Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
BAYSIDE – For over 50 years, Baywood Golf and Country Club has been where Northern Humboldt’s elite meet to eat – and golf, swim, get married and hold other gala functions. It still is all that, but the ritzy retreat on outer Buttermilk Lane has fallen on hard times.
The venerable club has lost half its members over the past 20 years, and is basically broke. Raising the remaining members’ dues hasn’t bridged the gap, so the club’s board is pushing forward with logging its grounds.
In a Timber Harvest Plan (THP) the club intends to file this month, Baywood will specify its plans for logging roughly 73 forested acres in and around its 18 holes. Pending approval, the harvest could infuse the ailing club with as much as $700,000 over the next three years.
At a public meeting in Baywood’s reception room Sunday, April 2, about three dozen citizens – members and non-members – were present as Baywood Board President Mike Dominick and Cameron Holmgren, the forester it has hired to develop the THP, discussed preliminary details.
The presenters were somewhat unprepared for the meeting. A computer display that was to show areas to be logged had gone "kablooey," so Baywood passed out crude maps which they acknowledged weren't clear. Other facts and figures were provided only in general terms, and answers to some attendees' questions were couched in generalities or dismissed outright.
The harvest will consist of one million board feet of mostly redwood trees extracted over two to three years – or as few as one – as part of a group selection cut. Baywood’s board has formed a committee to specify exactly which trees are takeable. “Problem trees” that block the sun and pose other problems will go, but many that Holmgren said “stand out as big and beautiful,” and some for which golfers hold particular fondness, will be spared.
Citizens, some of whom remember the THP filed by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) in what is now the Sunny Brae Tract of the Arcata Community Forest back in 2000, were concerned with impacts of the Baywood harvest on the public and adjacent property owners.
Timber cutting will take place six days a week beginning at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on Saturdays, with no Sunday logging. Holmgren later said operations would end each day at 5 p.m.
He downplayed the sonic impacts of logging in the area, repeatedly citing the many lawn mowers and other residential landscaping activity on Golf Course Road and Buttermilk Lane as a noisy precedent.
The cut will require an estimated 200 logging truck trips to transport the timber to a sawmill, which means 400 total trips up and down Buttermilk Lane. Some four to five truckloads a day will traverse the residential street, whose lower reaches host Sunny Brae Middle School.
On April 5, the City Council is set to approve a $1.075 million bid for reconstruction of Buttermilk Lane. The work includes new paving, signage, sewer laterals and some sewer line work. Construction would take place this summer, during the same period Baywood would be sending logging trucks up and down the street. [Update: the contract was awarded to RAO Construction by the council at its April 5 meeting.]
Baywood was unaware of the pending road project, nor were the reps overly concerned about fully laden logging trucks using the narrow street.
“If there’s a problem, that’s not our issue, it’s the logging company,” Holmgren said. He placed his confidence in speed bumps near SBMS as inhibiting the trucks’ velocity. Of any violations, he told the assembly, “If you saw that, you’d call the cops.”
He said no contact had been made with SBMS, nor any traffic study done as part of the THP. He ruled out any suggestion of using a pilot vehicle to ensure the trucks’ safe passage past the school, as SPI had initially agreed to. “No, that’s costly,” Holmgren said. He later said that if the city or school chose to pay for a pilot car, Baywood would find that agreeable.
“There’s been thousands of logging trucks over the years,” he said. Audience members responded that this was what had torn up the roads, but Holmgren stated several times that the city receives revenue from timber taxes it is supposed to use to reinvest in street improvements.
Environmental Services Director Mark Andre later said that the city receives about $100 annually from the county timber tax revenue split.
Monday, SBMS Principal Lynda Yeoman heard about the planned logging for the first time from a reporter. “I didn’t know anything about it,” she said.
Holmgren was dismissive of some questions, talking over those trying to speak and offering somewhat sarcastic rejoinders.
A resident of Hadley Place objected to the noise the harvest would create. “I don’t want to wake up three months in a row hearing chainsaws,” she said.
“This is timber country,” Holmgren shot back. “We could log your property.”
“You’re being really condescending,” objected another attendee. “You’re telling people things that aren’t true.” (After the talk, Holmgren explained that he had been ill, and that he regretted his sometimes sharp responses.)
Dominick said that if cash-strapped Baywood goes under, the property could be clearcut and subdivided into housing projects. “This is a one-time thing for Baywood,” he said.
An audience member wondered whether there was any guarantee that the logging would prevent that eventuality. Dominick said that without the logging, members would be assessed another fee to fund club operations. He said members staunchly support the plan.
“There’s no question that it needs to be logged, for the health of the course,” said one attendee. “Just how much, and where. It’s the future of the course.”
Along with balancing the club’s books, Dominick said the logging will improve course aesthetics, sunlight and air circulation.
“The fact that it would generate some revenue is significant,” said Ron Ross, a member of the tree selection committee.
Attendees questioned the club’s noticing for the project. One, who supported the logging, said he had heard about it by accident that day. Holmgren said a required legal notice had run in an unnamed print publication weeks earlier.
Dominick said letters about the meeting had been sent to adjacent property owners, but that was it. Someone else apparently created a flyer based on the letter, and it gained limted distribution around Sunny Brae.
“I’m the messenger, not the postman,” Dominick said. He said the club’s board has been discussing the matter for the past year-and-a-half, with no objections.
“I have to disagree with that,” said a woman with children who has one of the club’s “pool” memberships. She said that many club members were unaware of the logging plans. The woman said that mothers and their children might feel unsafe using the club’s swimming pool with the logging operations taking place around them.
She noted that the seasonal rate for pool memberships had been raised last year. It presently stands at $795 per season, according to Baywood's website.
Dominick said the logging committee will make field inspections of the grounds to designate trees to be cut. Selected club members may accompany them, but not the public. No vote on the logging plans will be taken among club members, Dominick said.