Mules haul trash out of coastal gem

Cathy Mathena on horseback at Samoa Dunes and Wetlands. Submitted photo

Friends of the Dunes 

SAMOA PENINSULA – On April 15, Friends of the Dunes worked in partnership with the volunteer Backcountry Horsemen of California (BCHC) Redwood Unit Wilderness Riders, the Humboldt Trails Council, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to restore forest and dune habitats on the newly protected Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Area, formerly known as the Dog Ranch. 

Working with pack mules and the skilled BCHC Redwood Unit riders, the partners removed 380 pounds of legacy trash from difficult-to-reach coastal dune forest habitats deep on this spectacular conservation property. 

“We’re deeply grateful to our partners,” said Mike Cipra, executive director of Friends of the Dunes, the nonprofit organization that is serving as interim owner and land manager of the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Area. “This is an example of community stewardship at its finest – people who recreate on these lands are stepping up to help restore them.”

Loading the mules. Submitted photo

The BCHC Redwood Unit Wilderness Riders (an educational and Leave No Trace section of BCHC) included Cathy Mathena, Jacque Murphy and Susan Combes. 

Karen Underwood from the Humboldt Trails Council, who helped develop the partnership between the different groups, was on hand to help, along with Friends of the Dunes staff and other volunteers from the Humboldt Trails Council. 

“It has been exciting for the trail community to have this unique area open up for public enjoyment this year, and particularly for the horse community. Volunteers are a key component to keeping our trails clean, safe, and usable,” said Underwood. “We were excited to partner with this ‘Leave No Trace’ group within the Redwood Unit of the California Backcountry Horsemen, and the Friends of the Dunes to improve this area.”

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“As equestrians, we are very fortunate to be able to ride on this diverse landscape,” said Cathy Mathena. “I will continue to remove garbage each time I’m there with the goal of leaving no trace.”

CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Michael van Hattem helped the partners haul the removed trash to the waste transfer station in Eureka. Working together, Friends of the Dunes and CDFW, alongside other partners, have now removed more than 2,400 pounds of legacy trash from the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Area since it was protected on Oct. 15, 2020 in a landmark conservation acquisition.

“The former Dog Ranch has a reputation, in some circles, as a troubled place,” said Cipra. “But the fact is, the Samoa Dunes and Wetlands Conservation Area is now a stunning and spectacular nature reserve – with a well-developed network of existing trails – only 5 minutes’ drive from Arcata and Eureka, and within walking distance of the communities of Manila and Samoa. Just during our cleanup today, I saw hundreds of blooming Humboldt Bay wallflowers, a black-tailed jackrabbit, and a nesting pair of ospreys. I also saw a lot of folks out on the trails, people from our community who are falling in love with this place, and who are willing to pitch in to help protect it.” 


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