Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – Where people will enter the McKinleyville Community Forest and how it will be patrolled and kept clean are just some of the issues that the unincorporated town faces as it begins the planning process for its newest, and largest, park.
The issues were discussed on social media last week and at a Dec. 17 meeting of the McKinleyville Community Services District Park and Recreation Committee, where it was revealed that there are more questions than answers.
“I’m going to leave you with not a whole lot of information,” MCSD Parks Director Leslee Frisbee told the committee when the topic of the community forest came up.
Frisbee noted that the planning process for the forest has just begun. The district announced on Dec. 9 that the California Natural Resources Agency awarded a $3,877,928 grant to the Trust for Public Land to purchase the forest from Green Diamond Resource Company. The trust would then transfer ownership of the property to the MCSD.
The entire process could take 18 months, giving the district time to plan.
The forest is 553 acres and extends along the east side of McKinleyville from Murray Road to Hunts Drive. (Grant applications have stated that the forest is 556 acres, as reported in last week’s Union, but according to Green Diamond the tract is 553 acres.)
One of the big issues that is of concern to some neighbors is how people will gain access to the community forest.
Frisbee said that there is one clear access point on Murray Road, where the district may consider building a parking lot. But there’s uncertainty over the other access points.
Frisbee said that there will be numerous public meetings to work out these issues.
“It’s going to be a slow process,” Frisbee said during the committee meeting. “It will not be done in a silo. We’re going to be reaching out to the public.”
Frisbee said that on Dec. 15, the district learned that it had received a $15,000 grant from the North Coast Resource Partnership for technical assistance in creating a comprehensive forest management plan. Mark Andre, who recently retired as the environmental services director for the City of Arcata, will be working on McKinleyville’s plan. Andre played an instrumental role in developing Arcata’s management plans for the Arcata Community Forest.
During public comments, a woman who lives adjacent to the McKinleyville Community Forest said she was concerned about “intrusiveness” and safety in general.
On social media, several people commented about the potential for trash, camps of homeless people and whether there would be a law enforcement presence.
Frisbee reiterated that the district does not want to create unsafe spaces and that planning is just getting underway.
Committee Chair John Calkins encouraged neighbors and adjacent property owners to stay involved and voice their concerns during the planning process.
“You guys are critical to the success of that,” Calkins said.
The committee received an update on the Community Garden, located at Pierson Park. Of the garden’s 23 plots, 20 are being rented by community members.
Committee member Ben Winker said that the gardeners would like to build a secure shed, where they could keep some tools, a weed cutter, shovels and a wheel barrow. He also said that they would like to improve the fencing.
“I just think there’s a lot of potential for that small space,” Winker said.
A lot more people have taken up gardening during the pandemic, and the Community Garden could serve as a showcase, he said.