Arcata enviro-leader Mark Andre leaving an incomparable legacy

Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union

ARCATA – For many, Mark Andre is as much a part of the Arcata Community Forest as its surviving old growth redwood trees, all of whom he knows personally. Now, those who haven’t imagined an Arcata without the mild-mannered Environmental Services director on watch are reluctantly adjusting to news of his retirement.

Mark Andre on the Arcata Ridge Trail. KLH | Arcata Eye

Though a forester through and through, Andre has also led efforts to restore, improve and expand all of Arcata’s unique environmental assets – its forests, wetlands and creeks – for nearly 30 years. He’s also managed such disparate eco-issues including climate change and greenhouses gases, waste management and reduction, wastewater treatment, trail creation and an array of planning and infrastructure matters.

In his time, Arcata’s forests have seen widespread restoration,  expanded dramatically and sprouted multiple new trails. Its long-abused creeks have come back from the dead, returning both their habitat value and drainage functions. Vast bay-facing wetlands complexes are once again viable and vibrant.

Apart from material improvements, Andre has helped galvanize a robust volunteer culture in the community, which aids both in clean-up and restoration efforts and in demonstrating the community buy-in helps grant funders justify eco-largesse.

The promising young forester in 1987. Photos courtesy Mark Andre

Seemingly created for the professional role in which he has served since 2006, Andre might now be retiring from a career as a hydrologist in Bishop, Calif., but for a fateful few words uttered by a career counselor in 1976.

“What do you like?” the student advisor asked young Mr. Andre. “He heard me say about three sentences about the mountains and nature and forests,” he recalls. 

“Check into Humboldt State,” he was told, and so he did.

Moving to Humboldt in 1976, Andre got a job for the Park Service, marking boundaries in the Redwood Creek watershed in Redwood National Park. On weekends, he’d come to Arcata and attend debates, some featuring Dr. Rudolf Becking, a big early influence, and his eventual forestry mentor, Dr. Dale Thornburgh.

In the Arcata Community Forest, 1986.

Majoring in natural resource planning at HSU and Bishop-bound, he later “backed into forestry” as a graduate watershed student.

In April, 1984, he took a phone call from then-Assistant City Manager  Alice Harris, who made him a fateful offer he couldn’t refuse.

“How would you like to help define what ecological forestry is in Arcata?”

1985.

“That got my interest,” he said. 

The young forest technician earned $7.25 an hour doing restoration and initializing the Arcata Community Forest’s trail system with youth work crews. “We modified them, named them, legitimized them,” he said.

 

It wasn’t the best of times for Arcata’s forestlands. Logging was aggressive, driven by bond repayment. At the same time, the timber market was low, adding more pressure to cut, and environmental values took a back seat. “Those were stressful years in the mid-’80s,” Andre said.

But he stuck with it, becoming the city forester/GIS coordinator and founding the city’s first GIS system. That’s now spread throughout city government as a core function.

Eventually, the Environmental Services department was created, and in 1991, Andre became deputy director. There, he helped establish the Natural Resources Division, which oversaw solid waste, recycling, open space and more, and helped the city navigate all the new regulations as well as develop its General Plan.

Working the woods, 1987.

“All these new mandates were coming out,” he said. “The city had to be nimble.”

Tackling non-forest matters wasn’t that hard for Andre, given the common theme running through them all. “It’s just 12 square miles,” he said of Arcata. “You can wrap your head around it with a background and interest in all things environmental, demonstrating sustainability.”  

It was in that regulatory milieu that Andre honed his skill in pulling in grant funding, for restoring Arcata’s badly degraded urban streams. And around this time, Arcata’s sustainable forestry model started to gain national attention.

Early Forest Stewards Guild Members in the Arcata Community Forest.

In December, 1995, Andre outlined the Arcata Community Forest case study at a small gathering of like-minded foresters from around the country in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “That gathering became the beginning of the Forest Stewards Guild,” Andrew said. “So one of the things I am most proud of is being a founding member of the Forest Guild, now a National organization of professionals in excess of 800 members.”

