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August 15, 2002

Humboldt gets its 15 minutes

PL expands gravel mining

Fire update

Restoring wetlands

'Big Box' meeting

Eel River Sawmills sold?

Roll 'em

A half-pipe in Petrolia?



Humboldt gets its 15 minutes

by BOB DORAN

HUMBOLDT COUNTY GARNERED A MAJOR SPREAD IN the August edition of Sunset, the Magazine of Western Living. To be precise, Humboldt Bay was featured on four pages in the magazine's travel and recreation section.

"It's a great thing," said Don Leonard, executive director of the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Sunset is a great magazine to be in because it sits on coffee tables. People keep it."

According to Leonard, the article was the direct result of courting from the visitors bureau. "We've been after them to do a story about our area for some time," he said, crediting marketing director Tony Smithers for making the connection with Sunset staffers. "We reach out to a number of writers saying, `Here's something new,' or `You haven't written about us lately. Let us host you.' In the case of Sunset, they don't accept `comps,' so we just provided leg work and the expertise to show them around."

According to Smithers, a Sunset photographer, Paul Bousquet, came for three days over a year ago. Writer Lora Finnegan was here in April.

"We showed her the whole county from Fern Canyon to Shelter Cove," said Leonard. "She chose to write about the bay."

Finnegan's story, "California's forgotten waterway," describes Humboldt Bay as "a natural waterfront playground." It begins with a shot of a boat with red sails departing from Woodley Island. Jay Dottle, of Hum-Boats, takes the author on a ride around the bay pointing out the sights including harbor seals, egrets and yellow-slickered oystermen hauling in shellfish. "Those oysters are a sign of a clean bay," he explains.

A quick exploration of "historic Eureka" and its "most vibrant neighborhood," Old Town, includes stops at the Morris Graves and Clarke museums. It ends with the author lolling on a bench in Gazebo Plaza where "the steam from (her) latte rises into the cooling air as a late-afternoon fog rolls in off the water."

Following the article is a one-page "Humboldt travel planner" with advice on outdoor activities including the Arcata Marsh, Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the Samoa Dunes Recreation Area and Hum-Boats. An "Around town" section suggests visits to museums and to the Arcata Plaza for the farmer's market and the North Country Fair.

The dining section mentions mostly Eureka restaurants: Avalon, Hurricane Kate's and Restaurant 301 at the Hotel Carter are recommended along with the ever popular tourist stop, the Samoa Cookhouse.

Hotel Carter gets a second mention in the lodging section along with the Carter House Inn across the street, the Cornelius Daly Inn and the Eureka Inn which "once hosted Sir Winston Churchill."

At the top of the page is a very valuable plug, the visitor bureau's 800 number and web address: www.redwoodvisitor.org. Leonard emphasized the fact that editorial content is better than advertising. "We do buy ads in Sunset magazine, but we buy small ones because they're expensive. A full page in the magazine costs $62,000. When you see four pages of data about us, if we had bought it we would have paid a quarter million bucks."

The immediate result? About four dozen people called the bureau last week, made reference to the Sunset piece and asked for a visitor's guide. Even better, 281 e-mails came in from people who checked the Web site and requested a guide.

The added interest in the area couldn't come at a better time. Reports from around the country indicate that the travel business is on a downturn nationally in the wake of 9-11.

"The good news is that those stories are about all of our key metropolitan tourism sites: Los Angeles and San Francisco, Chicago, New York, etc.," said Leonard.

"People are not flying as much. Instead they're staying closer to home and going to rural destinations. We've had almost double the number of telephone inquiries about Humboldt County this last year compared to any time in the previous 10 years. We're asking ourselves whether the increased interest will translate into more visitors."

"Interest" is one thing, actual results are a bit harder to determine. The solid data comes from transient occupancy tax income also known as the "bed tax," which shows how many people stayed in motels. But there's a time lag in getting the information. At the end of August, the bureau will know how many people stayed in motels in April, May and June. Of course that does not count other visitors: those who stayed in parks or as guests in private homes.

"The other things we look at are how many people are counted at visitors centers," said Leonard, "places like the state and national parks, the Eureka Chamber of Commerce or the Welcome Center in Arcata. The Arcata Center says they're up about 15 percent in July, Eureka has similar numbers."

