Delores McDonald Bonham

by Irene Leidner, Bonham Trail to Cooks Beach Coordinator

The Bonham Trail to Cooks Beach Project is a perfect example of the many partnerships necessary to identify, plan, develop and maintain a valuable piece of property in our local community.

Dr. John Bonham and his wife, who for years allowed local residents access to a private beach through a small path at the northern end of their land just north of the town of Gualala, realized how important it was to maintain that access for future generations of locals and visitors alike.

Dr. Bonham and Ray Van de Water of RCLC worked with the Coastal Commission to formulate a legal document for dedicating that access in perpetuity, through means of an OTD, or Offer to Dedicate. Upon completion of this OTD, RCLC elected to take on the responsibility of developing and maintaining this access, and began planning improvement and development of this area.

In honor of the Bonham’s contribution, a memorial will be placed on the property to commemorate the many environmental volunteer achievements of John’s late wife, Delores McDonald Bonham. The beach will retain its current name of Cooks Beach, while the trail will be called Bonham Trail.

A Coastal Commission requirement for RCLC’s involvement in this project is a carefully executed management plan that will maintain the natural beauty of the area. Steps will allow easier access than the current rope and rocks path to this Gualala area jewel.

A sizable cove, Cooks Beach is well-protected, and a small year-round stream, sometimes with a waterfall, adds to its charm. The management plan also includes a short trail to the bluff top overlooking the beach. There a bench will be placed, honoring Ray, one of the founders of RCLC, who passed away last fall after a short illness.

Cooks Beach

After the OTD had been granted to RCLC, Ray successfully applied to the Coastal Conservancy for a $100,000 grant to develop these trails (including the St. Orres beach access, described in another article). Because this project involved development on an access trail to the beach, a building permit was required from Mendocino County, another partner in the development of the Bonham Trail/Cooks Beach Project. Two more partners were required to conduct the necessary geological and archeological surveys.

Finally, on May 14, 2007, approval from Mendocino County Department of Planning and Building, the Coastal Commission, and the Coastal Conservancy was granted for proceeding with this project. This is not the end of the partnership saga, however; still to come are partnerships with local contractors for building the steps and supervising the trail, as well as partnerships with local volunteers to help complete this valuable trail. Without the dedication, commitment, and cooperation of all these organizations and the very knowledgeable people associated with them, Cooks Beach could have been lost to the public forever as housing developments envelop the remaining land in our community.