Friday, December 10, 2010

Rockin' Rio Nido: December Column

Below, please find the column my neighbor Elena Chronis and I wrote for the Sonoma County Gazette's December issue.

Rockin’ Rio Nido

by Elena Chronis and Elisabeth Parker

Where does the time go?

November flew by like a gust of autumn wind, and suddenly winter is upon us! The scents of fresh rain, tannic redwoods, and toasty smoke from neighbors’ (EPA-compliant) fireplaces fill the air, as we cozy up at home and prepare for the upcoming festivities.

It’s a “Wonderful Life”

Holiday cheer is alive and well in Rio Nido, as Pegasus Theater brings the beloved classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” to the Rio Nido Lodge. Harking back to the glory days of radio – and the Russian River’s heyday – Pegasus’ production adds authentic details from the 1940’s Big Band era and (rumor has it) Rio Nido’s colorful historical past. Come young and old, and ring in the Christmas (or Chanukah, Kwanza, or Winter Solstice) spirit. The performance runs from Dec. 3rd – Dec. 19th. Fridays are “pay what you can.” For more information, visit

Happy 100th Birthday, Rio Nido!

November marked Rio Nido’s 100th anniversary, according to the Russian River Historical Society (at . The Eagles Nest Lodge purchased the land comprising our town back in 1908, set up a post office, and named the town “Eagle’s Nest.” They divided the land into smaller lots for its members, and later renamed the town “Rio Nido” (Spanish for “River’s Nest”) in 1910.

[UPDATE] Since this column was published, the Rio Nido Task Force, Home Owners Association, Roadhouse and Lodge have organized a special Centennial Celebration! Join Neighbors on Sunday, December 19th at 3:00pm at the Roadhouse and Rio Nido Lodge for a Potluck. Bring your favorite dishes for dinner at the Roadhouse, followed by dessert at the Rio Nido Lodge. There will also be a collection of non-perishable foods for the Redwood Empire Food Bank. A gingerbread contest and marshmallow roast will be held for the kids, and Santa Claus will visit the Rio Nido Lodge at 4:00pm. All neighbors, including folks from neighboring communities are welcome!

RRROC the vote

The Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee elected Rio Nido resident and community leader Kim Holliday to their vacant Residential Property Owner seat. Members gathered feedback from our communities and voted during the Nov. 18th meeting at the Guerneville Veterans Hall. RRROC has had no direct representation from Rio Nido since founding member John Uniack resigned last year. RRROC was created in July, 2000 to ensure that Russian River residents have a say in the redevelopment process.

Rio Nido Roadhouse

Once again the THUGZ rocked a full house on Nov. 20th, and a great time was had by all. If you want to stay local on New Year’s Eve, the RNR plans a swingin’ bash. $25.00 buys you appetizers, midnight dinner, champagne toast, and dancing all night with the Poyntlyss Sistars. If you can’t make it, check out the Roadhouse’s brand spankin’ new menu and daily specials. We recently enjoyed a fantastically delectable and fattening special of Southern fried chicken and waffles. Special thanks to the RNR staff for rolling us home in a wheelbarrow.

Task Force meeting

15 neighbors gathered at the RNR on Nov. 14th to discuss future projects for Rio Nido. Also present were Redevelopment Manager John Haig and Rio Nido Lodge owner Dennis Judd. The Infrastructure, Beautification, Safety and Security, and Business/Economic Viability Committees reported on their accomplishments. We then discussed the County’s project priority analysis and re-branding efforts for the Russian River. The consultants’ recommended slogan, “where the mind and spirit rejuvenate,” met with a positive response.

Signs of change

Has anyone noticed the new Neighborhood Watch signs? Richard Grace from the Safety & Security Committee has purchased and strategically placed four of them in visible areas around the neighborhood. More signs are on the way, thanks to Dennis Judd, Fred Beeler, Marsee Henon, Adam Flaherty, Matt Malik, J. Mullineaux, Larry Tocmakidis, and your two faithful columnists.

This spring may also bring new Yield signs and other improvements, thanks to last month’s meeting with the Infrastructure Committee and the Department of Public Works. After a productive walking tour and discussion of traffic-calming measures, signage, culverts, and drainage, the folks from the DPW agreed to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.

Speaking of signs …

The Beautification Committee plans a volunteer work day on Saturday Dec. 4th to clean up our dingy street signs. If you want to help, come to the RNR at 10:00 am with a bucket of soapy water, scrub brush, towel, and truck (if you have one). We also applaud the County for re-funding the Graffiti Abatement program. Now our beauty vigilantes can take a break. If you see any graffiti, call 565-7397.

For up-to-date information about Rio Nido, visit the Web site at

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Some fond memories of winter holidays on the River

I can’t believe we’ve been living here long enough to reminisce about holidays on the River. It’s easy to do since we have so many wonderful community traditions, including the ones below (I’ve been so crazy-busy, I didn’t have time to write things up in advance this year -- though my neighbors and I did list them on the Rio Nido Web site at Information is also available from the Russian River Chamber of Commerce at ).

  • Annual Pasta Dinner/Fundraiser: The flurry of festivities kicks off on the first Wednesday of December with the Gonnella family’s annual pasta dinner/fundraiser for Bob Burke’s Kids at the Union Hotel in Occidental. This year, my daughter’s choir group, the Russian River Choir, and other groups performed holiday music while the adults enjoyed a hearty dinner of pasta, assorted sauces, salad, garlic bread, and dessert. It’s free to attend, but this event gathers enough in donations to help fund Burke’s numerous gatherings and recreational activities for children with cancer and their families. Although the eponymous and much-loved Bob Burke passed away this year, his family keeps the traditions and foundation alive. This year’s event was well-attended, as hundreds of people gathered together to celebrate and show their support. We saw folks we haven’t seen in ages!
  • Annual Tree-Trimming Downtown Guerneville: Not even the winter rains and recession Grinch can keep the holiday spirit away. Every year, on the first Thursday of December, our merchants decorate their storefronts and the street with lavish holiday lights and the Russian River Chamber of Commerce gathers folks together in our little town square to light the festively decorated Christmas tree. Okay, well, this year, the tree was a tad smaller than usual … but as I always say to my petite daughter who sometimes complains about being one of the littlest kids in her class … “good things come in small packages.” About 14 girls showed up from our wonderful Russian River Children’s Choir with Sonia and Ashley to sing Christmas carols and Chanukah songs. Since things were running a bit late, Sonia and Ashley took the girls around to go caroling throughout downtown, and in the Fire Station, and were rewarded with way too many cookies!
  • Holiday Parade of Lights in Downtown Guerneville: On the first Saturday in December, Guerneville closes off Main Street and everyone on the River converges for our celebratory Annual Holiday Parade of Lights, in which local businesses and other organizations display their creative talents and strut their stuff with a magical assortment of elaborately-decorated floats. Alas, the Triple R’s float was sorely missed, but the 5&10, Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and a host of others kept everyone happy and entertained. This year’s theme was “World Dance Celebration” and folks definitely seemed ready to celebrate!
  • More to come: Check out Pegasus Theater’s new production of “It’s a Wonderful Life at the Rio Nido Lodge, local New Years Celebrations at the Rio Nido Roadhouse, Village Inn (in Monte Rio), and other venues, and more.

I also wanted to share the following personal holiday memories from a few years back. It always amazes me how quirky, eccentric, and kind people can be out here on the River … especially to children.

From the trunks of babes ...

Seven holiday seasons ago, we were still living in Berkeley, my husband got a bonus at work & we decided to take a mini-vacation from our total wreck/fixer of a house & booked a little cabin at River Lane here in Guerneville for a couple of days. On top of other stresses, our daughter was in massive exploratory toddler & potty-training mode, & the remodel for our rotting, mildew-ridden, antiquated bathroom was NOT going well (probably because we had no money & had to re-do the entire thing ourselves ASAP before the floor caved in).

