Rio Nido residents circulating petition asking Huffman to intervene
The closing of Rio Nido’s neighborhood post office reflects a national trend away from snail mail and in favor of the internet, U.S. Postal Service officials said this week.
“There are a lot of similar areas throughout the country” where small contract post offices like Rio Nido’s are no longer attracting enough revenue to keep them viable, said U.S Postal Service spokesman Augustine Ruiz, Jr.
“The fact is since 2012 we’ve seen a significant drop in visitors to Rio Nido by 122 percent,” said Ruiz. “It dropped so low we weren’t bringing in enough revenue to offset the cost of paying a contractor to keep it open.”
The sudden notice of the shutdown last week was unfortunate, said Ruiz. But the decision was based on a sharp and continuing decline in usage at Rio Nido where the tiny post office serves about 350 box holders in addition to retail postage window customers, said Ruiz.
The contract with Rio Nido’s Postmaster, Elsa Watley, expired this month and wasn’t renewed, so Rio Nido’s Post Office will close its doors for good this Friday on June 30. The P.O. boxes will then be moved to the Guerneville Post Office on Mill Street about two miles away. Rio Nido’s retail service window closed June 20.
“We were faced with a situation where we had to find a new location mainly because when the contract expired it was not going to be renewed,” said Ruiz.
“There were no viable alternatives” for keeping the post office in Rio Nido, such as finding space in another nearby business where postal service would be workable, said Ruiz.
“We’re very vigilant when it comes to what’s out there” for a possible space, said Ruiz. “But we did not provide an adequate amount of time to let them know it was coming,” said Ruiz.
To meet the Post Service mandates to provide mail service and optimum customer convenience the Guerneville Post Office was the closest option, said Ruiz.
Rio Nido neighbors this week are still hoping for a Rio Nido option and are circulating a petition asking U.S. Congressional Representative Jared Huffman to intervene in Rio Nido’s plight. The petition asks Huffman’s help to keep the Rio Nido Post Office open at least until “the opportunity to submit bids and negotiate to continue service and keep the post office open has been provided.”
Nearly 100 people had signed the petitions posted on the post office bulletin board last Saturday. But unless someone comes forward with a viable Rio Nido Post Office business plan, closure and consolidation with Guerneville is final, said Ruiz.
“Right now we have to stay with the decision we made,” said Ruiz. “If the community has a suggestion we’ll listen.”
Although it hasn’t been determined yet, the move to the Guerneville Post Office starting on July 4 could mean an adjustment in hours at the Guerneville Post Office, particularly on Saturday when no retail service is now offered and the front door is locked at noon.
“We’re now looking at what hours would be convenient” for Rio Nido box holders who will be going to Guerneville,” said Ruiz. Rio Nido’s post office window was only open until 12:30 p.m. on weekdays but the lobby was open daily including Saturday and Sunday to provide customers with access to their P.O. boxes.
Watley was paying $400 a month rent for the space in the Russian River Fire Protection District’s Rio Nido building, said Russian River Fire Protection District Director Mark Emmett. The Fire District was glad to have the post office as a tenant, said Emmett.
Rio Nido’s post office has been in business since 1908, when it was called Eaglenest, according to Guerneville resident and Russian River Historian John Schubert. The neighborhood name was changed to Rio Nido in 1910.