Letters to the Editor, February 7, 2018

THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY Step down, Bill. Here comes Mary. Image courtesy Carman Gentile

Replace McKinley with Mary

May I suggest a statue for the Plaza that is far removed from President McKinley. Consider Mary, the Jewish mother to Jesus of Nazareth. She stands as a statement to women’s empowerment and a statement for peace and non-violence.

Carman Gentile

About the Memorial Lighthouse

The Trinidad Civic Club wishes to thank the many people in our community who came together to peacefully resolve the complex and challenging problem of relocating the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. The Civic Club believed that issuing a press release earlier might compromise the sensitive negotiations undertaken to find a solution. There are many misperceptions about what happened, in part caused by erroneous information in the press and on social media.

The Club first met with the Yurok Tribal Council when invited to a meeting on Jan. 3, 2018, eight days after the occupation of the Lighthouse began and was never included in any “consultations” with the Tribe, which reportedly began in December 2016. The Lighthouse never slipped, as claimed, beginning in December 2016. The Club paid several thousands of dollars for engineering and geologic studies, including the installation of scientific instruments to measure movement.

The intentions of the Civic Club were to preserve the Lighthouse and protect the Tsurai Study Area, a designated 12.5 acres of the ancestral lands of the Tsurai Village, taking proactive measures to prevent the Lighthouse from sliding. The Civic Club has no knowledge or evidence of any graves on its property.

Coastal erosion is the primary reason the Club moved the Lighthouse. There was no official offer of a viable alternative site until Friday, January 5th, when the Cher-ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria extended a written offer to temporarily relocate the Lighthouse on their harbor property. The Lighthouse was moved Jan. 10th.

The Memorial Lighthouse is not just a “replica.” It is a monument dedicated to the memory of those lost or buried at sea and part of a memorial site since 1949. Family members often visit the site, some leaving flowers below names of loved ones, at the door of the Lighthouse or on the Lighthouse itself.

Since 1995, the Club has organized a Memorial Day weekend service for the families of those commemorated. In 2017, the names of the 238 people were read aloud. Among those are 23 fisherman, Coast Guardsmen and pilots whose sacrifice is honored with the American flag flown at the site: “To those who perished at sea. They will live forever in our hearts.” The Lighthouse is equivalent to a gravestone, since no physical graves exist for those commemorated, including the name of Louise Lindgren Little. Louise was part of the Lindgren family whose descendants are now called, “The Tsurai Ancestral Society.”

The Trinidad Civic Club members became aware of the threat to the Lighthouse mid year, later hearing detailed information at the July 26, 2017 City Council meeting when Gary Simpson, an engineer with SHN hired by the City, presented a study on the slide affecting City property. Subsequently, the Civic Club retained SHN.

There was a meeting on Aug. 8, 2017 of the Tsurai Study Area Management Team to which the Civic Club requested an invitation, but was excluded. The Civic Club held a meeting on Sept. 20 to seek input and guidance to determine the fate of the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. Those invited included City and Coastal Commission representatives, SHN engineers, Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg and the Tsurai Ancestral Society. Yurok Tribe cultural representative Frankie Myers attended. No solutions or alternate sites were offered by anyone other than options devised by SHN. The option to stabilize the Lighthouse in place was rejected by the Coastal Commission representative.

The Tsurai Ancestral Society (“TAS”) declined to attend this meeting, citing their 2012 appeal to the Coastal Commission, which has languished for over 5 years. In 2012, the Civic Club began an improvement project on their property after consultation with TAS to remove the fence that blocked direct access to the Axel Lindgren Jr. Trail, though there was access through adjacent City property. Through poor communication, erroneous information from the City that no permits were required and misunderstandings among hired professionals with those Civic Club members trying to carry out the project, mistakes were made. Private and public apologies were offered repeatedly to TAS, with the Club attempting to make amends. TAS filed the appeal and to date the Club has still not been told what remedies might be made, leaving this unfortunate incident unresolved.

In trying to find a solution to the Lighthouse threat, SHN recommended that the Lighthouse be moved before the coming winter rains. Constrained by a limited amount of money, a very short timeline and no alternative site options, the Club followed SHN’s advice and applied for an emergency permit to move the lighthouse to more stable land approximately 20 feet east and still on the Club’s property. The engineers designed the plan to have the least invasive impact on the site. Other alternative locations were investigated, but none proved viable due to the urgency of the situation, financial and logistical constraints, such as permits.

The emergency permit defined the planned move as “temporary” and required application for a Coastal Development Permit upon completion, which could be appealed.  The Club followed every legal requirement. A cultural monitor was on site during construction at all times. A permanent location will require another Coastal Development permit, a process that could take up to 5 years.

The Trinidad Civic Club is a small, non-profit community service organization founded in 1913. In the past, major fundraisers were bake and rummage sales to fund our stewardship of the Memorial Lighthouse, academic and trade scholarships, support for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates for foster kids) and sponsorship of the Blood Bank mobile unit, among other projects. The Club helped establish the Trinidad Library in 1915 and contributed to the construction of Town Hall in 1917. Numerous other community development projects enjoyed the support of the Civic Club, including the fire department, a commercial kitchen in the Town Hall, Trinidad’s library, school, museum, cemetery and the Trinidad Coastal Land Trust, to name some of the most significant contributions.

The Club’s mission statement embodies its beliefs in serving the community over the past 105 years: “…devoted to civic improvement, stewardship of the Memorial Lighthouse, child welfare, education and the promotion of harmonious community spirit.” The Club’s intention to preserve the historic Lighthouse and protect the Tsurai Study Area became a community crisis that could have been avoided if direct communication with all stakeholders had been possible and facts about the Lighthouse had been available to those concerned. Actions taken on incorrect assumptions and untruths that inflamed the situation were unfortunate.

On Jan. 4, during negotiations with the Yurok Tribal Council, Civic Club leadership, and the Trinidad Rancheria Tribal Council, a Memorandum of Understanding was created stating that all parties involved would be partners in the relocation of the Lighthouse and the development of a permanent memorial site. Yurok Tribal Chairman Thomas O’Rourke, Sr. and Trinidad Rancheria Vice Chair Zackary Brown pledged to participate with the Civic Club in a new year of collaboration and mutual respect. TAS was invited to the meeting, recognized as a stakeholder and included in the agreement, but declined to attend. Besides moving the Lighthouse to the Trinidad Rancheria harbor land, provisions of the MOU with the stakeholders included the Yurok Tribe ending the occupation and clearing the construction zone. On Jan. 7, 2018, three stakeholders officially signed the document. The Tsurai Ancestral Society declined to sign. The occupation ended.

Without the generous offer of the Trinidad Rancheria of a temporary location for the Lighthouse, this difficult situation had no peaceful resolution. They are the heroes and deserve recognition for their role. The Club is encouraged and optimistic that they have found reliable and committed partners to preserve one of Humboldt County’s most historic landmarks.

The Club is moving forward by planning a forum for community input to the Site Selection Advisory Committee on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. in the Trinidad Town Hall. The Committee is comprised of liaisons from the Yurok Tribe, the Civic Club and the Trinidad Rancheria. Substantial financial support from the community is needed to build a permanent memorial site. The Trinidad Civic Club is committed to fulfilling its responsibility and obligation to honor the memory of loved ones lost or buried at sea for past and future generations to come.

Jan West on behalf of the Trinidad Civic Club
[email protected]




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