Kevin L. Hoover
Mad River Union
ARCATA – A dilapidated magical fairyland is under investigation by Arcata Police and the state Dept. of Fish & Wildlife. The problem isn’t the ramshackle enchantment, but streambed alteration and possible introduction of non-native species into Janes Creek.
Located on land owned by Trinity Baptist Church behind 1443 Stromberg Avenue, the site is a
small warren of makeshift ponds amid dense brush and trees. Fed via plastic pipes and hoses by Sunset Creek, a tributary of Janes Creek, the irregularly shaped, hot tub-sized ponds are intended to host koi, according to authorities.
No fish are evident in the half-filled ponds, which are littered with debris. Short trails paved with river stones link the ponds to a small, partly collapsed meditation deck enclosed with young redwood logs.
Toys and fanciful decor such as Mardi Gras beads, Christmas lights and bits of sculpture line the trails, but the site’s defining characteristic is hardware – lots of it. Tubs, barrels, tubing, tools and twine, plus cans and random objects are strewn about throughout the site.
Along with clutter, the ambitious project suffers from the same problem afflicting Pyongyang, North Korea’s infamous Ryugyong Hotel – a grand vision hobbled by incomplete execution.
Some features of the secluded retreat show intensive, detailed effort, then an apparent waning of interest, abandonment and decay.
Joetta Holsinger, who lives at the Stromberg Avenue home, said the pond retreat was created for her by her grandson Cory Holsinger. “He wanted me to be able to sit and relax there,” she said. “A little place to sit and meditate.”
She was distressed by the official interest and news media inquiry. “I didn’t know there was going to be a big deal about this,” Holsinger said.
It’s a big deal for a couple of reasons. Over recent decades, the City of Arcata has invested millions of dollars and countless thousands of hours of restoration work into restoring Janes Creek as habitat for native salmon and plants.
Koi are a type of carp, an Asian fish which has been introduced to other areas, caused environmental disruption to waterways and indigenous creatures and has proven difficult to eradicate.
The consequences of koi leaking into Janes Creek aren’t clear, but Environmental Programs Manager Julie Neander doesn’t want to find out. “They certainly aren’t native,” she said of the koi. “We don’t want to have invasive species introduced.”
The installation was first reported as a homeless camp due to the blue tarpaulins which shade parts of the area.
The City and APD Park Ranger Heidi Groszmann are investigating the matter, as is the state Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. That agency is not fond of modifications to waterways, or water diversion.
A source said agency representatives visited the site on Monday, Jan. 27, and found the abundant debris and decor all cleaned up. This couldn’t be confirmed, as the agency did not return calls.
No grading permits were obtained for the project. One account held that the Holsingers had been given permission by Trinity Baptist to create a garden at the secluded spot, but church caretaker Jeff McGaa said he didn’t know anything about that.
It’s not the first time police have visited 1443 Stromberg Avenue. Environmental Services Director Mark Andre said that the City first discovered similar ponds in 2001, when they were stocked with coastal cutthroat trout. At that time, the City obtained an easement from the church to restore the area.
More recently, in January, 2010, APD arrested Cory Holsinger and two other men on charges of methamphetamine manufacture in a cab-over camper parked in the driveway. The camper is still there.