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New Creekside Home for Salmon Activists

“It looks like a fairy-tale house,” a local contractor said, leaning out the window of his pickup truck for a better look at the building that will soon house the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN). The new building’s setting, if not quite up to fairy-tale standards, certainly has its allure. The
two-acre plot, just north of the green bridge in Lagunitas, is dense with redwoods, some of them hundreds of years old. Lagunitas Creek rushes along the bottom fringe of the property.
The building itself will be SPAWN’s new office, Steiner said. The group, which seeks to preserve coho and steelhead salmon habitat in the San Geronimo Valley, is currently housed in a building in executive director Todd Steiner’s backyard in Forest Knolls.

The Turtle Island Restoration Network, a sea-turtle advocacy that organization shares several of its staff members with SPAWN, will also move into the building. Outdoor education The two-acre property also has a sizable garage building, which Steiner said he hopes to convert into an education center for SPAWN’s interns and volunteers. The property as a whole, he said, will serve as an “outdoor education center”; SPAWN plans to reintroduce species of native plants, such as redwood sorrel, creating a pristine creekside ecosystem. “Our goal is to have the lightest footprint we can on the property,” Steiner said. “We don’t have any big development plans, we don’t plan on having large numbers of people here at any given time.”

Several features of the property will be meant to highlight ways of “living in harmony with the creek,” Steiner said. A water-catchment system on the building’s roof will reduce SPAWN’s
water usage. A permeable driveway will allow water to soak into the ground, reducing runoff and resultant erosion around the creek. `Fish-friendly lives'”What we’re proposing to do is to create a model for living fish-friendly lives,” Steiner said. He
was quick to add that such ideas have not been finalized; SPAWN is still consulting with architects on the building’s overhaul. “Nothing has been approved or in writing,” he said. Perhaps most important, Steiner said, is the section of creek adjacent to the property, which will now be protected under SPAWN’s stewardship for the foreseeable future. Those waters house a spot where coho spawn, he said, easily observable from the creek’s banks.

SPAWN bought the property for $675,000 from an East Bay man, who also owns an additional 23 acres running up to the ridge of the San Geronimo Valley, Steiner said, adding that the group hopes to eventually purchase the rest of the man’s land. “That would give us a slice of the Valley all the way from the Valley floor to the ridgeline,” he said. Steiner said “there’s a lot of unknowns” surrounding the property right now, such as county permits and the details of renovating the main house, which has been empty for 10 years. Nevertheless, he said, he hopes to have SPAWN moved in next year. “If we’re in there in six months, I’d be a happy man,” he said.