River Lane was a tad shabby (it has since been refurbished), but affordable & possessed of a cozy, rustic charm … plus it had a lovely deck with a view of the river. We noticed a tall, striking-looking woman in high-heeled patent leather red pumps and a sparkly, red feather boa with her daughter (approximately aged 8) struggling in the parking area with a battered old car which refused to start, & my husband chivalrously offered to give her a jump-start. Meanwhile, my daughter played with the older girl & they got along famously.

The woman & her daughter seemed nice, intelligent, & stylishly dressed. I was also struck by the warmth and affection with which they treated each other and our daughter. But it soon became apparent that they were homeless & had been taking a brief respite from car camping, courtesy of the low, off-season hotel rates. This horrified & saddened us, because my husband & I have gone through rough times & still often struggle financially despite our making a good income. There but for the grace of G*d go I … We teeter precariously on the crumbling precipice of middle-class respectability & it seems frighteningly easy to lose footing & tumble over the edge & into the yawning abyss.

We invited them to have dinner with us, but they said they needed to move on because they visiting with friends “up north” that evening & were supposed to be there already. My daughter’s erstwhile playmate then reached into an over-stuffed garbage bag in the trunk of her car, retrieved a small, plush Simba toy (the Lion King was all the rage back then) & handed it to my daughter, saying “I want you to have this.” My daughter’s eyes widened with delight as she grinned from ear-to-ear, danced a happy little caper, & launched herself into the older girl’s open arms, crying, “I don’t want you to go!”

We don’t know what became of them, but Simba remains one of daughter’s prized possessions & we will never forget this act of spontaneously generosity from this slender, pretty girl with the fluffy ponytails & large, sparkling eyes framed by enormous eye-glasses. We still wonder what became of them and wish them well.

First Christmas home on the River ...

We bought our house & moved in during the following holiday season. Flush with cash from the sale of our previous adventure in sweat equity & an overly-frothy housing market (sigh, how we miss those days now that our current home is WAY underwater), we set about doing our little part to support local businesses and decided to do all of our holiday shopping in downtown Guerneville.

After purchasing some unique and attractive gifts from Etcetera, Wayne Skala’s funky jewelry shop, and Jennifer Neeley’s wonderfully eclectic Memories that Linger (we still miss the latter two stores), we wandered into Hemp and Chocolate. I indulged myself with a couple of new, fabulous outfits (the owner designed them herself – she’s quite talented), and my daughter and I picked out a couple of soft, plushy, gauzy fairy-dolls for her friends. Since she was only two at the time, she threw a fit when she realized that she couldn’t keep them. Of course I had discretely set aside one for her, but how could she know that?

Suddenly, the door opened, and my daughter stopped in mid-tantrum and exclaimed, “Santa Claus!” Then she joyfully ran up to hug the handsome, portly, older gentleman who had just walked in. Sure enough, he sported a red flannel shirt, silver spectacles, rosy cheeks, and full silvery white beard! I apologized profusely, but he cheerfully waved me off and asked what my daughter wanted for Christmas.

While paying for our purchases, this lovely man smiled, handed my daughter the fairy doll, and said, “Merry Christmas!”

… And our first flood

There’s nothing like moving in during a flood year to initiate you into the ways of the River awfully danged fast! It rained and rained over the following weeks through Christmas and New Years. My daughter and I enjoyed all the fabulous recreational puddle-stomping available, until one morning, we woke up to the amazing sight of neighbors kayaking down our street! Apparently, this was one of the legendary floods we had heard so much about. The floodwaters had stopped just short of our property by our town’s little Post Office. We were perched high and dry above the flood line, but we couldn’t get out for several days. Luckily, we had plenty of food, a full propane tank, and had somehow avoided losing our electricity.

Since my parents had sent us two boxes of luscious pears from Harry & David, and my aunt and uncle had sent us a crepe pan with crepe mix, we invited our neighbors (who were all gathered at the Post Office) over for brunch. This proved a lovely way to get acquainted.

I was impressed with how everyone helped each other. Neighbors with electricity stored food in their refrigerators for those who had lost their electricity. Volunteers checked up on elderly, sick, and disabled neighbors to make sure they were okay and to see if they needed to be evacuated (in some sort of huge, amphibious vehicle parked in front of our Fire Station). And afterwards, everyone pitched in for all the big Spring Clean Ups in Rio Nido, Guerneville, and Monte Rio.

Guerneville School launches new Web site

For those of you who've looked for information about the Guerneville School and not found any on the rarely-updated and now-defunct former Web site, you're in luck. The new Guerneville School Web site at has everything a parent or prospective parent could wish for, including an attractive and easily navigable layout; lunch menus; contact information; schedules; forms; and more.

Thank you Faith Omenique-Affonso -- Sequoia and Phoenix's mom -- for taking on this immense task! To help with the school's Web site or with anything else, contact the school principal, Elaine Carlson, at 869-2864. The Guerneville School is always in need of classroom volunteers and all sorts of experience and expertise.

Friday, December 3, 2010

NIMBY goes BANANAs in Western Sonoma County

Has anyone noticed that here in Western Sonoma County, people are constantly objecting to having things near them? Seriously, this place is NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) gone totally BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything)!

The following things come immediately to mind:

  • Fire station sirens: Neighbors in Graton keep suing their own Fire Department because the siren is too noisy. Never mind that the loud siren is the only way to effectively summon their volunteer fire fighters in that far-flung, rural community.
  • Homeless shelters: Yikes! Let’s not go there.
  • Skateboard parks: Our fear of sullen, pimply-faced teen-agers hanging around smoking dope ensures that they’ll continue using abandoned homes and secluded riverbanks for these nefarious purposes. The same goes for youth centers and additional neighborhood “pocket parks.”
  • Cigarette smokers: Sorry, but the smoking area is located in Nevada. Pot smoke’s okay, though.
  • Electro magnetic fields: Cell phones, cell phone towers, and Smart Meters cause cancer! Pot smoke’s okay, though.
  • Wineries and vineyards: Um … but we don’t we live in the wine country? Medical marijuana farms are okay, though.
  • Vacation homes: We definitely need to place restrictions on the more egregious activities that go on in some of these places, but we also need to remember that our economy depends on tourism.
  • Convenience stores: The new owners of Guerneville Food & Gas (formerly known as Russian River Gas) want to install a delicatessen and sell beer and wine. Many of us folks in Rio Nido and along Old River and Riverside Roads would love to have a full-service gas station and convenience store within walking or biking distance. Unfortunately, the County will not give them a license to sell beer and wine due to objections from just ONE OLD LADY who doesn’t even live here year-round. Despite GF&G’s location on River Road and the proximity of hotels and vacation homes, the area is zoned as “residential” and hence liquor sales can be prevented by a single resident or property owner. The previous owner spoke with this lady personally, promised to install a security camera, prevent people from drinking on-site, and install a fence to screen the noise … but alas, no go.
  • Music venues: Despite Rio Nido’s long and fabled history as a music Mecca, some neighbors have caused hassles for the Rio Nido Roadhouse with the County. Most of us folks here in Rio Nido absolutely love the Roadhouse as a music hall, restaurant, summer-pool hangout, and general gathering spot. The RNR also serves as our unofficial community center, hosting numerous meetings and fundraisers benefitting important programs and services. Besides – unlike many of the wild parties held in River vacation homes – the RNR’s music ends at 10:00pm at the latest.
  • Multi-unit housing: Despite our chronic housing shortage, lack of year-round customers to support our local businesses, and the desirability of walk-able neighborhoods and better public transportation (which require high-density housing in order to be viable), nobody wants these large structures blocking their sunlight and views. But … where will our children live when they grow up?
  • Gravel quarries and asphalt plants: I agree with people on that, but could change my mind if these businesses created enough well-paying jobs to make the visual and environmental impacts more palatable, and if the people driving those ugly, obnoxious slow-moving gravel trucks would (a) paint their trucks to look nicer; and (b) let motorists pass them when passing is safe & legal, instead of deliberately changing lanes to prevent us from passing.
  • Tattoo parlors that sell sex toys: I wrote about the neighbors protesting in front of Red Spaghetti last year, but after receiving comments and talking with nearby residents, have concluded that we should "live and let live." In general, they're a positive presence in the Hacienda neighborhood, plus their coffee is AMAZING!.

