CANYON -- For Karen Pickett, the Canyon post office is more than a place to pick up the mail.
"It's where everybody comes through," says the longtime resident of the small community nestled among towering redwoods in the hills between Moraga and Oakland. "It's definitely a hub."
For Jonathan Goodwin, the post office serves another highly important function. Because residents lack conventional addresses and cell phones and GPS devices often don't work here, emergency responders typically turn to the post office and its postmaster, lifelong resident Elena Tyrrell, for navigation.
"It's the first point of contact for firefighters, police and ambulances who don't know where they're going," Goodwin said.
But that could all soon change. The Canyon office is one of 13,000 post offices nationwide that will see their hours reduced under the POSTplan, which the ailing United States Postal Service says will keep rural post offices open by adjusting retail hours to match customer use. The postmaster position will also be cut.
According to postal spokesman Augustine Ruiz, the postal service is proposing scaling back the Canyon branch's hours from eight to six per day, and will hold a meeting with the community to discuss several options. The POSTplan could save the USPS more than $500 million, Ruiz said, and affected employees could apply for other jobs within the postal system.
The news, according to residents, hit just as Tyrrell
For some residents, it's also a day of action. They are organizing a letter-writing campaign to let officials know how they feel about the proposed cutback, and are developing a business plan to make their post office viable.
"It's an invaluable institution in our community and communities like ours," said Canyon Steinzig, president of the Canyon Community Association. "This particular post office has some really good reasons not to go down in hours."
They include its location within an urban metropolis and its proximity to thousands of people who could make the short drive into the redwoods to avoid the long lines for passport applications and other services, said Goodwin. There's also "the ecotourism aspect."
"It's relaxing," Goodwin said, explaining that the area is surrounded by trails and is popular with commuters and cyclists.
The building itself isn't too shabby. It's not the original -- that burned in 1969 during a Shell pipeline fire that also destroyed the town's only store. The current post office was built in the mid-1980s after the community -- spearheaded by builder and resident Deva Rejan -- rallied together and replaced a temporary trailer with a wood structure that features exposed beams and looks more like a mountain retreat.
That's where postmistress Tyrrell, 53, sells stamps, accepts mail and performs other postal duties as she greets the 30 or so customers who stop by each day. She knows nearly everyone in town, as it's the only place where residents can pick up mail -- there is no home delivery in Canyon.
While she wouldn't discuss Saturday's call to action, she did say she'd received a notice letting her know that as of 2014, the job she's held for about 15 years -- and which her mother held before her -- will no longer be hers.
"I was devastated when I opened the letter," she said. But she brightens when she talks about artwork by Canyon school children that adorns a portion of the post office walls and chit-chats with a customer who comes in.
"She's really good," said Goodwin as he praised Tyrrell and lamented what he said will be a redefined level of customer service with a part-time employee and the loss of a community stakeholder. "It's her thing."