McKinleyville shapeshifts toward 2023 with new Strategic Plan

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

McKINLEYVILLE – A five-million-gallon water tank, upgraded sewer lines, salmon-rearing ponds, a community forest, solar arrays and a BMX track are among the projects included in McKinleyville’s updated Strategic Plan.

The document, approved by the McKinleyville Community Services District Board of Directors on Jan. 3, charts a course of action for the district over the next five years. The meaty plan maps out everything from infrastructure upgrades, to park improvements to creating a strategy to run district facilities off solar power.

Community Forest

Then the district will continue its efforts to obtain grant funding to create a community forest on the east side of town. The district wants to acquire 556 acres now owned by Green Diamond. The property would be accessible from trails off Murray, Babler, Gwin and Sutter roads.

The McKinleyville Community Forest is part of a bigger project to protect the forest east of town.

In 2015, Green Diamond unveiled a proposal for a wide swath of land stretching from north of Murray Road all the way down to near North Bank Road, encompassing a total of 3,644 acres.

Green Diamond presented three different options. The community forest would range from 426 to 626 acres. Just east of the community forest, Green Diamond would continue to own from 2,744 to 2,944 acres which would have a conservation easement that would protect the property from being developed. Green Diamond would continue to grow and harvest timber on the property. All three options included 274 acres of land intended for residential development.

The exact size of the community forest would depend on how much grant funding can be obtained.

BMX track

Redwood Empire BMX has approached the district about building a BMX track on park land in McKinleyville. One of the possible locations is 3.1 acres of undeveloped district property located off Washington Avenue north of School Road.

District staff may work with the BMX organization to determine whether it is suitable for a track. If it is, then the proposal would be sent to the McKinleyville Recreation Advisory Committee for a recommendation, which would then be sent to the MCSD Board of Directors for consideration.’

Hewitt Ranch

McKinleyville has a 14-acre park located west of Azalea Avenue called Hewitt Ranch. The park includes a forest and pastures and some small streams. It’s used by people who live in the neighborhood.

The district has considered improving the park with an interpretative trail system, an informal disc golf course and a small gravel parking lot. However, there’s not sufficient access to the site. This problem may be solved if the district accomplishes another one of its goals in the Strategic Plan – the acquisition of property adjacent to the Hewitt Ranch on Cochran Road for a water tank.

Water tank

The district has determined that it should have a five-day supply of water in case there’s an emergency and its main water supply line fails.

The district receives all of its water, which it purchases from the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, through a single water line that crosses under the Mad River. There’s a concern that the line could be severed in an earthquake or other disaster.

In preparation for such a disaster, the district wants to build a five-million-gallon water tank on the Cochran Road property. The district is negotiating with the owner of the Cochran Road property for purchase of the land.

If the district acquires the property, it could be used to access the Hewitt Ranch park.

Sewer line upgrades

The Strategic Plan calls for the creation of detailed plans for upgrading undersized sewer lines and repairing or replacing aging pipes. The district will be looking at upgrading a sewer main that goes under U.S. Highway 101 near Thiel Avenue. It has also contracted GHD to complete a Sewer Main Rehabilitation Plan.

Coho ponds

The district will continue to work on a proposal to decommission its percolation ponds located west of the Fischer Ranch. The ponds, which are across from the Mad River boat ramp, were once used for the disposal of treated wastewater.

The ponds will be converted into a fish-friendly backwater, where coho salmon can escape the currents of the Mad River and fatten up before heading back out to sea.

Solar array

The plan calls for the creation of a comprehensive plan to power all district facilities with solar energy. Last year, the board made solar energy a priority, and directed district staff to develop a solar plan. The board gave staff five years to get the job done.

Being that this decision was made a year ago, the updated Strategic Plan should have stated that staff now had four years to get the solar plan completed, but due to a typo, it said five years.

Director John Corbett noticed this and asked staff why the solar project was being delayed. Although Manager Greg Orsini pointed out that it was just an error and should have stated four years, Corbett and Director George Wheeler said they wanted to see progress on solar projects take place sooner than later.

Orsini pointed out that while it may take some time to develop a comprehensive plan, there may be progress made this year depending on grant funding when it comes to building a solar energy project at the town’s sewer plant.

A motion was made to approve the Strategic Plan update, with  the completion of the solar plan moved up to 2020. The board voted 4-1, with Director Dennis Mayo dissenting, in favor of the plan update. Mayo told his fellow board members that he voted no because he did not have clarity on how moving up the solar project would affect district staff.


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