Can you think of anything else you don’t want near you? If so, please feel free to add your comments below.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The intractability of homelessness here on the River

It amuses me to discover that local homeless advocate Jan De Wald supports housing projects for mentally ill, homeless people in downtown Guerneville, yet opposes a housing project for mentally ill, homeless veterans on Merry Lane off of Drake Road. Coincidentally, De Wald happens to live two doors down from the proposed site. Heh heh. The proposed "Veterans Village" project is sponsored by the Patrick McCaffrey foundation, a non-profit founded by bereaved parents, and dedicated to creating nurturing, transitional housing for recovering veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). They also seek to build similar facilities in such far-flung locations as Humbolt, CA; Charlotte, NC; and Oak Ridge, MN.

As some may recall, De Wald and her colleagues from formerly the Russian River Interfaith Coalition (RRIC) attempted to use the Rio Nido Fire Station as an emergency homeless shelter in 2008 (see my blog postings, “An emergency homeless shelter in the Rio Nido Fire Station?”, “Rio Nido residents clash over proposed homeless shelter during contentious meeting” and “Homeless update” from November and December, 2008). Shortly after enraged neighbors held a public meeting (and DeWald narrowly avoided being pelted by rotten fruits and vegetables by having the good fortune of not being informed of the meeting), RRRIC changed its name to Community Housing Opportunities West (CHOW).

To be fair to DeWald, she and her cohorts, the folks at CHOW seek to create transitional and permanent housing facilities built to code, with appropriate staffing, supervision, and access to treatment and social services (through Russian River Health Centers, West County Services, County agencies, and other reputable organizations) for vulnerable people who already live here on the River. The proposed Veterans Village facility, on the other hand, is a hulking monstrosity that violates numerous zoning and coding laws, to which neighbors objected long before Veterans Village came into the picture (See Andrew Eckers’ and Mike Dick’s letters to the editor on pages 7 and 8 of the November 2010 issue of the Sonoma County Gazette).

The neighbors have reportedly received no assurances that the Veterans Village facility will be appropriately staffed and tied in with available community services. It is also unclear as to whether this organization would provide housing to local veterans with PTSD, or move them in from elsewhere.

Nonetheless, I find it highly ironic that most people – including myself – support housing for mentally ill, homeless people. We just don’t want them living anywhere near US! No matter how many studies come out in support of main-streaming mentally ill, homeless people and housing them within our communities (see the National Coalition for the Homeless Web site), the majority of us remain skeptical.

It makes me wonder how we can ever solve the seemingly intractable problems associated with homelessness on the River.

The sad thing is that mentally ill people can come across as difficult and even scary at times. The majority of them are odd, possibly tormented, but generally harmless. I also must say that personally, I’ve had friends and acquaintances with severe mental illnesses who make many positive contributions to their communities (they often seem to be artists, writers, and musicians) and who largely succeed in their daily struggle to get help and lead productive lives.

Then again, the dangerous ones often wind up in the news for crimes we wouldn’t want perpetrated on us, our neighbors, or our loved ones. When you hear that crazy lady meandering down the street loudly spewing curses upon some unseen entity (unfortunately, I've never heard anyone wandering about loudly spewing praise and delight) , how can we tell which category she falls into? Most of us won’t take any chances.

My following two personal experiences explain why:

  • A woman who moved down the street from me seemed a bit off-kilter but okay at first ... even kind of sweet. Then, she stopped taking her medications and tormented my entire neighborhood for months of sleepless nights as she engaged in loud arguments (sometimes with her boyfriend sometimes with apparently no one); ran around in the street screaming curses and chasing after her poor little Chihuahua who was obviously desperate to escape; engaging in high-speed car chases in her dreaded maroon Saturn up and down the canyons with some guy in a green truck; and hanging out in front of her apartment building accosting passers by. It took forever for her poor elderly landlords to evict her because they were terrified of her; we kept our kids on lock-down; kept calling the sheriffs (who couldn’t book her because she hadn’t committed any obvious crime); and had no peace until she was finally arrested for smacking a 14-year-old kid across the face who was only returning her escaped dog to her (though I’m amazed that the poor dog didn’t bite him for doing that).
  • I also used to provide In Home Support Services to a nice lady with rheumatoid arthritis who lived in a nice, well-managed Section 8 complex in Santa Rosa. When her increasingly unstable neighbor caused disruptions by playing loud, Christian heavy metal music at all hours of the day and nights, yelling insults and threats that could be clearly heard through their shared wall, and began stalking her (he actually knocked on the door when I was there and said he was the maintenance guy), it took the complex’s management several weeks to resolve the issue. We don’t even know how it was resolved … was he evicted, or did his social worker put him back on his meds?

Of course, the above paragraphs are merely anecdotal and have no statistical validity. Nonetheless, I’m sure some of my readers have similar stories to tell. After all, we do live in an place where -- at a recent community meeting -- a neighbor complained about the Sheriff's slow response to complaints by telephone, and another neighbor brightly responded, "when machetes and propane are involved, the Sheriffs come right away!" Ummmm ... okay.

A big part of the problem is that … As far as I can tell, the law makes no distinction between mental and physical disabilities for individuals protected from housing discrimination by the American Disabilities Act (ADA). Providers of social services staunchly (and correctly) believe that most mental illnesses – even severe ones – can be successfully treated as long as the individual continues treatment and keeps taking their medications. Unfortunately, patients often discontinue their treatment and medications due to lack of access and/or intolerably severe side effects. Google "mentally ill, medications" and you'll get pages of results featuring the word "non-compliance."

A 1997 study published on Psychology Online estimates that 50% of patients with schizophrenia do not take their prescribed medications. After placing a group of 77 homeless people with schizophrenia in an “assertive treatment program” (i.e. the sort of compassionate, highly supervised type of program our social service providers can no longer afford in today’s economy -- after all, this was back in the halcyon days of 1997), the compliance rate only increased to 57%! Yikes!

No wonder residents and business owners howl whenever anyone attempts to set up a homeless shelter, treatment facility, or transitional/permanent housing complex in their neighborhood. Advocates for the homeless and mentally ill need to understand: We fear for our safety, the survival of our already fragile businesses, and our general quality of life. Alas, homeless advocates cannot provide us with satisfactory answers ... or persuade us to actually hear any.

I also believe that our lack of affordable Section 8 housing results from these fears. The twin specters of wraith-like tweekers and crazy people prevent us from providing affordable homes for single moms, low-wage working individuals and families, and people with debilitating illnesses and physical disabilities who struggle daily with chronic housing insecurity. The County prioritizes the most vulnerable (if you're a "Liberal") or most desperate (if you're a "Conservative") cases for Section 8 ... but if more Section 8 housing were available, many more of us would qualify for assistance. After all, we live in Sonoma County, a magical place where the median income is supposedly $70K for a family of four and STILL most of us seem barely able to make ends meet.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Rockin' Rio Nido: October happenings

Below, please find the column my neighbor Elena Chronis and I wrote for the Sonoma County Gazette's October issue.

Rockin' Rio Nido
by Elena Chronis and Elisabeth Parker

Fall is Falling

As Halloween approaches, the warm days of Indian summer give way to a brisk chill in the air and soft autumn rains, while leaves on the local trees and grapevines display their bright, fall colors. Most of our summertime residents have returned home, but some continue visiting on weekends to enjoy this lovely time of year.

Fun-Raising at the Rio Nido Roadhouse

The RNR hosted two entertaining and successful fundraisers last month for the Russian River Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and the Guerneville School. They’ve also launched a new and improved menu, and hosted a fun “Halloween Howl” party with the Poyntless Sistars on Oct. 30th.