J Warren Hockaday, director of the Eureka Chamber, concurs, reporting 10 percent more visitors to chamber offices compared to last July. The chamber has also noted a marked increase in inquiries since the Sunset piece. Hockaday attributes the increased interest to a worried populace. In troubled times like these he said, "areas like ours are soothing to the national psyche."


PL expands gravel mining

The Pacific Lumber Co. plans to expand its gravel mining operations in the Greenwood Heights area of the Freshwater basin northeast of Eureka.

Previously the company had only been extracting gravel from the site -- a large rock face on the company's land -- for paving logging roads. It now wants to blast the rock face twice every year for periods up to four weeks.

The expanded operations would almost double truck traffic down Freshwater Road -- not only during blasting, but year-round as rocks are hauled to the Eureka waterfront, where it would be stored until contracts are reached.

The rock would be used for a variety of purposes, including boulders for jetties and rip-rap.

Freshwater residents expressed alarm about the expanded operations.

"We're seeing a lot of dump trucks going by already, both PL and private contractors," said area resident Jack Quirey. "This doesn't do much for our quality of life."

According to a count done by residents, 80 to 100 logging trucks come down Freshwater Road every day already. The planned development could increase truck traffic by seven round-trips per hour per day between the 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. It amounts to 126 more truck trips going up and down the road daily.

"The noise level of the logging trucks going by already makes talking on the phone or to customers difficult," wrote Irene E. Lewis, who owns a business located in the old Freshwater Store, in a letter opposing the expansion of mining. "To add on to that the noise of 140 more trucks a day is inconceivable to me."

The company is proposing to mitigate the increased noise by adding soundproof siding to residents' houses -- a prospect residents say doesn't quite cut it.

"People move to the country for a different kind of lifestyle, to get away from it all. They want to spend some time outside in their yards," said Darrel Story, another Freshwater resident. "It would change the character of this valley to have that much commercial traffic added on."

Other concerns raised by community members are the safety of schoolchildren who travel to and from school during the hours trucks would be operating, and the effect that a larger surface mine would have on water quality in an already damaged watershed.

The Freshwater area is already plagued by winter flooding that many residents believe has been exacerbated by upstream logging by Pacific Lumber.

"If this adds to (erosion) in any way, it's intolerable," said Al Cook of the Freshwater Working Group.

According to Pacific Lumber's Environmental Impact Report, the mining would have a negligible effect on the watershed. As part of the project, a sediment catch-pool will be installed to intercept excess surface run-off.

A public hearing on the plan will be held Sept. 5 in the Board of Supervisors chambers in the Court House in Eureka.


Fire update

As of Tuesday, a fire that had burned 28,700 acres from the Oregon border south to near Gasquet was 90 percent contained with full containment expected by Thursday morning.

According to Terry Knupp of the U.S. Forest Service, it has cost $9.2 million to fight the blaze, which is part of a much bigger conflagration known as the Biscuit Fire.

So far, the cost of fighting the 380,000-acre Biscuit Fire, burning mostly in Oregon, is over $52 million. It is the biggest fire in Oregon's history and the biggest blaze in the country at the moment.

Efforts are underway in California to determine the impact of the fire on the North Fork of the Smith River, a national recreation area prized for its remoteness and whitewater rafting, as well as on the communities of Gasquet and Hiouchi. The Forest Service is attempting to prevent long-term soil erosion from occurring on areas with steep slopes. The amount of timber lost in the Zone 2 fire, as the California part of the Biscuit blaze is called, won't be known for at least a week.

About 6,400 firefighters and associated personnel are battling the fire. They come from areas as far away as Australia and New Zealand. About 96 percent of the fire is burning in the rugged Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area, known for its unusual vegetation, including a species of carnivorous plant.

While the California fire was close to containment early in the week, low humidity and high winds continued to hamper efforts to contain the fires in Oregon. On Monday fire crews were pulled back from an area on the northwestern part of the fire because of dangerous weather conditions.

The Biscuit Fire started July 13, a result of lighting strikes in the Kalmiopsis. On Aug. 7, the Florence and Sour Biscuit fires merged. The Biscuit Fire was originally named the Florence Fire, but confusion about the fire's location led Forest Service officials to rename it. The confusion resulted when people thought the Florence fire was located near Florence, Ore., a coastal community 100 miles to the northwest of the fire. The fire was actually named for a small creek in the Siskiyou National Forest.


