City of Trinidad wants Strawberry Rock protection

Benjamin Fordham
Mad River Union

TRINIDAD –  The Trinidad City Council met last Wednesday, Oct. 8, and on the agenda were modifications to the Verizon cell phone tower on Trinidad Head, progress on the city’s vacation dwelling ordinance and changes in the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Department. The council also heard from activists on the fate of Strawberry Rock, the sacred Yurok ceremonial site that overlooks the town.

About a half-dozen speakers addressed the council regarding Strawberry Rock, including members of Trinidad Forest Defense, a branch of Earth First! Humboldt. The group has staged tree-sits in the area in an attempt to preserve the site and halt logging.

“We just wanted to say ‘These are the reasons we do this,’” said Jack Nounnan, a member of Trinidad Forest Defense, regarding the group’s nonviolent action.

Nounnan also said that it was time to “wake up” to the realities of climate change. “It’s time to change the status quo,” he said. “We can’t have any more deforestation.”

Strawberry Rock, which sits on Green Diamond Resource Company land, has long been a destination for hikers who trespass on the property to enjoy the panoramic views it offers of the surrounding area.

Last year, in response to public pressure, Green Diamond agreed to set aside a 27-acre conservation easement that includes the trail and the rock itself, although some questions remain about funding maintenance of the area.

The council had previously written a letter to Green Diamond last year expressing its support for the preservation of the site, but agreed to draft another letter reflecting the new concerns raised at the meeting.

“There were a lot of important issues raised,” said Mayor Julie Fulkerson, including economic, environmental, cultural and spiritual issues. “There was general consensus that ‘Yes, we are still in the same position.’”

“We’ll need to find ways to protect and manage it,” she said, noting that the rock has been tagged with graffiti in the past. “That’s no small task... this will take some time.”

The council also approved Verizon’s request to make changes to their cell phone tower, which will include the installation of three new diplexer units and three actuators. The diplexer units, which are each approximately the size of a box of tissue, will improve cell service to Verizon customers, and the actuators will allow the tilt of the antennae on the tower to be adjusted remotely. The antennae are currently adjusted by hand.

“Verizon customers should be happy,” said City Manager Dan Berman.

While the location of the tower on Trinidad Head has been controversial in the past, there was no public comment on the latest changes.

“It’s a minor adjustment to their system up there,” said Berman. “It’s barely noticeable at all.”

Rules for vacation homes within city limits were also addressed during the meeting, with a set of regulations ready to be put in place now that a lengthy process with the California Coastal Commission is complete.

“There’s been a lot of discussion and input,” Berman said. “We’re all finally in agreement (with the Coastal Commission) on this final version.”

The Vacation Dwelling Unit Ordinance will regulate vacation homes within city limits. The issue has been controversial at times, as some residents have expressed concern that the proliferation of vacation homes might change the city’s small town feel.

The new rules would require a specific type of business license for the units, as well as addressing parking and noise issues. The proposal will now enter a 30-day public comment period.

“This provides a basic set of ground rules for everyone,” Berman said.

The city also renegotiated their contract with the Sheriff’s Office regarding patrol hours, shifting away from a more fixed patrol schedule. “We thought it made more sense to be able to adjust it around special events,” Berman said. “We’re going to have more flexibility to change things around.” The change will also make the patrols less predictable for would-be criminals.

Pamela Wilcox replaced Scott Hicks as the deputy assigned to Trinidad in March. “The town’s really happy with her,” Berman said. “She’s kind of acting like a small town police chief.”

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