The Sisters threw their fabulous Celebrity Pie Throw on Oct. 2. This afternoon of fun and frivolity featured Sister Savior Applause and Sister Sarah Femme as the MC’s, and local notables – including Valerie Munthe, Dax Berg, Vicki Herman, Jennifer Neeley, Katrina Thurman, and Rio Nido’s Doug Misner and Brad Metzger – as the “pie faces.” As usual, the Sisters’ glitzy dresses and elaborate makeup were colorful, beauteous works of art. Proceeds went to the Sisters’ Grant Fund, which donates money to worthy local organizations.

Guerneville School parents Lori Babcock, Kristin Boland, Jaime Wilson, and Jenny Zapp organized a fun-filled 2nd Annual Spaghetti Cook-Off on Oct. 17th, featuring an assortment of exciting raffle prizes, savory sauces from 20 contestants, and a hearty dinner. Despite the cool, drizzly weather, the event drew approximately 160 people and raised over $3000 for school programs. Once again, Walt Perkins took first prize with his “Mama Nona’s” hearty Sicilian sauce.

Rio Nido Lodge Seeks Business Tenants

If you've always dreamed of having your own store-front, coffee shop, gallery, studio, mini-mart, laundromat, wine tasting room, B&B, or other business, join Pegasus Theater and rent space at the historical, centrally-located Lodge for as little as $1.00-$3.00 per square foot. The Lodge offers ample parking; easy access from River Road, and; strong year-round and summer demand for products and services.

Dennis Judd from Cipora Properties reports that updates and repairs will be completed within the next few months, and that move-in bonuses are available to those renting larger spaces (depending on the use and proposed improvements). Cipora Properties also has an option to purchase the acre adjoining the lodge and the front parcel at the entrance of Rio Nido. For more information, visit or call (707) 824-9313.

Where’s Mama Tina?

In case you've missed Tina Eliason from the Roadhouse, we want you to know that her home-made ravioli venture has proven so wildly successful that she no longer has time for serving and bartending. Look for “Mama Tina’s” assortments of flavorful, pillowy delights at Speer’s Market, local farmer's markets, and fine eateries throughout Sonoma County.

Finally … a CONVENIENT Convenience Store!

Vijay Sharma and Johit Kumar recently purchased the gas station/mini-mart on River Rd. and renamed it Guerneville Food and Gas. They’ve already begun remodeling and plan to install a deli and – eventually – sell beer and wine. It may take a while (this is Sonoma County, after all …). In the meantime, enjoy their coffee and yummy breakfast burritos. We look forward to having a high-quality convenience store in walking distance.

Winter Holiday Happenings

Don’t miss the Merchant Open House and Tree-Trimming Ceremony on Dec. 3rd in downtown Guerneville for a festive evening of great shopping, refreshments, and caroling. We can’t wait to enter another Rio Nido Float in Guerneville’s upcoming annual Holiday Parade of Lights on Dec. 4th! This year’s theme is “World Dance Celebration.” If you want to participate, please contact us. If you’re looking for inexpensive, edible holiday gifts, grab some gourmet nuts and candies from our local Girl Scout troop – they’ll have a booth in front of Safeway during the first three weekends of November.

Got news? Email Elisabeth Parker at and Elena Chronis at

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Rio Nido on the Web

I recently googled "Rio Nido" and was amazed by how many links come up for such a tiny little enclave. According to the last Census (conducted in 2000), Rio Nido's population consisted of a mere 296 souls (though the more recent 2010 U.S. Census will probably show a significant increase in population when the data finally comes out).
All of this makes me wonder ... is Rio Nido up-and-coming, or come-and-gone?

Rockin' Rio Nido: September Happenings

Below, please find the column my neighbor Elena Chronis and I wrote for the Sonoma County Gazette's October issue.

Rockin' Rio Nido
by Elena Chronis and Elisabeth Parker

Labor Day Barbecue Marks End of Summer
As the kids head back to school, we’re getting into the swing of fall. We’re savoring the splendor of West County’s bountiful and colorful harvest season, and Labor Day seems so long ago! Over 200 people gathered for the Rio Nido Home Owners Association’s final barbecue, making it this year’s busiest event. Everyone enjoyed the food (we want that chili recipe!), live music and games. Thanks, RNHOA for this summer’s events!

RNR Puts the “Rock” in “Rockin’ Rio Nido”
The Rio Nido Roadhouse launched into September with its usual fun and eclectic musical line-up. The Poyntlyss Sistas performed on Sept 10th, followed by Dgiin on Sept. 12th. The Thugs rocked the house on Sept. 18th, and Jake Richmond and Friends played for the Pegasus Theater benefit on Sept 19th. NOTE: If you can stop in for lunch, the BLT sandwich with fries can't be beat!

Rio Nido Task Force Considers Bylaws
On Sept. 18th, our Task Force met at the RNR to discuss writing bylaws, electing officers, and pursuing non-profit status. Over 20 neighbors attended this productive meeting. Kim Holliday and John Uniack from the Infrastructure Committee will write the bylaws; Richard Grace from the Safety and Security Committee is helping organize our Neighborhood Watch; Jennifer Ostrom and Matt Malik from the Beautification Committee are spearheading a campaign to clean up our street signs; and Marsee Henon from the Business/Economic Viability Committee encouraged neighbors to visit and contribute to our Web site at

People also applauded Nate Lester for graciously building some stairs so we can access Rio Nido beach. We also thank all members for their forward-thinking ideas for bringing our little enclave into the 21st century. The next Task Force Meeting will be held on Oct. 3oth, 11:00am at the RNR.

Quick Clarification
People keep asking us about the Task Force and whether it’s part of our Home Owners Association. The Task Force is a new grass-roots organization seeking to improve our community. The 48-year old Home Owners Association consists mainly of older summer residents who put together the annual barbecues we all enjoy.

Spaghetti Cook-off Fundraiser at the RNR
The RNR will host the Second Annual Spaghetti Cook-off fundraiser for the Guerneville School on Oct. 17th, 3:00pm-6:00pm. Prepare for some great tunes, good eats, and friendly competition amongst local pasta chefs! The event includes the spaghetti sauce tasting, dinner, raffle and spaghetti sauce winner announcements, art contest for middle-schoolers; and live music from Gamma Rhythm. Prizes include fine wines, one night get-aways at local resorts, gift certificates, and more!

The Spaghetti Cook Off costs $10 to enter a sauce recipe; $20 per adult (includes dinner and two raffle tickets); $10 per child (ages 5-12, includes dinner and one raffle ticket); and a special rate for a family of five ($50 includes dinner and five raffle tickets). Children under five can attend free. To enter the contest or sponsor this event, contact Lori at 869-8384, Kristen at 869-9412, or by Oct. 11th.

Rusky Rika Dachas Rehabilitation
Has anyone had a chance to see the newly refurbished and remodeled Rusky Rika Dachas property on River Road? The new homes and landscaping look so much better, and reflect positively on our community. We also applaud Dennis Judd for his ongoing renovations to the Rio Nido Lodge.

A Convenience Store That’s Actually Convenient!
Vijay Sharma and Johit Kumar recently purchased the gas station/mini-mart on River Rd. and renamed it Guerneville Food and Gas. Plans are underway for a deli and selling beer and wine. We look forward to finally having a high-quality convenience store in walking distance.

Pegasus Performs to Full House
We laughed and cried at Pegasus Theater’s Sept. production of The Oldest Profession by Paula Voegel at the Rio Nido Lodge, as five engaging (and still-hot!) elderly prostitutes reminisced about their New Orleans bordello days and contrived to keep their flagging venture in Manhattan afloat. Alas, the clients keep dying off! Lead actresses Diana Grogg, Jana Molina, Lois Pearlman, Noel Yates, and Michelle Randall delivered spicy performances and belted out smoking torch songs. Nancy Hastings ably directed and Kit Mariah provided musical direction. We can’t wait for Pegasus’ next performance.
  • Visit the Rio Nido Web site at
  • Got news? Email Elisabeth Parker at RussianRiverRattina @ gmail . com and Elena Chronis at elenachronis @ yahoo . com.

Rockin' Rio Nido: August Happenings

Below, please find the column my neighbor Elena Chronis and I wrote for the Sonoma County Gazette's September issue.

