002 closure inspired fantasies of ocean-front public space that in many ways have come to pass, thanks in part to G-P’s own donation of 57 acres, including a strip of coastal property that supports the trail, Jones said. The remaining 35 acres were purchased with $4.4 million in California Coastal Conservancy grants, city officials said.

Additional funding totaling more than $6.5 million from the Statewide Park Program, the Coastal Conservancy and Caltrans covered site restoration, design and construction of two sections of the trail and park that are now complete, with restrooms, parking, informational kiosks, artisan park benches and other features.

The first section, completed last year, includes an area that adjoins the Glass Beach Headlands, a 35-acre parcel owned by state parks, and extends south, creating a band of land for 2.1 miles of Noyo Coastal Trail.

On the southern end, a 56-acre parcel supporting 2.6 miles of trail extends north from Soldier Bay.

A middle section, with 1.3 miles of trail, is expected to be in construction next year. By the time it’s finished, given adjoining trails and linkages, hikers should be able to walk from the Trestle Bridge across Pudding Creek on the north to Noyo Harbor, Jones said.

Another 11 acres adjacent to the park were purchased for eventual construction of a new education and research center for the Noyo Center for Marine Science.

Until then, it will host environmental exhibits like an orca skull and a blue whale skeleton out of an A-framed redwood building given to the city by G-P.

The grand opening for the visitor center, named the “Crow’s Nest,” will coincide with Saturday’s activities, which run from noon to 4 p.m. in the southern section of the park, near the West Cypress Street entrance.

Held in honor of National Trails Day, the festivities include food, live music, a kids’ zone, a petting zoo, a beer garden and a variety of other activities.

Go to city.fortbragg.com for a Coastal Trail map and more information.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

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