Andre also served nine years on the state Board of Forestry. “I am thankful that the City Council and city manager allowed me to serve over those years,” he said, in keeping with his tendency to direct credit back at others with whom he serves. 

With the "Jacoby Creek team" which helped expand that city-owned forest.

Among Andre’s other points of pride are the huge expansions of the Arcata Community Forest and Jacoby Creek Forest, and being part of a regional trail network effort developing the Annie and Mary Trail, Humboldt Bay Trail and the Arcata Ridge Trail.

He played a key role in a landmark court decision requiring the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to evaluate climate change impacts of their actions, and to get serious about addressing and reversing global warming.  

“This was satisfying to work on with [City Attorney] Nancy Diamond,” Andre said. “And another reason Arcata was fun to work for – always punching above its weight on big issues like climate change.”

“It’s always been a team approach,” he said. “That, the town, the leadership of the town and the vision  is why I’ve stayed here this long.”

Part of Andre’s team has been his Environmental Services colleague, Julie Neander. “The best decision I ever made was hiring Julie 28 years ago,” he said. “She was there every step of the way. Overall it is the people I work with – the staff – that I will miss the most.”

Seven city managers later, Andre is stepping down amid the resounding victory of Measure A, the open space initiative which will help ensure continuity of funding for environmental improvement and expansion in Arcata. For him, it’s a form of futurism.

“I am convinced that Arcata’s open spaces, trails parks and natural areas are ultra-important to the town’s economic future,” Andre said. “People and business can choose quality of life values  where they wish to relocate. It’s important also for HSU recruitment and for kids that grow up here to be able to stay or return one day. Those green infrastructure investments are paying off.”

Arcata’s people have made Measure A and more possible, he said.  

“The city has always had outstanding citizen involvement. It’s really been off the charts in terms of citizen involvement in their community, their parks, open spaces, trails and natural resources. That’s what helped define Arcata, that sense of ownership and pride.”

Kayaking with Zoie in the McDaniel Slough Project, McDaniel Slough Project, which restored over 250 acres of former tidelands between Humboldt Bay and Samoa Boulevard.

Measure A was successfully championed by, among others, Andre’s daughter Zoie. With her, he can now enjoy the fruits of his many years of diligent effort. “Kayaked on Thanksgiving with daughter Zoie up McDaniel Slough onto what was diked former tidelands that got restored to be tidelands once again,” he said. “Job satisfaction, in that as I get to enjoy it on my off time.”

And so will other Arcatans, for many years to come. Observed former City Councilmember Connie Stewart, “If you’re walking a trail in a wetland or a forest in Arcata, you should say a silent ‘thank you’ to Mark Andre.”

We asked a number of Mark Andre's colleagues for comment on his accomplishments. These are the responses:

It’s Mark Andre’s biome, we’re just lucky to live in it

Mark Lovelace, former Humboldt County Third District supervisor

I was surprised to hear Mark is retiring. Well, “shocked” is perhaps a better word because it’s so hard to imagine the City and its forest and environmental programs without him. He’s always been there, just quietly getting a massive amount of work done with seemingly invisible effort and very few words. 

He’s had a huge impact on so many things that many Arcatans probably take for granted, including the Sunny Brae Forest, the Arcata Ridge Trail, expanding the Community Forest and the Marsh, the Bay Trail and so many other important projects. Arcata as we know it would not be the same without his constant, steady work over the past 20-something years. 

He leaves a huge legacy that we all get to enjoy. I wish him the absolute best in his retirement.

Larry Glass, Northcoast Environmental Center executive director

He’s been a great partner to work with on environmental issues, always readily accessible. He stayed true to the original concept that the Arcata Community Forest was created under, and managed it accordingly.

Connie Stewart, former Arcata city councilmember

What he’s done is unbelievable.