Rockin’ Rio Nido
By Elena Chronis & Elisabeth Parker

Summer Daze
As summer winds down, we’re enjoying beautiful, sunny, hot days (finally!) here in our little enclave. Colorful flowers bloom in our Community Garden; dogs frisk about in the Dog Park; children frolic on the playground; and the joggers are out in full force. Meanwhile, children splash around in the Rio Nido Roadhouse’s pool, play on the grass, and wolf down hot dogs and Popsicles, while adults relax in comfy Adirondack chairs sipping chilled margaritas.

Wish You Were Here
Here in Rio Nido, we’ve been too busy to write about this summer’s exciting events for the past two issues of the Gazette! We’ve been cleaning up, building a Web site, re-launching our Neighborhood Watch, having community meetings, and attending all the fun and wonderful happenings. As Labor Day approaches and the kids return to school, we savor the last days of our summer bliss.

Spring Cleaning
Despite budget cuts, we successfully pulled off our Annual Spring Clean Up (um … in July!), thanks to local activist Jennifer Ostrom (for organizing); Rio Nido Lodge owner Dennis Judd (for the site); North Bay Corporation executive Pam Davis (for dumpsters and logistics); Roadhouse owner Brad Metzger (for coffee and donuts); and an energetic crew of volunteers, including Johnny Ethridge and Fred Beehler. You wouldn’t believe what people hauled out of our creeks!

“Beautification Vigilantes” on the Loose!
We’ve also had an epidemic of individuals performing random acts of kindness and beauty. Carolyn Thompson coaxed the scraggly rose bushes by the neglected fountain at our entrance to bloom beautifully all summer long. Others regularly paint over graffiti, and contribute time, labor, and materials towards sprucing up our Pee Wee Mini Golf (open Fridays and Saturdays during summer from 6:00-9:00pm for 50 cents per game!).

National Night Out
On August 3rd, neighbors gathered at the Rio Nido Roadhouse for National Night Out – a celebration promoted as “America’s Night Out Against Crime.” Sponsored by Rio Nido Home Owners Association and the Roadhouse, the event featured a delicious assortment of potluck dishes from neighbors, along with free hamburgers, hot dogs, and iced-tea. Big thanks to Brad Metzger and Doug Misner for organizing this event.

Rio Nido Task Force Meeting
On August 7th our Task Force met with the Community Development Commission’s Kathleen Kane to discuss how we’d like to see Rio Nido prosper, and obtaining redevelopment funds. Also present were new Redevelopment Manager John Haig, Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee members Justin Lacey and Amber Twitchell; Dennis Judd; and about 25 neighbors. The Task Force formed in December 2009 to improve the quality of life in Rio Nido. NEXT MEETING: August 18th, 11:00am at the Roadhouse.

Please, Can I Have S’More?
That evening, around 20 children and parents met in the picnic area to roast marshmallows, make s’mores, and play mini golf. The Marshmallow Roast was followed by a kids’ movie on the big screen. The children seemed to love those “Pink Panther” cartoons as much as we did! Thank you, Domenic and Suzanne Farnocchia (for hosting); Susie Markell (for operating the mini golf), and the RNHOA (for sponsoring).

Pancakes and Art
On August 8th, the RNHOA hosted a delicious Pancake Breakfast, which was enjoyed by over 100 neighbors and visitors … especially those who sampled the mimosas. Long-time Rio Nidan John Colonico sure can mix those drinks! Afterwards, we showcased local talent at the Rio Nido Arts Festival, including: Edward Garcia, Vincenza Gregori, Bruce Fossum, Don Wilson, Patty Byrd, Matt Bedford, Tom Azevedo, Beverly Bird, Rebecca Lichau, Seneca Rising, and Moire Martin.

Barbecue Hoedown at the Roadhouse
Cowboys and cowgals had a rip-snortin’ good time at the Roadhouse’s 1st Annual BBQ Hoedown on Saturday August 21st. The Roadhouse outdid itself in providing great grub and drinks, country music from Rockabilly Mac, plus a straw maze, sack races, watermelon eating contest and piƱata smash for the kids. We love the Roadhouse!

Is It Labor Day Already?
We can’t wait for the RNHOA’s Barbecue on Sunday September 5th with delectable chicken, tasty chili and myriad of sweet and scrumptious desserts prepared by the Technology High School to tempt our taste buds. Food served 4:00-8:00pm ($8.00 adult, $5.00 child); Music, dancing mini golf, and children’s talent contest 5:00-9:00pm.

• Visit Rio Nido’s Web site at:
• For photos of recent events, see:
• Please send comments, news, and gossipy tidbits to: RussianRiverRattina @ gmail . com.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tom Lynch resigns from RRROC, what's the world coming to?

Good grief, Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee members seem to be fleeing in droves! Could the long hours and no pay have something to do with it? After losing three members in less than a year (John Uniack, Chris Auzston, and Elio "Buck" Sierra), Tom Lynch tendered his formal resignation this evening. RRROC now has one vacancy each for the residential tenants and residential home owners categories.

During tonight's monthly RRROC meeting at the Guerneville Veterans Hall, Lynch explained that he wanted to avoid possible "conflicts of interest" due to his construction company's future projects (ooh! ooh! What are they?). His fellow RRROC members said they would miss him, and so will I. His jovial presence has calmed many contentious meetings. Dan Fein stated that "Tom is the longest-serving member of RRROC -- 25 years."

Lynch also currently serves on the Zoning Board. He first appeared on the local political scene as "Manure Man" in 1985, when he protested Santa Rosa's "accidentally" discharging 750 gallons of "effluent" into the Russian River by covering four entire city blocks around Santa Rosa's City Hall with manure. He almost made it to the City Hall steps before running out of you-know-what.

Oddly enough, Lynch was not pulled over by law enforcement, despite the fact that he was driving a tractor and broadcast manure spreader around Santa Rosa at three in the morning. Our very own aggressive, ticket-mongering CHP officer -- who currently rules River Road with an iron fist -- probably still wore diapers back in those halcyon days.

On a positive note, RRROC voted to FINALLY approve the Design Guidelines document for the Russian River Corridor, provisional on a few "insubstantial" changes, plus further discussion on recommended architectural styles (based on ones which have historically existed in the area), as suggested by RRROC member Catherine Young. She was concerned that the lovely, Beaux-Arts style of the "Bank Building" in Guerneville would be disallowed for future projects because it wasn't specifically included on the list (for some interesting insights about why the "Bank Building" was abandoned over 20 years ago, read local author Stephen Pizzo's book Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans).

Gee, the Design Guidelines only took 9 years to complete. But it was definitely worth the wait. I should know, because Yolanda Solano from the Permit and Resources Management Department read all 56 pages aloud to us during the meeting. I now understand why my 8-year-old daughter needs me to read her to sleep. Yet many folks expressed appreciation for the vastly-improved, simpler, more accessible, and better organized document Solano presented. She responded graciously by giving credit to the Design Guidelines Task Group* for their extensive reviews and recommendations.

RRROC also formally approved the list of individuals appointed to the Brand Working Task Group by Kathleen Kane from the Community Development Commission (CDC) . The newly-created task group will work with the County's consultant, Great Destination Strategies (GDS) and the CDC towards providing advice and feedback towards developing, branding, and facilitating our local tourism industry. For some reason, this makes me cringe, even though I know that tourism is our economic life-blood.

The Brand Working Task group will include some of the most dynamic business people in our community, including Margaret Kennett, Jan Russel, Peter Hacket, Lynette McClean, Justin Lacy, Kim Holliday, Robin Johnson, Phillip Hampton, Camille La Grande, and Lynn Crescione.

Speaking of Lynn Crescione, she totally kicks butt as the new RRROC chairperson. Meetings used to drone on and on for as long as four hours. Nowadays, decisions are quickly made, and meetings last two hours maximum. This may have something to do with the fact that budget cuts have tightened funding guidelines. Nonetheless, Crescione deserves major high-fives for achieving briefer, more tightly-focused meetings.

