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Introducing Fort Bragg

In the past, Fort Bragg was Mendocino’s ugly stepsister, home to a lumber mill, a scrappy downtown and blue-collar locals who gave a cold welcome to outsiders. Since the mill closure in 2002, the town has started to reinvent itself, slowly warming to a tourism-based economy. What to do with the seaside mill site is the talk of the town, running the gamut from ideas like a marine research center or university to commercial ones like a condo development. The town itself has little say since, including projected acquisitions, it will hold under 100 acres of the 415-acre site; the rest is owned by Georgia Pacific, which is owned by Koch Industries, which is majority owned by the Koch brothers.

In the meantime, Fort Bragg’s downtown continues to develop as a wonderfully unpretentious alternative to Mendocino, even if the southern end of town is hideous. Unlike the entire franchise-free 180-mile stretch of Coastal Hwy 1 between here and the Golden Gate, in Fort Bragg you can get a Big Mac, grande latte or any of a number of chain store products whose buildings blight the landscape. Don't fret. In downtown you’ll find better hamburgers and coffee, old-school architecture and residents eager to show off their little town.

Twisting Hwy 20 provides the main access to Fort Bragg from the east, and most facilities are near Main St, a 2-mile stretch of Hwy 1. Franklin St runs parallel, one block east.