WILLITS, 12/13/16 — The Willits Environmental Center (WEC) is hosting a meeting tonight, Tuesday, Dec. 13 from 6pm - 8pm to discuss a plan for new outreach center focusing on Eel River waterways, salmon, and sustainable cannabis to be based at WEC. The idea was initially proposed by the non-profit Eel River Recovery Project (EERP) in a presentation by the ERRP’s Patrick Higgins last month. Tonight’s meeting is to facilitate discussion amongst Willits area residents about what they might want to see in a collaboration with the group.
The ERRP is primarily focused on promoting healthy waterways to ensure viable ecosystems for salmonids and other species, and helps to organize local residents and assist them with stream monitoring, salmon surveys, and restoration projects in their area, including ongoing projects in the Willits and Round Valley areas. More recently, the organization has expanded outreach to cannabis farmers across the Eel River watershed, conducting farm tours and other educational projects focused on helping farmers conserve water and develop fish-friendly farming techniques. This effort was supported by funding from the state waterboard
During an October visit to Willits, the ERRP proposed renting out a portion of the Willits Environmental Center to continue these efforts and to serve as a part-time hub for local cannabis farmers to learn about sustainable water management techniques and get advice about appropriate land management methods to ensure healthy waterways. The ERRP is currently applying for a grant from a state agency that could provide funding for such a center and also support similar activities at the WEC by paying a portion of the building’s rent.
The center could also serve as a place to coordinate salmonid restoration efforts, including projects focused on the Potter Valley/Lake Mendocino area, explained Higgins in his October presentation. He also discussed potentially creating a visitor center to provide information about local environmental attractions, which he said could attract tourists to Willits now that the bypass has been completed. The WEC is currently serving as a “hub” for different locally-focused organizations including Willits Economic Localization Project (WELL).
Tonight’s meeting is intended to allow local residents to talk about what kind of collaboration they might want to have with the ERRP, including starting a local chapter. Higgins and the ERRP board are planning to return to Willits in January to continue the discussion about a salmonid and sustainable cannabis center at the WEC after hearing feedback from tonight’s local meeting.
The meeting will take place at from 6pm - 8pm and will include a potluck. The WEC is located at 630 South Main Street in Willits.