The Rio Nido Post Office

POSTAGE DUE — The Rio Nido Post Office on Canyon Seven Road will close this Friday, July 30. The post office boxes will be relocated to Guerneville starting next week on July 4.

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.

(1) comment


Dear Frank maybe you can pass along the following to Mr Ruiz from the community of Rio Nido.
We do have several solutions (and would be glad to work with him on a business plan), but the USPS management has not agreed to talk with us about this matter. Here is our list of goals, solutions and more facts:

We have two immediate goals:

*Postpone for a minimum of 30 days the pending relocation of our Rio Nido PO boxes to the Guerneville Post Office (currently scheduled to happen on June 30th).
*Ensure that mail delivery will continue, uninterrupted, to our Rio Nido PO boxes (in their current location) while alternative options to closure are being explored/negotiated with USPS.

Assuming that we are able to win a reprieve from the imminent relocation plan, we would request that the USPS District Office consider the following solutions/alternatives:

*We are aware of at least two separate individuals who are interested in submitting bids for the contract position, but, for reasons that have not been made clear, they were never allowed to complete the bid process by the USPS district office in San Francisco; we ask that anyone who is interested in submitting a bid to run the Rio Nido Post Office open be afforded that opportunity. This is the simplest and least disruptive option, and is the clear preference of the vast majority of Rio Nidans.

*As an alternative, Rio Nido residents are willing organize a neighborhood petition to request that the USPS provide street delivery similar to how the majority of the rest of the Lower Russian River area receives mail. It is our understanding that we can submit USPS form 4027 to request a change in rural delivery routes for our area, in order to ensure that mail service continues in Rio Nido.

*Barring either of the above; at a bare minimum, the boxes should remain in Rio Nido as an unmanned central delivery point. Moving the boxes to Guerneville would be an undue hardship on the hundreds of residents in Rio Nido, many of whom have limited or fixed incomes and do not own cars. There is no regular bus service that would make public transportation a viable option for those without vehicles (there is one bus that comes through every 2-3 hours on weekdays, which would make going to retrieve mail via bus an all day affair). And the 2+ mile walk (one direction) is impossible for those with disabilities.

A few other points to consider:

*The Rio Nido Post Office has been in existence for over a century (see attached photo from the early 1900s). It is the hub of communication and a vital part of our community. Its dissolution would mean a loss of our identity as well as essential services for many of our residents.

*The financial picture/viability (which is the official reason being given for the closure) of the Rio Nido Post Office has been skewed, both by the fact that the majority of the PO boxes in Rio Nido are provided at no cost to residents (PO box fees count significantly toward profitability), and the fact that it has been operated as a cash only business up until now. We believe that an upgrade to accept credit/debit cards alone will boost sales and revenue for the Post Office, and FRN is committed to ensuring that happens, along with helping to implement other ideas to increase retail sales.

*There is an argument to be made that moving the boxes to Guerneville will actually cost the Postal Service MORE than maintaining the status quo, since managing the influx of daily mail for hundreds of additional residents will require increased staffing (which easily could be more than the ~$15k spent on the contract for Rio Nido) or risk negatively impacting service levels for both Guerneville and Rio Nido postal customers.

*There is currently no obvious physical space for an additional 370 PO boxes in the lobby of the Guerneville Post Office. Do they propose to remodel in order to accommodate the additional boxes? What will the fiscal impacts be if so? If not, where exactly are they going to be located?
One final point to mention is the negative impact that hundreds of additional car trips into Guerneville will have, not only on the environment, but on the infrastructure and traffic patterns (already quite challenging, especially on weekends) in our area, should this ill-considered plan be enacted.

Marsee Henon, Friends of Rio Nido President

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