Personally, he was the silent, gentle visionary and the conductor. He was able to see everyone’s point of view and treat everyone fairly. He talked to both landowners and the state about the vision. He wasn’t reactive and he didn’t push. 

Even with city departments like Public Works, he maintained good working relationships. It wasn’t like there were two worlds.

Janes Creek used to flood every year. Mark took a long-term view that included a vision, from the top of the watershed to the bottom. That’s Mark. He told everyone, “This will take a few years; here’s your part of that system.” 

He’s an ecological system thinker. So many times when I drive around Arcata, I think about Mark and his accomplishments. Thank God he had a long-term view.

Tony Lucchesi, Arcata property owner

I’m happy for Mark that he is retiring, but also feel that he can never retire, because I can’t imagine anyone stepping into his shoes and doing the fine job of cat-herding that Mark has done, seemingly forever. 

His gracious demeanor and ability to listen to, appreciate, and manage the people of Arcata’s wildly divergent viewpoints on how their precious jewel of a forest should be managed will be sorely missed.

Rees Hughes, Volunteer Trail Stewards

I love Arcata’s abundance of trails and the natural spaces. Mark Andre’s efforts and vision deserve much of the credit. Mark has balanced the Arcata Community Forest as a productive working forest and an amazing recreational resource. 

His ability to leverage local resources with outside grants has made it possible to purchase the Sunny Brae Forest, add to the Jacoby Creek Forest, acquire the Forsyth and Lima inholdings of the Arcata Community Forest, and much more. 

His legacy will now include the passage of Measure A, which will help to continue Mark’s good work for years to come.

Dan Hauser, Arcata Marsh co-founder, former Arcata city councilmember, city manager

Mark has done more to expand and enhance wildlife habitat and Arcata’s forests than any other individual. He will be greatly missed, but his legacy will live on.

Bob Gearheart, Arcata Marsh co-founder

Arcata has been extremely fortunate to have had Mark Andre for all this year implementing and managing the natural resource of the City. 

Under his leadership and technical knowledge the City now has extensive forest and wetlands assets which are inhabited by wildlife and utilized by many of our citizens and guests. 

He wore many hats and was a tireless dedicated employee who successfully navigated the permitting, funding, and public involvement of many projects. He will be missed.

Aldaron Laird, environmental planner

Mark has had a long and distinguished career, from planting trees 42 years ago to serving on California’s Board of Forestry. 

But his forestry, land management and restoration legacy with the City of Arcata will continue to enrich all of our lives for generations to come.

Margaret Gainer, Zero Waste Humboldt

Mark’s leadership in the City of Arcata will be missed. As important as his professional training and education are his personal qualities.

He is grace under fire, patience with bureaucracy and politics, unflappable, dedicated to what’s best for the environment and our community. A true public servant.

Dennis Mayo, McKinleyville Community Services District director

Mark has been a great asset to MCSD. In Our movement toward our own community forest Mark has been helpful and kind with his contacts and input. His knowledge base means more to these type efforts than I can explain. 

As he leaves the city, there will be a void, as his institutional knowledge is irreplaceable

Wes Chesbro, former state senator and Arcata city councilmember

Mark’s work with the City of Arcata and on the State Board of Forestry has helped to show California and the world how forests can be managed in a sustainable, ecologically sound fashion, producing not only quality forest products, but wildlife and fish habitat, clean water and most importantly, carbon storage to combat climate change. 

I was pleased as a member of the legislature to support Mark’s appointment to the Board of Forestry where he carried Arcata’s shining example of environmental restoration and sustainability to the policy makers in Sacramento and beyond.

Alexandra Stillman, former Arcata citycouncilmember

He graduated HSU as a forester, then with the city took on all the other things. He’s been able to adapt and run with it even though his heart and soul is in forestry. 

Mark’s well known in his field. He didn’t have a lot of money to work with, but the funders who need matching funds for grants would call him.  It’s totally amazing within those limitations what he’s been able to accomplish. 

