Mad River Union
TRINIDAD – In the coming days the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse may be picked up by a crane and moved to a new foundation about 22 feet away. And it’s likely that protesters will be on hand, as they have been since last week, to speak out against the controversial project.
Patti Fleschner of the Trinidad Civic Club, which owns the small parcel on which the lighthouse sits, said last week that the exact timing of the move will depend on the weather and the availability of a crane. The move could take place as early as this week.
On Dec. 20, workers poured an eight-inch thick, 14 by 14 foot concrete foundation about 22 feet east of the lighthouse. Last week, as protesters stood atop the lighthouse, workers cut through the lighthouse’s foundation with cement saws, freeing the structure from its moorings.
The lighthouse, built in 1949, is a replica of the real lighthouse that still operates on Trinidad Head. The Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse also serves as a memorial, with names engraved on it and on nearby walls, of locals who have died or were lost at sea.
The move is being done under an emergency permit issued by the City of Trinidad after the bluff the lighthouse sits on began slumping. Last year engineers hired by the Trinidad Civic Club, warned the volunteer organization that if the lighthouse is not moved, it could topple down the bluff when the area is saturated from winter rains.
The cost of moving the lighthouse is pegged at about $45,000, but that doesn’t include the costs of some of the repairs that will be needed after the move is complete.
In the coming month or two, the Trinidad Civic Club will have to apply for a full-blown coastal development permit for the project. This will open up a new round of public hearings.
According to an engineering report commissioned by the club, the new location for the lighthouse should be considered temporary, as the site would not be deemed geologically “stable” by the California Coastal Commission, which will be considering the coastal development permit for the project.
If the commission agrees to permit the project, there would most likely be some sort of agreement that the lighthouse would be removed from the site if the structure if threatened by further erosion.
On Thursday, Dec. 28, about 20 protesters showed up, with some holding signs on Edwards Street while a small handful of protesters climbed atop the lighthouse.
“They’re up there because they are trying to protect the village,” said Sarah Lindgren-Akana, referring to the Tsurai village, a burial ground located below the bluff on which the lighthouse sits.
Lindgren, secretary for the Tsurai Ancestral Society, said the lighthouse adds to the erosion problem on the bluff and should be moved elsewhere.
“I think the lighthouse should be saved, but in a different location,” Lindgren said.
The Tsurai site was one of the largest Yurok villages before the start of the California Gold Rush.
“For Yuroks, the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse is a monument to this tragic era. We feel like it is no different than the statues created to honor Confederate soldiers in the South,” said Frankie Myers, the Yurok Tribal Heritage preservation officer, in a press release (see page A3) issued last month stating the tribe’s opposition of the project. “What we’re asking is for the city and Civic Club to give the same respect to our ancestors as they give to the families of the 238 people who were buried at sea.”
Others protesting the lighthouse held up signs stating “Native rights,” “Attack one village is an attack on all,” “Relocate the lighthouse” and “Remove from Tsurai.” A banner hung on the lighthouse included the hash tag #allgravesmatter.
Fleschner said she would like to protect both the village and the lighthouse, and said that both goals can be accomplished. Engineers, she said, have said that the move will put the lighthouse on more stable ground and prevent from tumbling down into the village.