Kevin L. Hoover
ARCATA – What City officials, with their warnings, admonitions and barricades could never accomplish, Gaia, in all her wisdom, did. That is, keep the crowds away from Redwood Park for 4-20.
April 20 was a rainy, rainy day. Though a steady influx of raincoat-clad, would-be partyers tromped up Bayview Street, almost as many were headed in the opposite direction, wet and looking for someplace warm and dry.
The crowd was way down from last year – about one-tenth the number, by a rough estimate. The few who did attend headed across the spongy, waterlogged Redwood Park meadow to the partial shelter of the lower forest canopy. There they banged hand drums, smoked dope, received citations for various offenses and had their pictures taken by several photographers.
One young woman brought trash bags and posted a sign asking attendees to properly dispose of their litter.
Police Chief Tom Chapman reported these offenses during 4-20:
126 parking citations
26 traffic citations
9 AMC dog citations
25 AMC smoking citations
17 AMC camping citations
1 AMC bike license citation
1 AMC alcohol citation
1 H&S 11357(a) arrest – Poss. of Hash
5 H&S 11357(b) arrests – Poss. of marijuana
2 647(f) arrests – Public Intoxication
1 290 PC arrest - Failure to register as sex offender
1 warrant arrest
2 148.9 arrests – False ID to police
1 11377(a) arrest – Possession of Psilocybin mushrooms
The next morning, the redwood Park was relatively clean, though the area used for the downsized smokefest was severely defoliated and eroded.
Now that APD has two full-time park rangers, the City is determiend not to passively allow 4-20 to kick off the annual illegal camping and forest destruction season.
So, the morning of 4-21, members of the Environmental Services Dept. and Ranger Kevin Stonebarger hit the ground, visiting campsites obvious and obscure to clean out the garbage.
They didn’t have to look very hard. One popular site was infested with all the usual mess – camping equipment, wet clothing, tarp ropes tied to trees.
Inexplicably, the campers don’t just leave their garbage, but in what seems like an effort to make it more difficult and unpleasant for the forest workers to clean it up, fling the bottles and plastic food containers deep into tangles of blackberry brambles. At one point, an ES worker stepped in an exposed pile of human feces, releasing a foul stench that hung over the campsite as the crew filled contractor's bags with the variegated wastes.
City Hall and its field workers weren’t very happy with local media over 4-20. The North Coast Journal published a calendar listing for the unsanctioned event, listing “delicacies” as an attraction. That apparently led to a vigorous discussion between Chapman and Journal Editor Hank Sims.
The Times-Standard ran a picture of downed limbs near Redwood Park with a caption that included information from an unidentified “park user” to the effect that the City had trimmed the trees to block access and eliminate shade. Actually, the trimming was part of the regular biennial fuel reduction performed at all forest-urban interfaces in conjunction with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The T-S’s front page headline on April 21 said “Cold rain, police don’t deter 4/20 revelers,” despite attendance being a fraction of the usual turnout.