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Tourist Trap? 

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A grant application by the Sonoma County Regional Parks that envisions the Occidental Community Center as an "adventure day lodge" for tourists, complete with small shuttles to Jenner, Bodega Bay and Willow Creek, has stirred up concern among some residents. A June 4 meeting has been organized to raise awareness about the "Gateway to West Sonoma County Project," says Jacques Levy, one of the meeting's organizers. "Many people in the community are even surprised to know about the project," he says. There is a worry that this has been a "top-down" process with little participation from the very people who would be affected by such an ambitious undertaking, explains Levy.

But Caryl Hart, Regional Parks director, says that the idea for a tourist hub is just that—one idea out of many, and only one piece of an application for technical assistance to the National Parks Service. "The Gateway is a working title for a concept that would improve recreation access for everyone to thousands of acres of public land in West County," Hart tells the Bohemian. Nothing will happen without community input, she adds, and, with no current funding, that's a process that will take time.

Currently, the former Vets Hall is being leased from Sonoma County Parks and Recreation by the YMCA and rented out for the occasional class. A community meeting to discuss the West County Gateway Project, moderated by Eric Koenigshofer of the Bodega Land Trust, will be held on Tuesday, June 4, at the Salmon Creek School Gymnasium. 1935 Bohemian Hwy., Occidental. 7pm. For more information about the meeting, contact jacqueslevy@sonic.net.

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