There’s a verse I like in a popular country song by Rodney Atkins.
And it makes me wanna take a back road
Makes me wanna take the long way home
Put a little gravel in my travel
Unwind, unravel all night long
Makes me wanna grab my honey
Tear down some two lane country who knows
Get lost and get right with my soul
Makes me wanna take, makes me wanna take a back road
The “honey” I grab is my dog Murray and the gravely back road is one at work I like to walk to clear my head. It begins as a paved road, climbs and winds behind our Education Center, then turns to gravel and dirt and leads to the back, undeveloped part of our property. Within 5 minutes of brisk walking, it climbs about 175 feet which seems much higher because of the panoramic view. During spring through summer, lupine blooms, creating a blue carpet in places.
The SPCA has a gift that few animal shelters anywhere enjoy; where many shelters have postage-stamp footprints in light industrial areas clustered with public works buildings, we’re situated on about 200 rural acres.The property was gifted to the SPCA in the early 1960s to provide a home where no neighbors would ever be bothered by the animals. Our previous one had been on David Avenue in Monterey, very much residential and not the best spot for a busy, growing animal shelter.
The primary donor of the transcendent gift was a countess, which is a story unto itself. Claude Kinnoull, or the Countess Kinnoull as she would later be known, was born in England. She married the Earl of Kinnoull at the end of World War I. The Countess was a world class sports car driver, painter and writer. She was also under the services of both the British and French Secret Service during World War II. I’m thinking she was 005 or 006 and also took her martini shaken.
The Countess supported Catholic missions and traveled through Egypt and South Africa. She moved to the US in the 1940s and picked Carmel after reading about the local thriving artists and writers’ colony in a brochure. Lucky for us! An animal lover, she found the SPCA and joined our board of directors in 1949, secured the gift of land with a few others in the early 1960s, and remained active through ‘75. She passed away in 1980 at the age of 85.
Sign on Meryl Streep or Hellen Mirren to play the Countess and just hand over the Oscar!
The acres are among our organizational assets. We can’t develop them and can’t sell them (even if we wanted to, but don’t!) as they are deed restricted for animal welfare work. Most of our buildings sit on a 4-acre “bowl” a few hundred yards from the entrance on Highway 68. The remaining acres are beautiful, mostly rugged and entirely undisturbed with slopes far exceeding County limits for development.
The flat acres near Highway 68 also can’t be developed because we’re in a viewshed and can’t have new construction visible from the scenic highway. Poison oak is plentiful, as are quail, ticks, and ground squirrels. Parked vehicles are susceptible to rodent damage, especially newer models with soy based wiring in the undercarriage. The dirt back roads get washed out when we have heavy rains and we bring heavy equipment on site every few years to maintain them.
Our property is a gift that requires great -- and not inexpensive -- care, but affords us wonderful benefits: first and foremost, we have a quiet, beautiful setting for staff, volunteers, visitors and animals, especially our rehabilitating wildlife, which we house in facilities high above the other buildings. We have a buffer from neighbors and don’t worry about what might be built up around us. We have trails for volunteers to walk dogs and a great setting for kids’ camps.
The Countess would be so pleased to see how we’ve taken care of our gift and used it to impact animals and people.
When I told co-workers and friends back in the Bay Area I was leaving for my current position at the SPCA for Monterey County, more than one responded with another country song title: “God’s County!” I can’t imagine a better setting to operate what I believe to be an expansive range of programs and services that far exceeds what is offered by all but a few welfare organizations in the US.
Join the pack.
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