Johnson's beach...for decades an iconic swimming and sunbathing spot along the Russian River in Guerneville, will likely be changing hands again. That's generating some unease and concern about what the future may hold.
The beach, concession stand, campsites and cabins are something of a throwback to an era before staring at a screen was considered entertainment. As a long-running traditional getaway, the site evokes simpler times, and is among the town's anchors.
Offered for sale at 3.7 million dollars, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, an offer from mystery bidders is in escrow, apparently besting other bids, including one from the county.
Chef and entrepreneur Crista Luedtke, a Guerneville fixture, was among potential buyers. She said her goal was to preserve, as much as possible, the current vibe. She was apprehensive of the property becoming publicly owned. "What I've often found is that when there's so many agencies kind of in the mix, there's a lot of bureaucracy and things take a long time and I would just hate to see this pivotal place, this historic, iconic beach, potentially not have the same charm the same magic, the same nostalgia as it has for so many decades."
Luedtke said she was told there were four or five other bidders, and is partly relieved by word the apparent winner has a background in resort management. While decisions by the current owners to charge for parking and umbrellas raised hackles among some locals, Luedtke has no issues.
"You know, it's funny no one seems to bark about paying the seven dollars to park at a regional park, but they bark at paying seven dollars to park right here, on the most iconic beach in Guerneville."
Luedtke says she has plenty of ideas that would keep Johnsons Beach affordable, but also generate enough income to eventually pay off the investment. She's not quite ready to share though, her offer is still on the table, as a backup.