The water for the City of Arcata came from the Arcata forest. But that was just the beginning. When Mark took on the job of being our forester, he understood how to make this the jewel of Arcata. It’s one of our two.

Without his vision, his knowledge, his capability, we would never have gotten to the place where we are today. We owe him so much in the way of thanks for his creation, the Arcata Community Forest. He’s an amazing person.

Harmony Groves Kessler, former Arcata city councilmember

Mark is the most patient and kind environmental warrior. He impressed me always with his level-headedness and passion for environmental health. He will be sorely missed!

Elizabeth Conner, former Arcata City Councilmember and planning commissioner

Arcata was fortunate to have Mark as our ES director for so long. While he’s a fairly soft-spoken fellow, he accomplished several big, loud projects that will benefit our community for generations.

Jason Kirkpatrick, former Arcata city councilmember

Mark’s work was often at the cutting edge. He took the initiative to push for Arcata to have the first ever certified sustainable city forest in the USA. Immediately Arcata began appearing as a groundbreaking and problem-solving city in forest industry press, and notable foresters came from far and wide to tour Arcata’s forest and study Mark’s work. 

Mark helped to put Arcata on the map many times as a forward-thinking place to call home, and his presence will be sorely missed.

Jim Test, former Arcata citycouncilmember

The first thing that pops to mind is that Mark has been the backbone of one of Arcata’s crown jewels, the Arcata Community Forest. 

There was certainly a good foundation when Mark started but he has brought it to a new level. Mark was the key to a number of important land acquisitions. Not only guiding them through the process but also dredging up the money to pay for them. How many millions has he pulled in for the City? 

Working with the Forestry Management Committee, Mark has also developed model sustainable logging programs that are good for the forest but also generate funds to support the forest and other park activities. How much money has the forest provided? 

And, he has done it with his usual calm and self deprecating mien.

Mark will be a hard act to follow.

Lisa Brown, business owner and environmental activist

It would be easy to underestimate the vast contributions that Mark has made to the city over the years, because there have been so many, large and small. 

He substantially built on already established gems like the Community Forest and Arcata Marsh and in doing so secured Arcata with a treasure trove of natural areas to enjoy for generations to come. He worked hard to protect the waterways, marshes, forest and agricultural lands, cementing Arcata as a national leader in environmental stewardship. 

After I left the Open Space Committee and the eventual expiration of that committee, he continued to finish important goals of that committee, like the Greenbelt Plan and Measure A. 

This community cannot thank Mark enough for his dedication and hard work over the years and I am really sad to see him go.

Mike Wilson, third district supervisor

Mark Andre is the embodiment of Arcata’s regional and national environmental leadership. He’s been a leader in the creation of ground breaking icons like the Community Forest, Arcata Marsh and urban creek restoration program. 

Mark was not only one of the visionaries, he also led the implementation these cherished places. The ultimate humble collaborator, he works with community, staff and agencies to help inspire participation while always seeming to avoid the limelight.

Richard Engel, director of power resources, Redwood Coast Energy Authority

RCEA is grateful to Mark for his leadership on energy matters. I first knew him 20-plus years ago when he was the staff liaison for the city’s energy committee, of which I was a citizen member for a while. 

In recent years, he’s been a great collaborator with RCEA on opting up city facilities to buy 100 percent renewable power, energy-saving projects, and hooking us up with carbon offsets from Arcata’s community forest for emissions from our building operations and staff travel.

Nancy Stephenson, community strategies manager, Redwood Coast Energy Authority

Mark Andre has been a key player in many of the programs I’ve been involved with over the years. 

