County reels back Manila trail permit, will further review environmental impacts

THE ROUTE The trail route through Manila. County of Humboldt Image

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

​MANILA –A month after gaining approval for a trail in Manila, the county is starting the process over and will re-apply for a permit that will include a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review.

​The county’s Planning Commission had approved a coastal development permit for a new 0.6 mile multi-use paved trail on May 7.

Several Manila residents told commissioners that the trail will provide a long sought after walking and biking route separate from State Route 255 and is a first step toward eventual connection to community resources like the Friends of the Dunes Coastal Nature Center and the Manila Community Center.

​County planning staff had said that the permit application didn’t include a CEQA environmental review because the trail’s path is within the 255 right of way, which defines it as an “existing facility.”

​But Arcata resident Uri Driscoll had questioned that and noted the trail’s most notable impact -- the filling of 0.77 acre of wetlands.

The county proposes to offset the loss by creating a new 0.92-acre wetland in the project area. Driscoll alluded to that as a CEQA trigger, saying, “It’s really not even clear on how that could be done without a little bit more review.”

Coastal development permit approvals can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors and the state’s Coastal Commission.

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And In a May 20 letter to county Planning Director John Ford, Deputy Director of Public Works Hank Seemann said the project will indeed get more review.

​“Public Works has reevaluated its approach for environmental review under CEQA for this and other projects involving existing facilities,” he wrote. “In order to ensure a thorough review of potentially significant environmental impacts, Public Works hereby withdraws its permit application in order to perform additional environmental review under CEQA.”

​Seemann added that a Mitigated Negative Declaration review – which acknowledges impacts but outlines ways to address them – will be done, and then the county will re-submit the permit application.

​The new permit application is expected to go before the Planning Commission in August. ​The $1.5 million trail is mapped from Manila’s Dean Street/Pacific Avenue intersection to about 250 feet north of the Carlson Avenue intersection.

Its design includes a 10-foot width with shoulders that will be at least five feet from the edge of the shoulders of Route 255, whose west side the trail will be adjacent to.

 

From the May 20, 2020 Mad River Union:

New Manila trail OK’d

Daniel Mintz
Mad River Union

MANILA – ​What’s been described as a top priority for the community of Manila – trail development allowing walking and biking away from state Route 255 -- has gotten county Planning Commission approval.

​A first step in a grander vision of connecting Manila to community resources like the Friends of the Dunes Coastal Nature Center and the Manila Community Center – and ultimately to Arcata – was taken as the commission approved a coastal development permit for a trail at a May 7 virtual meeting.

​The 0.6 mile multi-use paved trail will run from Manila’s Dean Street/Pacific Avenue intersection to about 250 feet north of the Carlson Avenue intersection. It will be 10 feet wide with shoulders that will be at least five feet from the edge of the shoulders of Route 255, whose west side the trail will be adjacent to.

​The trail’s path within the 255 right of way gives it the status of being an existing facility, county planning staff told commissioners. That sidesteps the need for a California Environmental Quality Act review, they said.

During a public comment session, Manila residents were enthusiastic about the project.​

Peninsula Drive resident Carla Osborn, who is a member of the Manila Community Services District (MCSD) board of directors, said Route 255 is “extremely unfriendly to pedestrians” and “I’m thrilled at the idea of having a walking trail in Manila and I hope one day it will go all the way to Arcata.”

​Emily Sinkhorn of the Redwood Community Action Agency said community surveys have shown that “people are really concerned about walking along and across Route 255 and it’s a top concern.”

​The Peninsula Community Collaborative community group has “supported the Manila trail project because it will provide some of the safe walking and biking access within the (255) right of way that will connect Manila neighborhoods,” she continued.

​Carol Vander Meer, who is a board member of the MCSD and Friends of the Dunes board president, said trail development has long been a community wish.

​“The interest and work on trying to make non-motorized access on 255 has gone on for more than 25 years this is an excellent start,” she said. “It’s small but it is a start.”

​But Arcata resident Uri Driscoll, who is well known in Manila for his criticism of Friends of the Dunes, said the project includes “an environmentally sensitive habitat area.”

​The trail’s most notable impact is the fill of 0.77 acre of wetlands. To mitigate the loss, a new 0.92-acre wetland will be created in the project area.

​“There is going to be a significant impact on the environment – we are changing one type of wetland into a completely different type of wetland and it’s really not even clear on how that could be done without a little bit more review,” said Driscoll.

​When commissioners asked about the wetland issue, Deputy Public Works Director Hank Seemann said a monitoring plan for the new wetland with “performance criteria” for vegetation and hydrology has been drafted.

​The commission supported the project and its approval vote was unanimous.

​Earlier, Seemann explained that the county is the lead agency because Caltrans isn’t eligible for the project’s non-motorized access funding. The construction cost will be about $1.5 million, he said.

​Commission Chair Alan Bongio asked about the over-arching goal of connecting Manila to other community areas and Arcata.

​“There’s definitely a vision of connecting Manila to Arcata but there’s no specific, firm plan so it’s really remote and speculative at this point as far as where connector trials would be located,” Seemann said. “That would be a future planning process that hasn’t even started.”

 

 







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