In addition, Jennifer Howse from the CDC reported on the following projects:
  • $4 million in redevelopment funds are available for non-housing projects and $800K for housing-related projects this year.
  • Sweet Water Springs' improvements are moving along.
  • the Guerneville River Park's clean-up is completed.
  • the RiverKeeper's park is connected to a new and more reliable water supply.
  • 24 businesses have applied for commercial rehabilitation loans and seven have been approved for design grants.
  • Two housing rehabilitation projects are in the development stage. No new loans have been approved.
  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Graffiti Abatement Program will be presented to the Board of Supervisors in October. If approved, the program will receive funding.
  • The Fife Creek Commons (formerly known as the 5th & Mill Affordable Housing Project) has begun. The mediation, final report, relocation of the Marshall House, and grading permit paperwork have been completed. Financing is expected to close by early October.
  • Improvements to the Rusky Rika Dacha apartment complex on River Rd. have been completed.
  • Great Destinations Strategies (GDS) will hold a public meeting on November 3rd to discuss brand concepts.
* The following individuals have served on the Design Guidelines Task Group: Jon DeSalvio, Lynn Crescione, Catherine Young, George Zastrow, Carl Combs, Mitch Gordon, and Gillian Hayes.

Rockin' Rio Nido ...

I apologize to both of my readers for neglecting my blog this summer. Sorry, blog, I've been two-timing you ... three-timing, actually. With a house full o' kids, working on Rio Nido's new Web site ( with neighbors, and writing a new "Rockin' Rio Nido" column for the Sonoma County Gazette with my friend and neighbor Elena Chronis (catch up on Rio Nido's summer happenings in the September issue -- formatted as a PDF), there hasn't been a spare minute. Plus, the distractions of Johnson's Beach, the Rio Nido Roadhouse's offerings, and lively Homeowners Association events have proven WAY too distracting. Now that school has started, I can get back to work ...

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Major happenings in Rio Nido this week ...

Mark your calendars — we’ve got an exciting, jam-packed week coming up! Upcoming events within the next 10 days include: (1) Wrapping up the Pee Wee Mini Golf revamp; (2) Rio Nido’s “National Night Out” celebration; (3) Super-Important Rio Nido Task Force Meeting; (4) RNHOA Golf Tournament; (5) Marshmallow Roast; (6) Pancake Breakfast; and (7) Art Show

For details, please read below:

  1. Sunday August 1st, 10:00am-3:00pm, volunteer day at Pee Wee Mini Golf (you know where): Grab a paint brush and come on down to Pee Wee Mini Golf so we can finish painting in time for the upcoming big weekend on August 7th and 8th! It already looks pretty danged fabulous, thanks to last week’s painting crew (Kim Holliday, Matt Malik, J. Mullineaux, Randie Watson, Kathy DeBrito, Richard Grace, Gigi Grace, and myself), along with lovely paints and tub full of cold bottled water. from Doug Misner and Susie Merkel from the RNHOA. For those of you who’ve said you’d love to help but couldn’t make it last week, now’s your chance! Thank you.
  2. Tuesday August 3rd, 6:30pm, Rio Nido’s “National Night Out” (Rio Nido Roadhouse): Join your neighbors, the Sheriff Dept. and the Fire Dept. for a fun and festive celebration of our community at “National Night Out — America’s night out against crime.” FREE hamburgers, hot dogs, lemonade, and ice water will be served. Please bring a potluck dish and/or some marshmallows for roasting. Sponsored by the Rio Nido Road House and the Rio Nido Home Owners Association. National Night Out is designed to strengthen neighborhood spirit and encourage crime prevention. If you’d like to spread the word, please download our National Night Out flier (formatted as a PDF), print it out, & pass it along to your friends & neighbors.
  3. Saturday August 7th, SUPER-IMPORTANT Rio Nido Task Force Meeting, 11:00am (Rio Nido Roadhouse): If you care about our community’s future and have ideas about improving the quality of life here in Rio Nido, we NEED you to come to this meeting! Large amounts of Redevelopment funds are available, and representatives from the County Development Commission and the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee will be present to hear our ideas and make presentations. Existing proposals from the County-appointed Rio Nido Improvements Task Group (created as a liaison between the CDC and the RNTF) will also be discussed. Please note that Redevelopment funds for the Russian River Project Area are set aside from the property taxes we ALL pay – either directly as property owners, or indirectly as tenants.
  4. Saturday August 7th, RNHOA Golf Tournament, 10:00am-2:00pm (Northwood Golf Course): 10AM Continuous start. 2-Person Scramble Format. $90 per player. Includes: 18 holes, golf cart, tee prizes and a BBQ at Rio Nido Roadhouse. HOLE SPONSORS are still needed for $50 each, at the 1st and $25 2nd-9th holes.
  5. Saturday August 7th, Marshmallow Roast and Outdoor Movie, 6:30pm-9:30pm (Rio Nido Home Owners Association Picnic Area): Domenic and Suzanne Farnocchia will be hosting yet another one of these events which have proven so popular over the years. While waiting for the sun to set, we’ll gather around a campfire to roast marshmallows and make s’mores. As dusk approaches, we’ll bundle up and watch a fun, family-friendly movie on the big projector, which the kids will love. Marshmallows, skewers, graham crackers, and chocolate provided. Please bring water & beverages for yourselves and the kids, along with another layer since it does get chilly at night.
  6. Sunday August 8th, Pancake Breakfast (9:00am-12:00pm), Art Show (12:00pm-3:00pm) (RNHOA Picnic Area): Start the day right with a generous helping of delicious pancakes, scrambled eggs, sausage, orange juice, and coffee (along with refreshing mimosas, bloody marys, ramos fizzes, and other brunch-y libations for those who wish to buy them), followed by an impressive display of talent from our local artists and artisans, along with face-painting for the kids. This is the perfect finish for a fun-filled weekend.
For more information & to stay up to date, visit our fledgling Rio Nido Web site at

Friday, July 30, 2010

RIP, dear, beloved tire swing ...

This afternoon, my daughter, her friends, and I gazed in mute horror as workers from Russian River Parks & Recreation sawed off the branch of the flimsy tree from which neighbors had hung our short-lived, but much-loved tire swing. Actually, our horror wasn't entirely mute, because my 8-year-old daughter dismounted from her bicycle, strode up to the workers, and politely in a shrill voice, "Excuse me please, but WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH OUR TIRE SWING?!?"
Alas, the workers explained, the tree from which the tire swing swung is not stable, and the branch -- or perhaps the entire tree -- could collapse at any time, and they don't want anyone to get hurt.

I applaud the Russian River Parks & Recreation Department for their concern about our childrens' safety -- not to mention their own legal liability. But I also want us to figure out how to install a viable replacement which would be safe, but which would also provide the sort of spontaneous recreation opportunities for older children, teenagers, & adults which were provided by this wonderful tire swing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The latest in Rio Nido ... for what it's worth

Below, please find the latest jumble of Rio Nido news:

  • Rio Nido Task Force Meeting, THIS Saturday, June 17th, 11am, location to be announced: We can’t hold the meeting at the Rio Nido Lodge as originally planned, because the folks from Pegasus Theater are building sets for their next production. Kim Holliday is exploring options for an alternate location and we’ll keep you posted.

  • Marshmallow roast & pancake breakfast this weekend!: Come one, come all. Our traditional Marshmallow Roast will be held this Saturday, July 17th, 6:30pm, at the Rio Nido Picnic Area (between the Pee Wee Mini Golf Course and the Post Office/Fire Station), followed by a fun, family-0riented, G/PG-rated movie on our big screen. Please bring warm clothing and an endless appetite for marshmallows.

    On Sunday, July 18th, folks can gather for our fabulous pancake breakfast – featuring pancakes, eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee, and orange juice – at the Rio Nido picnic area from 10am-12pm. Adults $6.00, kids #3.00.

