The Bonham family attend dedication of Bonham Trail.

by Irene Leidner, Cooks Beach Project Manager
Photo: Irene Leidner

After weeks of intermittent rain and gusting winds, April 16, the designated Bonham Trail to Cooks Beach Dedication Day, dawned clear and promising. While the unseasonably wet and cool spring had delayed the full bloom of wildflowers, a few managed to show some color for the ceremony. About 50 people gathered on the bluff top just above the trail, admiring the view from behind the split rail fence.

RCLC Vice President Charlie Murphy began with introductory remarks about RCLC and its collaborations with the Coastal Commission, the Coastal Conservancy, the Building and Planning Department of Mendocino, and of course the landowner, Dr. Bonham, whose donation of the land provided the impetus to construct the trail and steps for public access to Cooks Beach.

Charlie then introduced Irene Leidner, who became project manager for the Bonham Trail following Ray Van de Water, one of RCLC’s founders, who had seen this beach and trail as one of Gualala’s finest opportunities for coastal access. Irene acknowledged the various agencies and organizations mentioned above, as well as the contractors who built the concrete steps and numerous volunteers who had donated over 500 hours to bring this dream to reality.

Small stone tokens inscribed with “Cooks 2010” and a dolphin were awarded to those dedicated volunteers, and a photographic record of the progress of the trail was presented to Dr. Bonham.

Plaque honoring Dee Dee Bonham
Photo: Bob Rutemoeller

In November of 2001, Dr. Bonham donated two parcels of land to provide public access to the bluff top viewing area and a trail to Cooks Beach. It was his wish to dedicate this property to his late wife Dee Dee Bonham, who had been executive director of the California State Parks Foundation. Because the beach itself was already officially listed as Cooks Beach by the USGS, Dr. Bonham agreed to designate the trail to the beach as the Bonham Trail, with placement of a memorial plaque at the top of the trail.

The unveiling of the memorial to Dr. Bonham’s wife was the focus of the opening ceremony. The inscription, “Nature Always Amazed Her,” was suggested by Dr. Bonham. A ribbon-cutting ceremony (seaweed stretched across the top of the trail) followed. The plaque will serve as recognition of the Bonhams’ wish to provide public access to this special beach.

Stairs from Bonham Trail down to Cooks Beach improve beach access.
Photo: Bob Rutemoeller

If you have not yet visited this scenic spot, you have missed a surprising corner of the coast here in Gualala. To get there, take Highway north to Highway One mile marker 3.14, turn left onto route 526 (the old coast highway) and park near the fence, on the west side of the road.