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Unsung Heroes of the Wine Country

Unheralded contributors to their communities — Dr. Martin Griffin

You never know what you'll find on Wine Trails.
Lee Nelson and I were taking pictures and gathering interesting facts about the wineries along Westside Road in Sonoma County for our first "Wine Trails" article when Lee noticed a book written by Dr. Martin Griffin, the owner of Hop Kiln Winery.
I didn't have to flip through more than a few pages to know I had found an Unsung Hero. Fondly called Marty, he's been actively preserving the wild lands of Marin and Sonoma Counties since the fifties.
Few people are blessed with being born in 1920 on the banks of Ogden River in Utah, but Marty soon had a fly rod in his hands and the seeds were planted.
It was a series of quick moves to Los Angeles and Oakland that opened his eyes to what was happening to California's wild lands.
His exposure to Brighton "Bugs" Cain when he was a boy scout in Oakland finished the job. He was hooked. From "Bugs" he learned a love of entomology, from his dad he had learned a love of nature and fly-fishing and the rest is history.
Well not quite. He went to Stanford and earned an M. D. and set up practice in Marin County where he soon met Elizabeth Terwillerger, Caroline Livermore, Rose Berrall and many others facing the dilemma of Richardson Bay.

The Battle for Richardson Bay

In 1955, Dr. David Steinhart of Tiburon was the first to raise the alarm. He notified the National Audubon Society and the Marin Conservation League of the plans to fill in Richardson Bay for development.
This call for help brought Caroline Livermore of the Marin Conservation League into the battle.
She soon had an army of supporters including such luminaries as Elizabeth Terwilliger, Dr. David Steinhart, Dr. Herman Schwartz, Rosie Verrall and "Unsung Hero," Dr. Marty Griffin.
They quickly formed the Marin Audubon Society and the Richardson Bay Foundation to raise money to buy back the land to preserve it as open space and wildlife preservation.
By the time they were done Angel Island was a state park and 900 acres of development blocking land were leased to the National Audubon Society to operate the Richardson Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Saving Bolinas Lagoon
The formation of Audubon Canyon Ranch

Marty learned well from the many political, developmental and economic battles waged in saving Richardson Bay.
Much to his dismay, in 1957, he discovered a plan for a massive freeway from the Golden Gate Bridge through West Marin and up the coast to Sonoma County. This plan would have turned the pristine coastline and lagoons into a mini Los Angeles!
In 1961, Dr. Griffin created the Audubon Canyon Ranch project to raise money to buy land to block the proposed freeway and create the Bolinas Lagoon and Tomales Bay Wildlife Preserves.
He had adopted Caroline Livermore's motto: "Flash the cash to let them know you mean business." Fourteen years later thousands of acres had been acquired, the Point Reyes National Seashore had been established and all thoughts of the freeway were gone.

Sonoma County

Marty moved to Sonoma County in 1974 and continued his work. By 1979, 570 acres, a gift from David Bouverie, established the Bouverie Audubon Preserve.
He didn't stop there. Over the next two decades, additions to wildlife preserves and organizations to support them were established in Sonoma County. Friends of the Russian River was formed to protect not only the Russian, but all rivers in California from dams, logging, destruction of riparian habitat and gravel mining. Griffin Russian River Riparian Preserve and Gina's Orchard Preserve followed to save wilderness habitat for future generations.

Saving the Marin-Sonoma Coast
By L. Martin Griffin, M. D.

Our Unsung Hero has written a book of great historical importance. It is wonderfully entertaining and a blueprint for the ecological revolution we must wage to save both our biodiversity and ourselves.
Marty's great book is available in the tasting room at his Hop Kiln winery on Westside Road in Healdsburg, public libraries in Marin and Sonoma Counties, local book stores and from the publisher, Sweetwater Springs Press: 707-431-1910. It will soon be available from
Dr. Griffin also restored the hop kiln on his property to house his tasting room. The striking building is distinguished by being a California Registered Historical Landmark and a National Historic Trust Building. Visit his web site to see why this is one of Sonoma's most photographed wineries. You'll also find contact information and driving directions there, or call or e-mail them at 707-433-6491, info@hopkilnwinery
Cheers, (for an unsung hero),
Peter Forbes Crossman


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