  • Three cheers for our Rio Nido Clean-Up crew: Let’s give a huge round of applause to the Beautification Committee’s reigning beauty, Jennifer Ostrom, for organizing last week’s clean-up! In addition, our many volunteers deserve combat medals for their hard work and courage in picking up all sorts of junk without the benefit of gas masks and haz-mat suits. Alas, I don’t have everyone’s names yet, but I personally witnessed Johnny Ethridge, Fred Beeler, and Matt Malik bringing back load after load of rebar, cement blocks, moldy furniture, and heavy, splintered lumber in their trucks; and saw Vicky Cunningham and Ann Thomas hauling construction debris and really scary trash out of our creek-beds. Special thanks also to Dennis Judd from Cipora Properties for hosting us at the Rio Nido Lodge; Brad Metzger from the Rio Nido Roadhouse for providing fuel in the form of coffee and donuts; and to Pamela Davis from North Bay Corporation – our waste management company – for going to bat for us and securing the dumpsters, trucks, and labor required for hauling all this stuff away.

  • Envisioning the future of Rio Nido: Last week, the Sonoma County Community Development Commission met with the recently-created Rio Nido Improvements Task Group, exchanged ideas, and received proposals for funding local redevelopment projects. Proposed projects include major road repair (including underlying water pipes and culverts); stop signs and cross walks; construction of pedestrian walkways to integrate the main areas of Rio Nido (from the entrance by the Rio Nido Road House & Rio Nido Lodge to the Rio Nido Home Owners Association commons, to the Post Office/Fire Station, to the Community Garden./Tennis Courts/Dog Park/Playground); Restoration of waterfront/beach access; Mixed-use construction of housing and retail space by the Canyon 2 entrance to Rio Nido; Construction of a Community Center in the Rio Nido Home Owners Association picnic area; Converting the “Stardust Property” for recreational use; Building observation decks and towers in the redwoods for visitors and environmental education; converting the Pee Wee Golf area into a youth center (and possibly moving Pee Wee Golf to the vacant & flood-free Parks and Recreation-owned land behind the Rio Nido Post Office/Fire Station).

    The Rio Nido Improvements Task Group consists of myself, Doug Misner, John Uniak, and Dennis Judd. I’ve worked hard to include all of your wonderful ideas into the proposals I’ve submitted, and can email them to you as PDF files – along with Dennis’ proposal for the integrated pedestrian walkways, and the list of ideas gathered at the meeting – and would be happy to send them along to you at your request. Please email me at

  • Pee Wee Mini Golf rehabilitation project: Whew! We have FINALLY finished with the yucky cleaning and power washing. Brad from the Rio Nido Road House even sent his bright, competent, and extremely polite teen-aged helper Ershel over with mortar and equipment to patch up most of the crumbling curbs.

    Now, we can move on to the FUN stuff, and start painting, landscaping, and decorating. Doug Misner, president of the Rio Nido Home Owners Association, has offered to provide supplies (for the painting, we need 1 gallon of white, 1 gallon of black, 2 gallons of primary red, 2 gallons of primary blue, 2 gallons of primary yellow; plus 1 set of 4-inch, 2-inch, and 1-inch paint-brushes per hole; for the landscaping, we need soil for 15 planting areas/half wine barrels 2 feet wide & 2 feet deep, along with some appropriately native, perennial, drought-resistant plants as mentioned in my proposal).

    We’re also looking for people to “adopt a hole” – meaning people who are willing to build displays around each hole and then store them for the winter. ALSO, some miscellaneous maintenance tasks need to be performed: (1) The broken leg of the picnic tables needs to be fixed; (2) The detached windmill fixture needs to be repainted and re-installed above one of the golf course holes; (3) The detached “roller” fixture (I don’t know how else to describe this thing – it looks like a baby’s rolling rattle) needs to be repainted and re-installed on one of the golf-course holes; (4) Heavy-duty staples need to be removed from the side of the club house; (5) The club house SERIOUSLY needs some patching up – the exterior moldings have been detached, gaps in the siding need to be filled in to prevent rodent infestation.

  • Random acts of kindness and beauty: In the midst of all these above-mentioned projects, random acts of kindness and beauty are committed on a regular basis by our increasingly numerous “beauty vigilantes”. These folks don’t hash things out in meetings or apply for grants. They don’t even say who they are, or what they’re doing. They just take whatever skills and equipment they have and get jiggy with it. Thanks to our “beauty vigilantes”, the graffiti on our underpass (AKA the “Rio Nido Subway”) gets cleaned up on a regular basis; the rose bushes by the derelict fountain are pruned and revived; a tire swing has been installed across the creek from the Rio Nido playground; and various neighbors are doing things to improve our neighborhood.

Th-th-that’s all folks … at least for now.

Monday, June 28, 2010

New tire swing in Rio Nido!

While enjoying an evening barbecue with our neighbors – whose deck overlooks the Rio Nido Playground, Dog Park, and Community Garden – we noticed that our daughter, her friend, and other neighborhood kids were gleefully gathered around the park’s newest feature. A fabulous new tire swing had suddenly appeared out of nowhere!

In the dappled, golden sunlight of this warm summer evening alongside the grassy banks of the dry seasonal creek, the kids took turns on the swing – sometimes in pairs – while the others pushed. Their laughter echoed through the canyons as their toes brushed over soft, green grass, purple irises, and then pointed towards the canopy of redwood branches lacing over the pale, blue summer evening sky.

My neighbor, Karyn, stood amongst the children (including her slender, pretty tween-aged daughter and her twin three-year-old sons) with an air of immense satisfaction, because she had been planning the installation of this new tire swing for some time. She obtained the tire and rolled it over from her home on the other side of Rio Nido, while her husband pushed the stroller with the twins. Then, she tied a rock to a length of rope and threw it over the tree branch, and looped it through. They somehow managed to tie the tire securely, and … voila! Instant fun!

The playground is mainly set up for younger children, and “I wanted there to be something for the older kids,” Karyn explained. Sure enough, after the younger crowd had dispersed, a group of teenagers passed by, instantly gravitated to the swing, and enjoyed an hour of good, clean, fun.

Times like these are what make me love living in Rio Nido.

Dog days coming soon to a park near you …

The Dog Park in Rio Nido has proven so successful that the folks at Russian River Parks and Recreation have decided to build another one on currently vacant Parks and Rec-owned land in Guernewood Park. Although the proposed dog park has generally been well-received, some Guernewood Park neighbors have expressed concern about the lack of adequate parking nearby to accommodate the potential influx of local dog lovers and their furry companions.

The new Dog Park may improve – or possibly exacerbate – a recent, ongoing problem for Guernewood Park residents. During a chance conversation with a Guernewood Park denizen at Safeway – our local social hub where the elite meet and greet – she mentioned that ever since the “No Parking” signs were erected in the Hacienda neighborhood of Forestville, increasing numbers of teenagers and young adults now gather around the site of future Dog Park in Guernewood Park and wreak all sorts of havoc at the nearby beach.

This is confirmed by other reports from recent visitors to this beach who – looking somewhat shell-shocked – vowed never to return. Their descriptions evoked visions of Daytona Beach during Spring Break, but with more mullets and generic beer in those kegs.. At first, I assumed that zealous neighbors had staged these shenanigans (folks do tend to get a tad protective of their neighborhood “secret beaches” around here), but on closer inspection, this formerly lovely stretch of river frontage does appear a tad shabbier these days.

The new Dog Park definitely has potential for providing a nice, shared community space to this already-charming neighborhood. Here in Rio Nido, the Dog Park has helped neighbors get to know each other better. Some now get together for regular play dates for their doggies the way doting parents do for their young children, and it appears that a new romance or two have blossomed as a result. I do hope that the folks in Guernewood Park – who have a Home Owners Association and generally seem to be cohesive and well-organized – can get together and incorporate their vision for the future of their neighborhood into the new Dog Park.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Things that totally tick me off: Like PAYING FOR FLUORIDE!!!

Here in Sonoma County, a lot of folks believe that if stuff has chemicals in it, then it can't possibly be any good. That's why just about every other County puts fluoride in their water, except for Sonoma County. No wonder so many folks have crappy teeth around here.

