Mad River Union
McKINLEYVILLE – If funding is available, McKinleyville could construct habitat for juvenile salmon along the banks of the Mad River as early as the summer of 2021. The project would include a new trail, a parking lot, two picnic tables, wildlife viewing areas and a place to launch small boats into the river.
The McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors was scheduled July 1 to adopt an initial study of the project and approve a mitigated negative declaration for what’s being called the Mad River Floodplain and Public Access Enhancement Project.
At the request of Director Shel Barsanti, the board voted 4-1, with MCSD Board President Mary Burke abstaining, to postpone the matter until its Aug. 3 meeting. Barsanti said she wants more information about how the district will pay for the $1.6 million project.
Part of the project involves the conversion of 4.3 acres of wastewater percolation ponds into coho salmon habitat. The ponds were used by the district to dispose of treated wastewater, which is now used for irrigation.
The ponds are located on land owned by the district on the McKinleyville side of the river roughly across from the Mad River boat ramp.
All but the eastern levees will be removed from the ponds, which will be connected to the Mad River, allowing juvenile fish to swim into the ponds and seek refuge. Native trees and plants will provide shade, coverage, protection and food for the fish.
At the west end of School Road, a half-acre parking lot would be constructed, with a paved trail, about four to eight feet wide, extending down to an overlook. Existing trails in the area will also be graveled and improved.
Some of the improvements to existing trails could take place this year, according to MCSD Manager Patrick Kaspari.
An area down the hill from School Road along the banks of the Mad River would be altered to allow for small boats, such as kayaks, to be launched into the river. This would not be a boat ramp.
After the initial study and mitigated negative declaration are approved, the district would pursue grant funding to help pay for most of the project.
At the July 1 meeting, the MCSD board received three letters from Verwer Avenue residents opposing the project. Verwer is the private road to the north of the west end of School Road.
The residents complained that cars often use Verwer to turn around, causing damage to the roadway. The park, they said, would result in more traffic.