Restoring wetlands

The Humboldt Botanical Gardens will get $100,000 from the California Coastal Conservancy to restore a degraded riparian wetland and install public pathways and viewpoints.

The 44-acre Humboldt Botanical Gardens is a planned development of 44.5 acres adjacent to the College of the Redwoods property four miles south of Eureka. The gardens will highlight native and exotic plants found in Humboldt County.


'Big Box' meeting

The Eureka City Planning Commission will hold a workshop Wednesday, Aug. 21, to discuss a "major commercial development review ordinance," also known as "a big box" ordinance.

The ordinance, as proposed, would provide detailed information to ensure that future land uses are suitable to the demand and needs of Eureka residents.

The proposed ordinance would apply to commercial development projects that alter 10 acres or more of land; produce 1,000 or more car trips per day; or require the construction of facilities that are 40,000 square feet in size or bigger.

The workshop will take place at 5:30 p.m. at Eureka City Hall, room 207.


Eel River Sawmills sold?

Eel River Sawmills may have a new owner.

The company has reportedly come to an agreement, pending a shareholder vote in September, to sell its assets and the assets of Fairhaven Power Co. to Donald E. Nolan Sr., owner/operator of Don Nolan Trucking, a Fortuna outfit.

According to the Humboldt Beacon, a letter explaining the pending sale was recently distributed to workers.

Eel River officials could not be reached to confirm the deal or to provide details. However, sources said the asking price was $18 million: $3 million for the mill and $15 million for the power plant.

The pending sale comes after an offer by the Eel River Acquisition Corp., a Nevada-based corporation, fell through after several deadlines were missed.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit is pending to turn over ownership of the company to its employees, as Mel McLean, the late owner of Eel River Sawmills, is thought to have wished.

"We'll see how this plays out; we still believe (employee ownership) is in the interests of the community and the employees," said Bill Bertain, a Eureka lawyer who is representing a group of current and former workers who want to gain ownership of the company.


Roll `em

Escape in Time, produced by Hagg's of Just Add Water Productions, is about a janitor at Humboldt State University who feels a strange affinity with a prisoner who escaped from Alcatraz on June 12, 1962 -- the day he was born.

The film will be directed by Gulliver Parascandolo, of North Carolina, with River Hagg, Ron's son, as cinematographer. It will star local actors Garry Summers as the lead, Bob Wells, Paul Spencer and Denise Ryles.

"It's incredible to be attached to all this young talent: young talent that's driven," said Hagg.

Locals interested in positions as crew, wranglers or drivers can contact Hagg at 825-0647 or ronhagg@hotmail.com

On another film matter, Barbara Bryan of the Humboldt County Film Commission, said Universal Studios is scouting locations in Humboldt for two other features. They're are looking for a 1930s-era ranch and ranch house -- a big one preferably. If you've got one send pictures to the commission at 1034 2nd St., Eureka, or call 444-6633.


A half-pipe in Petrolia?

It's 6-feet high, 16-feet wide, with a 6-foot deck on one side and a 4-foot deck on the other. It's the biggest and arguably the best half-pipe in Humboldt County, but it's not in Arcata, Eureka or McKinleyville or even Fortuna: It's the Mattole Half Pipe in Petrolia.

"I like it," said Nick Grant, 11, a Petrolia resident who skates the ramp regularly. "I've skated a ramp in Utah and in Escondido (Calif.); this one's better." He added that the reason it was better was that the ramp is covered with plastic/wood aggregate sheeting called the 80 percent plastic Skatelite, which doesn't give splinters or skin burns as readily as other materials.

On Saturday, Aug. 31, the Mattole Sk8 Club will hold its annual Benefit Half-Pipe Competition at the ramp, built last year. The purpose of the competition is to raise money to cover the $2,000-per-year insurance needed to keep the ramp in operation.

The competition will feature prizes from Satori Movement, an Arcata-based skateboard company. There will also be live music by the Rythmatix and 2-1/2 White Guys.

The ramp was built last year after three days of communal labor, mostly by community members who didn't even skate.

"I was amazed at how many people just showed up with cordless drills and Skil saws," said Dave Grant, Nick's dad and founder and head of the Mattole Sk8 Club (and a skateboarder himself).

The ramp cost about $4,000 in materials to build, most of which was provided by grants written by Beverly Haywood, co-founder of the Sk8 Club.

"Money just kind of came to us," Grant said.


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