Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – Arcata’s natural splendor doesn’t stay that way without the splendid attention of its citizens and government, which is why the City Council meets annually with the Open Space & Agriculture, Wetlands & Creeks, Parks & Rec and Forest Management Committees. This year’s multi-committee/council confab took place Thursday, Nov. 1 at City Hall.
With Mayor Michael Winkler vacationing in Arizona, Vice Mayor Shane Brinton presided, keeping the agenda moving along at a crisp clip.
Parks & Rec Committee
Parks & Rec Committee Chair Nancy Starck said the committee is developing a policy for memorial benches. The dedicated benches are becoming more popular and could be a possible fundraising device, but there are, as usual, complications.
Among outstanding issues are whether the honoree should be an Arcata resident and whether the benches should be created in the order the requests are received.
Deputy Director of Environmental Services Karen Diemer said the City has received its first request for a memorial bench on the Plaza. The Plaza sports 16 benches, none yet dedicated. That will require a policy because, as Diemer said, “it’s just a very, very prime space.”
Director of Environmental Services Mark Andre said the City has more bench requests than it can handle. A donation would be required for a memorial bench along the Arcata Ridge Trail. “We want to be in sync with the City and not have multiple policies,” Andre said.
Diemer called other communities with existing bench policies, and found that some proposed benches weren’t consistent with community values.
Parks Supt. Dan Diemer reminded the group of the inevitable vandalism, with several benches having been destroyed in recent years. Any new policy should stipulate whether the City is obliged to replace ruined memorial benches, something that could end up costing more than whatever fee was collected. “These are questions it would be nice to have clarification on,” Diemer said.
Brinton wondered whether the benches are protected by the First Amendment. “Can you name things after a local business and legally refuse Monsanto?” he asked.
Economic Development Committeemember Jane Woodward suggested establishing a fund and listing honorees on a plaque. Forest trails and even presently numbered Marsh ponds could be named.
Councilmember Alex Stillman said that honorees shouldn’t be limited to Arcata citizens, as many Humboldt County residents participate and contribute to the community, and some honor-worthy Arcatans have moved away.
Starck said the Redwood Park Master Plan remains under discussion, and that another public scoping meeting will be held in January or February.
Many of Arcata’s neighborhood need attention, but grants are needed. “This is not small peanuts,” said Parks & Rec Committeemember Harvey Kelsey. “You’re talking about a big grant,” perhaps $100,000 to $300,000.
Woodward asked about establishment of a dog park. Supt. Diemer said that with the City struggling to maintain existing parks, it isn’t looking at creating a new one at this time.
Wetlands & Creeks
Wetlands & Creeks Committeemember Bob Brown said the City was just audited for stormwater drainage by the Water Quality Control Board and did well, but that new regulations are expected.
The City has been awarded $1.3 million to install five parking lot retrofits, three at Humboldt State, one at Arcata High School and one in town. The lots will demonstrate different types of permeable surfaces, some directing water to raingardens and bio-swales.
Andre said that the grant was only possible because of the committee’s expertise.
Forest Management Committee
Forest Management Committeemember (FMC) Michael Furniss lauded the McDaniel Slough Restoration and Enhancement as the type of project required to restore salmon to coastal streams.
“Once again Arcata is in the vanguard with a huge project,” Furniss said. “It’s a wonderful story.”
Longtime FMC Committeemember Jerry Barnes, who passed away earlier this year, was fondly remembered for his contributions.
A small timber sale of 700,000 board feet is being completed.
Acquisitions to expand Arcata’s sustainably managed forestlands continue, with just the Humphry Property at Fickle Hill Road needed to link all sections of the Arcata Ridge Trail.
A new experimental forest is in the process of being established near the Jacoby Creek Forest. It would be jointly managed by Sierra Pacific Industries, Humboldt State University’s Forestry Department and the City of Arcata.
Furniss teaches a class on land use and climate change at HSU. Issues include mitigation – reducing emissions – and adaptation. “Forests are a really big deal for mitigation,” Furniss said. “Forests have a really big role in climate change,” he said redwoods are a species like no other with regard to climate change, sequestering carbon, growing quickly and being resistant to burning
“We have the ideal carbon-fixing machine here,” Furniss said.
Redwood forests are resilient, he said, having been here millions of years.
The North Coast won’t be as affected by climate change as other places. “It’s unlikely that we’ll lose the redwoods or that there will be significant loss of redwoods,” Furniss said.
Andre said the City Council’s goal is to consider climate change mitigation on all projects. With its forests, wetlands, and so on, Arcata is a great test lab for climate change policies.
“We’re not building out our coastline, we’re restoring what we have,” said Councilmember Mark Wheetley.
The City is planning to relocate the Corp Yard for sea level adaptation.
“We have a lot of things in motion,” Andre said.
City Manager Randy Mendosa said that the City met with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which will donate a tsunami siren to Arcata. It will be refurbished and located at the Corp Yard so that people at the Marsh and other near-bay locations would know a big wave is coming.
“That will be a major step towards our preparedness goals,” Mendosa said.
Open Space Committee
Open Space Committeemember Lisa Brown said the committee came up with draft plan for preserving ag land and the western greenbelt, with goals and strategies. The area in question runs from the west end of town out to the dunes.
Still needed are funding partners, identification of acquisition opportunities and mapping.
She said members are concerned about sea level rise, since they are working to preserve lands that could be underwater in 100 years.
Councilmember Susan Ornelas lauded Green Wheels’ recent Historic Arcata Bottom Bike Ride. “I could see doing it a couple times a year,” she said.
“I’d like to see more work within the committees on climate change,” Brown said.
Eventual establishment of a hostel was suggested at the Arcata Baylands Restoration/Enhancement project.
“It’s a big hunk of green,” Andre said.
Everyone agreed that the seasonal pond at Baylands is gorgeous, as are the migratory waterfowl who frolic there. But, noted Andre, that and other ponds are “really borrow pits to build a big levee.”
Twenty-nine-year Fickle Hill resident Tom Bethune said he and his neighbors heartily approve of the Ridge Trail and its improved access.
“We really would like to see this happen,” Bethune said. He said the trail will bring more people through, minimizing traveler camps by increased citizen use.
Citizen Paul Pitino, a south of Samoa Boulevard resident, thanked the City for the coming tsunami siren, but asked that some attention be paid to bedraggled Rotary Park. He also asked for a trash can in the park and a crosswalk across South G Street. He suggested that an unused spot near Little Lakes Industries be considered for a dog park.
Woodward asked that former teepee burner sites be identified as they may be laden with dioxin and endocrine disrupters.
She noted that there is no committee to address issues like that, nor a waste management committee.
“We have a lot of expertise here,” she said. The Humboldt Waste Management Authority is creating a strategic plan, but not getting proper guidance. “It’s something we might want to address as a city,” Woodward said.
Furniss, a near-forest resident, said he saw a “huge uptick” in illegal campers this fall. “I think it has to do with the word going out that there is work here,” he said. “I think we’ve lost control of it again.”
In cooperation with the Humboldt Trails Council, a new Trail Stewards program will bring volunteer guides to the Marsh and forest beginning in February.
FMC member Danny Hagans noted that miles of road have been decommissioned in the Sunny Brae Forest. “It may look startling that things have been uprooted, but that’s the process of restoring hydrologic processes,” he said.
He hoped that forest users would stay off the reclaimed but still fragile areas this winter. If allowed to go through one seasonal wet-dry cycle, Hagans said, “they really set up very nicely.”
As the meeting adjourned, Brinton thanked the dozens of committeemembers for donating expertise worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. “We couldn’t run the City without you,” he said. “You’re a whole second City staff.”