That's why -- now that my husband has been out of work for a year & neither of us have been able to get jobs that pay health insurance -- we have to drive way the heck out to Costco every month & pay $10 per month -- so our daughter can have freaking FLUORIDE TABLETS so her teeth don't rot & so she can have the appropriate amount of fluoride which most children receive WITHOUT having to fulfill & pay for prescriptions.

I'm thoroughly disgusted. What in Sam Hill do we pay for our property taxes ANYway?

Go with the (Low) Flow ...

Your intrepid reporter seeks to find out whether or not our part of the Russian River provides good clean fun for ourselves & our children for the summer of 2010 & gives it a rock-solid go-ahead!
Q: What do you do when your Kayak capsizes on the Russian River during a low-flow summer?
A: Get out & walk.
As both of my readers know, I'm NOT a huge fan of the current "Low Flow" water management policy for the Lower Russian River. When folks talk about "Low Flow" around here, it refers to a Federally-mandated policy designed to limit water flows for the Lower Russian River to 70-90 cubic square feet per minute (CFM, which also means "Come F*** Me", believe me, I know, I've worn those kind of shoes in days gone by), so the estuary at the foot of our River doesn't break through to the Pacific Ocean & thereby allows baby salmons to hatch & grow in an ideal habitat. I agree with this in principal, but find the policy to be flawed in multitudes of ways which could cause permanent economic damage to our home-spun tourist industry.

Last summer's "Low Flow" policy -- imposed by drought in addition to habitat preservation -- proved a disaster. Locals & tourists alike found the shallow swimming holes & billowing algae blooms to be utterly loathsome. Even the briefest excursions for my friends & I who have young children resulted with our children contracting ear-aches, stomach-aches, pink-eye, and other ailments.

This summer's different. For starters, we've had abundant rainfall. As a community, we've also demanded that we approach "Low Flow" & habitat preservation in a new way.

In our second "Low Flow" year, in the wake of heavy rainfall, I decided to test the proverbial waters with my 8-year-old daughter starting with Johnson's Beach in downtown Guerneville. My daughter ADORES paddle boats for their rock-solid stability, loathes canoes for their "tippi-ness" & feels neutral about Kayaks because she has never ridden on one.

Thanks to "Low Flow", my preferred option of renting a kayak at Johnson's Beach was the only option available to us. We plunk down our $10 for a generous hour, life-jackets, paddles for both of us, & a swift push-off & off we go. We push off from Johnson's Beach, paddle under the Bridge, and -- voila! -- FREEDOM! My eight-year old daughter gets the rhythm & pushes her paddle away from shore. The River runs clear & cool & we watch the rocks skidding by beneath us. Eventually, we need to stop & drag our kayak along as we drift into the shallows, but we could have avoided this by staying in the channel.

The River runs clear, fast, & smoothly ... we lose our paddle, lunge for it, & grab for it ... OOPS, I've screwed up -- then off we go, in deep, clear green water, paddling past Mallard ducks with their ducklings trailing behind, tiny swallows swooping about, tiny humming birds alighting upon the enchanting foliage on shore, & huge Blue Herons taking off into the sky.

All along we pass by these beautiful vacation homes with people who feel as excited as we do about all the beautiful creatures who cross their line of vision. We paddle by, & the River flows by swift & sure & clean. Most of the time, we can see to the bottom.

Perhaps this can work for all of us, I danged well hope so.

If not, I'll always feel grateful for the spectacularly beautiful day we had.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Russian River Chamber of Commerce activities

In an attempt to staunch the flow of local business closings, our Chamber of Commerce arranged for John DeGaetano of the Small Business Advisory Program to host a May 24th Marketing workshop for local business owners. Unfortunately, a scant five people participated, due to the 3:30pm-5:30pm meeting time. Which genius scheduled that one? DeGaetano, an advisor to the Russian River Chamber of Commerce, also hosted two seminars back in March, entitled, “Marketing your Business in the Community and in this Economy.” With all ironic smirks aside, I wish I could have attended one of these programs, they sound interesting.

Actually, our Chamber of Commerce has been quite busy lately with the lovely hanging baskets which decorate downtown Guerneville; the Give Back Tuesday fundraisers at the Rainbow Cattle Company; the Stumptown Daze parade; and the June 3rd "Chamberee" schmooze-fest during which members from eight Chambers of Commerce throughout the County gathered at the Pacific Coast Air Museum to share ideas and services.

In their June 2010 newsletter, the Chamber of Commerce announced that funding is available to landlords or businesses who wish to improve the appearance of their storefronts. DeGaetano will also provide local businesses with free advice by appointment. If you're interested, please stop by the Chamber or call them at 707.869.9000.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Local businesses report suckiest summer EVER

Egads, I thought our chronically sucky economy was FINALLY starting to turn around. Alas, this recession is the gift that keeps on sucking. Downtown Guerneville looks lively, yet some retailers say this has been "the worst summer ever." Visitors come in to look, but don't buy anything. The folks from Vine Life -- a downtown wine shop which also sells art and novelty items -- have reportedly sold their shop to an investor who plans to move the operation to Discovery Bay, of all places. This will be a sad loss to our community ... and yet another empty store front.

Speaking of empty store fronts, I'm wondering when the landlords plan on getting a $#@%! clue & lowering their rents to realistic amounts that retailers and other small businesses can afford. They shouldn't be allowed to make downtown Guerneville look like cr@p.

Local philanthropist Bob Burke passes away.

I returned home from giving garden tours at the Applewood for the Resorts in Bloom fundraiser, logged into facebook and received the sad news from Hayley Yount Severe's post:

"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live." -- George Bernard Shaw. DEDICATED TO BOB BURKE ... REST IN PEACE GENTLE SOUL.
Mr. Burke owned the local landmark Burke's Canoe Trips and campground, but is best known for Bob Burke's Kids, a non-profit dedicated to providing terminally ill children and their families with fun and enriching outdoor activities, holiday parties, and other events. The Disability Services and Legal Center was to present Mr. Burke with its 2010 Independent Living Legacy award on June 30th.

It's sad to lose a wonderful old-timer like him. Part of me hopes it's a "Mark Twain" scenario in which reports of his death were "greatly exaggerated".

PLEASE bring back Lalita's tamale cart!

Does anyone know where Lalita & her tamale cart have gone? I desperately crave those tasty, savory morsels. She usually dishes them out in front of Dennis Judd's Rusky Rika Dachas affordable housing project (formerly known as "that crappy-looking housing complex") on River Road every day, starting around lunch time until they sell out. Alas, I haven't seen Ms. Lala since February when Mr. Judd began improving the property, which he purchased in Fall 2009.

Did he kick her out? Or did Ms. Lala flee because the ridiculously named "Rusky Rika Dachas" made it impossible for her to serve tamales with a straight face. Actually, she's been visiting her grand children in Southern California a lot & maybe she's moved down there permanently. Sigh. Lalita, PLEASE COME BACK!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

June 2010 post-election haikus ...

Alas, I did not post my recommendations in time for the June 8, 2010 elections. I hope my negligence didn't leave both of my readers mentally paralyzed & unable to vote, thereby skewing the results of this sparsely-attended election.

Hopefully, the unique and valuable perspectives so briefly & concisely stated in my post-election haiku poems will at least partially make up for the damage caused by my brief inattention.

Voters increase funding for
Russian River Fire Protection District

Measure F, F-Yes!
So Fire Dept. can save our homes
(which are STILL worthless).

Voters reject PG&E's thinly veiled attempt
to prevent communities from establishing public utilities.

You can "offer" us
the "right to vote," but you can't
make us vote your way.

Jill Ravitch ejects incumbent Stephan Passalacqua

Too few convictions,
Too many injustices,
un-spellable name.

How Mike McGuire crushed Debra Fudge

Pound lots of pavement;
Make thousands of facebook friends;
Add lots of money.

If you like these, please feel free to forward them or re-post them with a link!