SUNNY BRAE – Newly elected Second District Senator Noreen Evans came through Humboldt County with little pomp and circumstance. She did it Humboldt-style and the way any lover of nature would – she put on her boots and trekked up a wooded trail.
The three-hour, mid-December hike with a few staffers and Humboldt County Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace took the senator straight up an undeveloped trail high above the City of Arcata, with the intent of witnessing firsthand the work to be done rather than being briefed.
Lovelace has called Arcata home for the past 21 years, 18 in the neighborhood below this location. He’s advocated for the repair of old logging roads, one of which leads up to a little-known, unnamed waterfall – helping to organize neighbors and community members, with positive results.
The City is working to establish the Arcata Ridge Trail, expanding the Arcata Community Forest, acquiring parcels from willing landowners, linking the 175-acre Sunny Brae Forest across Fickle Hill Road, north to West End Road, halting an industrial timber harvest attempt and preserving more wooded areas in the process.
Evans, a strong advocate of environmental protection, was honored this year by the Trust for Public Lands for work done protecting parks and open spaces. Lovelace said he wanted Evans to see the Sunny Brae Forest, calling it a great example of community economics meets working timber production, while maintaining a place of nature purely for pleasure.
Evans, a Santa Rosa attorney, worked her way up the political ladder sitting on its City Planning Commission, then Council Member, now first term Senator, replacing Pat Wiggins in District 2, which includes Humboldt, Lake, Mendocino and Sonoma Counties.
Admittedly a NorCal girl at heart, summers were spent in Laytonville with her grandparents, and she said, “Coming back is like returning home. The forest is my sanctuary, it restores my soul… I feel strongly we must protect and sustain our forests for future generations. My hope for my next four years as a Senator is that I can, in some small measure, contribute to the long-term sustainability of our forests.”
Arcata, she said, specifically feels like home to Evans, citing its “passion, energy and commitment … caught between the redwoods and the sea.
As the senator made her way through thick, mud-mucked paths, through heavy brush and reeds, she stopped often to take in the beauty of the place.
Lovelace said he was glad Evans was up for the “grueling and muddy hike.”
“One of the City’s goals in managing this forest will be to address the old, decaying road system,” Lovelace explained. “These roads were constructed long before the Forest Practice Rules were in place, and are out of step with current practices.”
The roads, he said, will need to be stabilized and improved, while others may be removed all together and/or re-contoured for safety.
“The restoration work will protect our streams by reducing erosion and sedimentation,” he added. “It will also provide access for the City’s future forest management, which will slowly convert these poorly maintained, even-aged stands of young trees into a more natural and healthy condition, that will begin to emulate the qualities of an older forest.”
The Arcata Community Forest has long been a sustainable source for water and lumber for the City, and Lovelace said it’s “an excellent example of multiple-use forestry.”
“I would love to see the county following the City of Arcata’s model on a larger scale around the Humboldt Bay area,” he said. “Our Board of Supervisors recently supported a study to move us in that direction, and the County’s General Plan Update includes a Community Forestry program as part of Alternative A.”
Senator Evans likens the forest to children, stating, “Both are in need of protection, both are unable to speak for themselves, both enrich our lives immeasurably, and both bring us from our past into our future.”
For more information on the Arcata Ridge Trail project visit cityofarcata.org/arcata-ridge-trail, or find it on Facebook, facebook.com/people/Arcata-Ridge-Trail.