When I was leading the Humboldt Trails Council, Mark was there to help make the Arcata Ridge Trail and the Volunteers Trail Stewards a success. When I ran the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival, he found the perfect place up in the Arcata Community Forest to repurpose all our oyster shells. When the Arcata Main Street Board and I established the “Plaza Watershed Project,” Mark put together a tree planting day in Jolly Giant Creek to utilize our donation. And when I got to the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, he was instrumental in getting the City of Arcata’s facilities set up with 100 percent renewable electricity, and much more. He’s been ubiquitous and I am grateful for all that he has done.

Kevin Hoover, Mad River Union

Mark has been the absolute right person in the right place at the right time in Arcata history. It’s been great to have a solid working relationship with a mellow, measured, no-nonsense and super-effective environmental leader of Mark’s stature. Like me, Mark’s a huge Deep Purple and Jethro Tull fan, so we not-infrequently get sidetracked into Tullversations when we talk about enviro-business.

I sometimes see him when I drive past City Hall, walking across the parking lot in his slow, contemplative way. I always wonder what he’s pondering at that moment – is it the next huge environmental grant he’s wrangling in for us, or some new way to improve or expand the forest or marsh, or some tactic to cope with climate change, possibly a new trail, the reappearance of a long-vanished fish species in an urban stream, or maybe the flute solo in “Songs from the Wood?”

Just as he fashioned the Community Forest into a world-recognized, living example of sustainable forestry, Mark’s natural ability to work so productively with diverse stakeholders – environmentalists, industry people, government operatives and politicians – is also a model for everyone to study and emulate. His credibility and prestige runs deep and wide in all those communities, and this has served Arcata very well.

By catalyzing and channeling Arcata’s ambient environmental energy, and by pulling all the official levers so effectively, Mark Andre has lastingly improved our regional biome. 

Randy Mendosa, former Arcata police chief and city manager

I first met Mark Andre when he started working for the City of Arcata as a part-time employee. Let’s just say that was “several” years ago! At the time, Mark shared the City Hall conference room table with then “Assistant to the City Manager” Alice Harris, as neither had their own office.

Mark has worked over three decades as the City’s personal professional forester. He, along with a very dedicated group of volunteer citizens and forest scientists, otherwise known as the Forest Management Committee, have worked tirelessly to manage the “gem” we know as the Arcata Community Forest. Mark and his team worked for several years to envision, plan and create the Ridge Trail, Arcata’s most recent addition to the Community Forest.

 Mark’s many years of sustainable management and careful stewardship of Arcata’s world class environmental/recreational facilities, has benefited thousands upon thousands of people. It’s an amazing accomplishment for Mark to leave behind a legacy that will continue to benefit countless future generations of our community. His “boots” will be very hard to fill!

 I’m very grateful for Mark’s many years of public service to our community. I want to wish him and his family the very best with the next chapter of their lives.

Russ Forsburg, Forest Management Committeemember

As a member of the Forest Management Committee, I have been honored to work with Mark over the last 29 years. 

The Arcata Community, as well as, the forestry profession in California has greatly benefited from Mark’s approach to environmental stewardship, community service and sustainable forest management. 

He is thoughtful, patient and a great problem solver. Mark is leaving the Environmental Services Department and the City Forest at a good place, whereby the next generation can grab the baton and keep moving forward. I hope that the City and the Community will continue to be able to benefit from Mark’s wisdom and foresight, even after he has retired. 

Lastly, I am lucky to be able to call Mark a friend as well as a colleague. Congratulations to Mark and his family on his retirement.

Gary Rynearson, Green Diamond Resource Company

I first met Mark when I was working as a consulting forester for the City of Arcata on the Jacoby Creek Forest and Mark was hired for the oversight of the City’s two forests.

Through the years I had the opportunity to work with Mark in his various roles including as the City Forester, a pioneer in forest carbon offset projects, the Humboldt County Forest Review Committee, a member of the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection, and an active HSU Forestry Alumnus.

In all of these roles Mark has always been an advocate for sound forestry and natural resources management.  He has always been open to new ideas and was often the voice of reason during contentious debates.  I have appreciated working with Mark and wish him the best in retirement.







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