By Jennifer Grimes
Triplicate staff writer
The long battle is over. Del Norte County will get paid for the loss of Mill Creek land and the tax money it brings in.
County officials announced a $5 million check will arrive after the sale of Stimson Timber Companys 25,000 acres to Save-the-Redwoods League is complete.
This $5 million will create a revenue stream that will perhaps double in the next 10 to 20 years, said Del Norte County Supervisor David Finigan to a smiling crowd of Redwoods State Park officials, members of Friends of Del Norte and others.
The money will be delivered to the county this spring. It can be used in any way the county sees fit.
The money wont, however, solve the countys immediate budget crisis, according to Supervisor Martha McClure.
Our budget issues represent a systemic problem in our revenue streams and these monies wont be a cure-all for that, she said.
Instead, the supervisors indicated the money will be invested to create a growing and long-term source of income for the budget.
No firm decisions on how to use the money have been made yet. But the supervisors did say the decision-making process will occur in public meetings.
The sale and conversion of the Mill Creek land to parkland began last July.
When owner Stimson Timber Company decided to sell, the non-profit preservation group Save-the-Redwoods League started gathering state and federal grants to meet the $60 million purchase price. The league achieved that by promising to turn the land over to the state parks.
Del Norte Countys Board of Supervisors supported the sale with several conditions, including some type of mitigation fund to offset the loss of property and timber-tax income.
Until two weeks ago, the county had lost hope of a help fund and threatened legal action to block the sale.
Thats when state Assembly member Virginia Strom-Martin stepped in to ask all parties to meet in her office and come to some agreement.
This had been a long process for everybody. I just played a role as facilitator. I have to credit Stimson Timber, who truly did want to (help), Strom-Martin said yesterday.
How the two sides arrived at the $5 million figure was not revealed. Save-the-Redwoods director Kate Anderton also declined to say whether the money was part of the asking price or a burden shared by both Stimson and the League.
Anderton would just say the two groups were pleased to deliver the help fund to the county.
Stimson is pleased to contribute to this significant mitigation to the countys loss of revenue ... The amount of private dollars offered in mitigation is unprecedented in this type of case, said Stimson owner Andrew Miller.
Del Norte County will now be home to the largest expanse of park-owned redwood forest in the world.
It is also home to 44 percent of the worlds ancient redwood forest.
Ruth Coleman, the states director of the Department of Parks and Recreation, said adding the land to the park system is important.
Mill Creek is a significant natural resource acquisition because it provides important linkages between coastal- and inland-forest habitats. Some have called it a botanical wonderland, Coleman said yesterday.
The once-private logging farm will now be opened to the public, according to park officials. It has 240 miles of logging roads and an old mill site to be converted to campgrounds.
First, a management plan must be adopted by the parks. Because the plan may take three years to develop, Save-the-Redwoods is now working with the general public and park managers on an interim plan to allow access, hunting and fishing.
The sale is the single largest acquisition for the San Francisco-based Save-the-Redwoods League, which has been acquiring lands and handing them over to the park system since early in the 1900s.