I consider myself an environmentalist. And for this reason I'm alarmed by a new and very strong movement among people who call themselves "environmentalists." If I may generalize, these are people who do not hunt or fish or make their living from the land. They often have not grown up in the areas where they are active. They want everything to return to an imaginary pristine state. They tend to be from families of wealth, have college degrees, can raise money for their non-profit groups, and know their way around in the political and media worlds.
I've lived all my life in the Bay Area, and over 40 in West Marin, and I'd never been to Lawson's Landing until a few weeks ago. I'd driven past the turnoff to Dillon Beach (in Tomales) scores of times, but never turned west. Well, on the last set of low tides, I went up there to go clamming with my new-found friend Eloy Garcia.
A bit of background: last year I saw an article in the West Marin Citizen showing Eloy with a "clam gun," and it described his way of using it to get horseneck clams. Boy, that sure beat my system of back-breaking shovel work to get them. I called Eloy up (in Woodland) and we ended up making a trade. He sent me the parts for a clam gun and I sent him a bunch of our building books.
Eloy called me last month (I was surprised he remembered me), and said if I came up to Lawson's Landing, he'd show me how to use it.
Off I went. I met Eloy, his wife and two other couples, his camping buddies, who were in trailers on the grassy campgrounds. We had beers around the fire on a chilly night, and there was good rapport, even with me a total stranger. We all shared a love of the outdoors, and fishing, and camping. I slept in the back of my truck and the next morning we went clamming. That's another story (and a good one).
I'd read about the Lawsons controversy (under fire from "environmentalists"), so was interested to see the place firsthand. I learned that there were maybe 250 trailers there semi-permanently, and a campgrounds. Where we camped was a grassy meadow, lots of other campers around; it was quiet, mellow, felt really nice.
After clamming, I walked around shooting photos and I'd like to show you what I saw. Click here for a slide show, photos shot June 16th, 2011:
Or if you are typing the URL into a browser: http://is.gd/lawlandpix
To sum up:
Hundreds of people are having a great time at Lawsons Landing. Boating, fishing, camping, escaping the heat of the Sacramento Valley in summer. Sure, there's funk galore, and there are a few krappy looking places. But overall, it's neat. The trailers are tended, many are decorated and homey inside, with tiny gardens. On the cheap. These people aren't jetting to distant locations and staying in extravagant hotels. They're driving a short distance in their own state, to the seashore, cooking their own food, making their own beds, breathing the clean salt air, and having a mighty good time.
I talked to a guy whose family had been coming there for 3 generations. He showed me a scrapbook with photos. "Here' a picture of me when I was 12," he said, and he's holding up a 3-lb.stripd bass. About the coming hearing, he said, "They're not going to cut our throats, they're just going to keep stabbing us until they bleed us to death."
The fishing alone is phenomenal. Boats launched, clams dug. Rock crabs, surf perch, halibut, that day a 6-ft.thresher shark. Abalone. People are heading out in Boston Whalers, Klamaths, rowboats, kayaks, rafts, Zodiaks, bringing in fresh (organic) food for their families. Going out through the surf into the ocean in the bigger boats for salmon and rock fish. Win-win.
I had a good feeling about everything going on there and want to convey this to the powers-that-be (Coastal Commission) and anyone else who hasn't been there. And to you critics (those who want to see it returned to it's "pristine" state), check out the reality of California's past: Tending the Wild
Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources.
These are Californians, most from the Sacramento Valley. They've been coming here for 80 years. They're not really a sophisticated (Whole Foods/iPad/suit/college degree/lawyer/ivy league/family money, etc.) group. They're not really web-savvy. They can't hire powerful lawyers. But they're native Californians, and this is their place.
Much of it doesn't look as it did before human habitation, but what does?* The former wetlands area that is now the campgrounds, with healthy grass, looks good, gosh darnit! And a lot of people are enjoying it.
Lawsons' Landing (click here) is a vital, chipper little community, a wonderful resource for Californians and I sure hope they don't fall victims to misguided regulation.
Editor, Shelter Publications
Author of Shelter and Builders of the Pacific Coast
*How about going after the Seadriift gated community at Stinson Beach, where the dredged building sites (for weekenders' million $ 2nd homes) on Dipsea Road block natural drainage of the Bolinas Lagoon and contribute heavily to the filling in of the lagoon? Return that to its pristine state.