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30 March 2010

By Nels Johnson  Marinij

A Nicasio ranch that hosts children at a summertime agricultural day camp will expand under an agreement endorsed Tuesday by county supervisors. Under the program, Mark Pasternak may expand his Devil's Gulch Ranch day camp to a year-round affair. The move also allows two special events for up to 150 participants and 12 educational tours a year.


The county board approved the project after Supervisor Steve Kinsey reached agreement with various parties on a modified version of a program approved by county planners.


But attorney Brian Rohan said his client, neighbor Joe Jolson, may sue to block a project Rohan asserted threatens endangered coho salmon in the nearby Lagunitas Creek watershed.


Kinsey, saying he has worked for a decade to improve the fate of endangered coho, said no environmental report was required to study salmon because officials curbed impacts by eliminating overnight camping from the program.


Rohan disagreed, saying supervisors risked putting county planners through "endless depositions" by failing to study the coho situation. He called expansion of the day camp at the 75-acre asparagus and grape farm, where livestock include rabbit, sheep, pig, quail and chickens, a "bad idea ... at a bad time in a bad place."


Planning Commission approval of a revised program was appealed by both Pasternak and the Nicasio Land Owners Association, but after further tweaking planning staff said the project was in accord with county policies.


"The modified project will continue to diversify agricultural uses at Devil's Gulch Ranch by complementing traditional agricultural uses, thereby helping to ensure the continued economic viability of the county agricultural industry," said senior planner Curtis Havel.


Some neighbors worried about liability, because of shared access to a road leading to the ranch, and the county required Pasternak to post appropriate insurance. Others expressed concern about an influx of visitors, with one calling the hundreds of people who swarm in for Sunday shows at Rancho Nicasio "unbelievable."


Kinsey said most concerns were covered, adding, "Important to agriculture is the opportunity to educate the next generation," as well as the ability to diversify income operations.


The project drew unanimous support from the county board.




Nicasio ranch day camp expansion OK'd

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Devil's Gulch Ranch

A diversified family farm located in Nicasio, Marin County, within California’s North Coast region, produces rabbits, pigs, sheep, premium wine grapes and asparagus for retail customers and direct sales to high-quality restaurants. Sustainable, humane agricultural practices are utilized, organic whenever possible.

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