Jug Handle Creek and Nature Center – A Brief History

Our nonprofit and preservation of the Ecological Staircase at Jug Handle State Reserve were both linked to an early nonprofit organization called California Institute of Man In Nature. Founded in 1968, in Berkeley, California to provide nature education programs, its goal was saving two sections of this land formation.

The so‐called Staircase covers successive coastal terraces with different vegetation types, ending in a stand of a very rare plant community called Mendocino Pygmy Cypress Forest, locally known as “pygmy forest.” Here, pine and cypress trees, growing in highly acidic, nutrient‐depleted soils, can become picturesquely stunted.

With the Staircase area was threatened with development, the Institute took on massive preservation and fundraising efforts, resulting in two land parcels being acquired by the State Parks system.

In the early 1970s, the Institute played a major role in a lawsuit preventing development on the south headland of Jug Handle Creek Beach. A planned 80‐ room motel, restaurant, and bar would have marred the serenity of this beautiful beach and severely limited access to the first terrace of the Ecological Staircase.

The Institute then acquired a portion of the historical Tregoning farm property just east of Highway One, along the south boarder of Jug Handle Creek, providing the Staircase with additional protection against development and providing us a place to offer our educational programs.

In 2001 a new nonprofit, Jug Handle Creek Farm and Nature Center, spun off from the founding organization. With a very local focus, we were able to more efficiently develop and expand our educational programs.

Please ask about educational programs we can provide and be sure to visit the Jug Handle Ecological Staircase. Guests at Jug Handle Creek Farm & Nature Center have direct access to the Staircase Trail at Jug Handle Creek Bridge from our Farmhouse or Camp‐ground. Those who prefer a shorter, easier path leading directly to the Pygmy Forest on the third terrace can find this
information from our innkeepers.

Click here for a more detailed version of this history.

HISTORY OF OUR EDUCATION PROGRAMSJug Handle Creek Farm and Nature Center has a long history of educational outreach activities to local schools.

Renowned wildlife artist, Erica Fielder, who lived and worked at Jug Handle for ten years, initiated an educational outreach program during the decade from 1980 through 1990. She worked with Ed Lubin and Karin Lubin doing classroom and field presentations on coastal ecology. Naturalist Pam Huntley began a summer Nature Day Camp Program at Jug Handle more than 12 years ago, which she continues to direct and which is still very popular with local schoolchildren. As naturalist, Helene Chalfin has led an After School Nature Program from 1991-1994 and from 1997-1999. All have led local schoolchildren to explore the Jug Handle Ecological Staircase.

As a Nature Center, Jug Handle has worked with a large number of schools from throughout the state to complement their science programs with outdoor educational experiences for students. The following programs were initiated by Jug Handle’s Education and Grants Director, Helene E. Chalfin:

1993 Adopt An Endangered Species Project
In 1993, Jug Handle introduced students at the Redwood Elementary School to the Adopt an Endangered Species Project, instituted by the National Audubon Society, the State Department of Fish and Game and the State Department of Education. Students, under the leadership of 2nd grade teacher, Kay Rex, adopted the endangered Castilleja mendocinensis, Mendocino Coast Indian Paintbrush. Students helped remove an exotic invasive plant, Gorse, from the headlands near Jug Handle Creek, where it was threatening the coast paintbrush habitat. Songs, stories, paintings and signs about the Indian Paintbrush were developed by students throughout Redwood Elementary. The school received honorable mention in the Adopt An Endangered Species statewide program for adopting Castilleja and making efforts to protect the plant in its habitat, including the removal of exotic plants threatening to crowd it out.

1992 – 1994 Jug Handle Creek Farm & Nature Center:

  • becomes a promoting partner for Adopt A Watershed with the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District and the Mendocino County Office of Education.
  • sponsors North Coast Coordinator for Adopt A Watershed to help bring the Watershed Project to Mendocino County schools.
  • becomes grant seeker and fiscal agent for more than $20,000 in funding which launches the Adopt A Watershed Program in Mendocino County.
  • hosts Teacher Training seminars on Adopt A Watershed Curriculum.
  • administers funds and prepares grant reports on Adopt A Watershed.

From early 1992 through the end of 1994, Jug Handle Creek Farm became one of the three promoting partners who worked together to introduce the Adopt A Watershed curriculum to Mendocino County school teachers. Working closely with the Mendocino County Resource Conservation District and the County Office of Education, Jug Handle Farm became a grant seeker and fiscal agent for more than $20,000 in funding which launched the Adopt A Watershed Program in seven school districts throughout Mendocino County: Point Arena, Fort Bragg, Mendocino, Laytonville, Potter Valley, Anderson Valley and Ukiah. More than 100 Mendocino County school teachers from these districts took training seminars in the Adopt A Watershed curriculum through this funding provided by the AT &T Corporation and the Mendocino County Office of Education. The first training workshops were organized by Helene Chalfin, with the full sponsorship of the Jug Handle Creek Farm Board of Directors, who allowed her office space, telephone use and copy costs to help bring the Watershed program to Mendocino County schools. With the backing of Jug Handle Creek Farm Board, Helene applied for and administered all of the funding and prepared the grant reports, working primarily as a volunteer.

From 1994 to 1995, the Americorps, U.S.A. program provided funding for Adopt A Watershed coordination work throughout several counties in California, including Mendocino. Jug Handle hosted an Americorps “volunteer” North Coast site coordinator for the Watershed project, who organized and led field trips, developed community support and raised an additional 10,000 dollars in grant funding for the project for the Fort Bragg and Mendocino Unified School Districts. These funds were used to buy the needed science equipment, curriculum materials and bus transportation costs to begin to carry out Watershed Project activities in these districts.

From 1995 to 1996, the Americorps Watershed Stewards Project based in Fortuna, placed a volunteer for one year of service with the Department of Fish and Game’s Inland Fisheries Division with mentor Wendy Jones, Associate Fisheries Biologist. Integrating this assignment with work at the Jug Handle Nature Center and the schools as part of Watershed Stewards’ community service requirement, the Americorps volunteer organized restoration field trips for both Fort Bragg and Mendocino Unified School Districts and raised $12,000 in funding to develop a Native Plant Greenhouse at the Jug Handle site to help carry out watershed restoration activities with the schools and Americorps programs.

1995-Present Stewardship Incentive/Greenhouse Project
Jug Handle’s Stewardship Incentive/Greenhouse Project is a logical outgrowth of the nature center’s earlier efforts to introduce meaningful environmental education curriculum into local school districts. The Stewardship program is designed to complement schools’ current science matrix, including Adopt A Watershed curriculum, Life Lab Science or the Child’s Place In the Environment curriculum, with classroom visits, field trips and service – learning experiences. The primary partners in the project are the Americorps Watershed Stewards Project, the State Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Fish and Game, the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens and members of the Watershed Project.
Beginning in late 1995, Jug Handle initiated the Stewardship/Greenhouse Project with surrounding school districts including Mendocino, Fort Bragg and Point Arena Unified. This project combines efforts of Jug Handle with resource staff from the State Parks Department, Ca. Fish and Game Dept., the Americorps Watershed Stewards and Watershed Project members as well as community members to give students and the community a role in the management of natural resources. Students at all grade levels have been involved in raising native plants for watershed restoration and revegetation projects under the leadership of Jug Handle Farm. Students have learned about watershed wildlife, aquatic insects, riparian plants and soils on interactive field trips to the watersheds in their community.

1999-Present Fisheries and Watersheds Education Project

In 1999, with a large grant from the State Fish and Game Department, Jug Handle’s Stewardship Project has been expanded to include a Fisheries and Watersheds monitoring component for local school districts.