Billboard buy boosts Humboldt Bay Trail

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT – ​The county is using state funds to buy property related to Humboldt Bay Trail development with a built-in source of revenue – three billboards.

​But supervisors aren’t expecting them to last much longer, as a fourth billboard was blown over last year and removed earlier this year.  

​The Board of Supervisors approved the $603,000 purchase of a shoreline property consisting of two parcels at its Oct. 6 meeting. The parcels are located between the Brainard mill site and the Bracut Industrial Park.

The property is under a North Coast Railroad Authority (NCRA) easement and the Outdoor Media billboards are under a lease agreement lasting until 2043.

​The lease will remain in place, with the county getting $30,000 a year in revenue that will go to trail maintenance and other trail-related expenses.

​Deputy Publics Works Director Hank Seemann said the lease doesn’t allow for removal of the billboards. The trail’s pathway will bypass one of them.

​Supervisor Virginia Bass had doubts about the continuity of the revenue source. When she asked about what would happen “if for some reason (the billboards) fell out of use,” Seemann acknowledged that there is indeed “uncertainty on the future revenue.”

​But the property was appraised based on “the net present value of the future revenue streams,” he continued.

​“The likelihood of a full term for these structures is pretty unlikely considering their condition, as exhibited by the one that fell down just last year – that’s just the way it is,” said Supervisor Mike Wilson. “We need to move forward with this project and the owners are getting a good deal on this but we’re not purchasing these structures.”

​He said he’d be surprised if the northernmost billboard remains standing for even a few more years “but this is the appraisal, this is how we’re doing it and I’m ready to move forward.”

​So were other supervisors and approval of the buy was unanimous. Seemann said it’s the first of three “significant right of way agreements” related to trail development. The other two are in being negotiated and will come to the board later.

​A written staff report states that the Humboldt Bay Trail will “achieve a critical link in the California Coastal Trail and support NRCA in fulfilling the mandate of Senate Bill 1029 to use NCRA property and right-of-way to create the Great Redwood Trail.”

​Trail development is in a right of way acquisition, final design and permitting phase, with construction expected to begin in the summer or fall of next year.

​The county’s 4.25 miles of trail development will connect two existing segments, creating a 14-mile bay trail between Arcata and Eureka.

​The California Transportation Commission has approved $2 million in funding for the trail’s right of way acquisitions and $13.3 million for the construction phase.


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