The day the lighthouse moved

The Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse swings away over Edwards Street/ Photo by Jack Durham | Union

Jack Durham
Mad River Union

TRINIDAD – The Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, which stood on a bluff overlooking Trinidad Bay since 1949, now sits at the entrance to the parking lot at the harbor.

The monument will sit there until the Trinidad Rancheria, Yurok Tribe and Trinidad Civic Club find a permanent location for the lighthouse and its two-ton brass bell and obtain permits for the project. That process may take place this year. Among the options that have been discussed is keeping the lighthouse where it now sits, but on an elevated foundation.

The elevation downgrade began last winter when torrential rains soaked the seaside bluff on Edwards Street, causing part of the hillside to slump. The bluff failure was close enough to the lighthouse that a geologist warned that if the monument was not moved it could topple down the hill this winter.

Following the advice of a geologist, the Trinidad Civic Club, which owns the lighthouse and the property it sits on, decided to move the 14-foot by 14-foot structure about 22 feet east. Before work began on a new concrete slab, a cultural monitor from the Trinidad Rancheria was brought in to make sure the foundation was not built atop any graves or cultural relics. None were found.

With an emergency permit issued by the city, the civic club had the new foundation poured and prepared to bring in a heavy crane to move the lighthouse.

But then there were protests which turned into an occupation. Members of the Tsurai Ancestral Society and supporters held vigils at the lighthouse and demanded that the structure be moved to an entirely different location, somewhere away from the Tsurai Village, a burial site located down the hill from the lighthouse.

Protesters called the lighthouse a symbol of Humboldt’s genocidal past, said it degraded nearby graves and claimed that the lighthouse would further erode the bluff, thereby endangering the Tsurai Village.

The rancheria, Yurok Tribe and the civic club held multiple meetings and ultimately signed an agreement that the lighthouse would be moved down to the harbor property, which is owned by the rancheria.

That move took place Wednesday, Jan. 10 under a gray, drizzly sky. A crew from Dura Crane, out of the town of Anderson, and Wahlund Construction of Eureka, closed down Edwards Street in front of the lighthouse and spent hours setting up as a crowd gathered around to watch.

At about 11:30 a.m. the giant brass bell and the frame that holds it were lifted into the sky and then lowered on to a flatbed trailer. Shortly after noon, it was time to raise the lighthouse.

There was some speculation among those who were watching that perhaps things could go sideways, being that the 40,000-pound lighthouse is constructed out of un-reinforced concrete. Might it crumble?

The lighthouse slowly rose from its foundation, was gently swung westward towards another flatbed trailer, and then was carefully lowered and secured. The move went off without a hitch.

There were no protests during the move; just a few hoots and hollers as the lighthouse dangled in the sky above Edwards Street.

For some residents, it was a sad day. The lighthouse was a popular tourist magnet. The lighthouse site also contains a memorial wall with the names of townsfolk who have died, as well as a plaque with the names of those who were lost at sea.

The new temporary location of the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse at the entrance to the parking lot at the harbor. The property is owned by the Trinidad Rancheria. The next step is to determine a permanent location and obtain permits. However, it is possible that this is the permanent location, although that remains to be determined.

But for some, the lighthouse’s removal is long overdue.

Sarah Lindgren-Akana, a member of the Tsurai Ancestral Society and a descendant of the original inhabitants of the Tsurai Village, wrote on Facebook that “this was a win of the people, in the purest sense.”

“Today marked a new day for Native people. It may have seemed like a small win, to move a memorial lighthouse, until you look a little closer,” Lindgren-Akana wrote. “This was a day I wish Grandpa [Axel Lindgren II] could have seen. I wonder how he would have written about this monumental occasion? Would he have started out by saying that the sleepy little seaside town of Trinidad was awaken on December 27th, 2017 to the collective voices of Tsurai people and their supporters? Would he say Trinidad will forever remember their 12 day stand-off and occupation of the Memorial Lighthouse in an effort to push back against a system design to silence their voices? Or would he simply say that this was a win that no political organization can claim. Because this was a win of the people, in the purest sense. And now that our voices are strong, and fresh from victory, we must use our energy to help facilitate other changes within our community. We must continue to look forward and speak the truth about more issues that we face. Because the truth is all we have. Whatever he would have said, I hope he was proud. Thank you, Grandpa, for fighting alone all those years and still managing to leave us a village to look after.”


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