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Dune riders Under Scrutiny

Conflicts between off-highway vehicle drivers and pedestrians seem to be perennial topics in Humboldt County. This month two long-simmering conflicts are perking into the public eye.

On the remote shores of the King Range National Conservation Area, OHVs may soon be barred from a three-mile section of beach near Shelter Cove. This is the last section of the Lost Coast open to motorized vehicles, and the Bureau of Land Management recently decided to close it.

"People are really coming there to the Lost Coast to hike and backpack," said Linda Roush, BLM regional manager. "It's the dominant use. And secondly we think it's important to manage the entire west slope of the King Range as non-motorized wilderness."

But OHV advocates strongly oppose the move, and they'll probably show up in substantial numbers at a Coastal Commission hearing on the issue Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Eureka Inn.

"Not everybody can throw 40 or 50 pounds on their back and go backpacking," said Jim Boyett of Fortuna, a member of the Lost Coast 4x4s. "There are old people that like to drive out on the beach too, and there's only three miles left there. It was formerly 26 miles."

At the north end of Humboldt Bay's Samoa Peninsula, the Humboldt Buggy and ATV Association has been at odds for years with folks who want to protect sensitive dune habitat and enjoy a walk in the dunes without the roar of vehicle motors.

Under the county's beach and dunes ordinance, the buggy club has been barred from off-roading on 150 acres of its own land. Over the last year, the club has been slapped with $4,500 in fines by the county for allowing riders on the dunes and adjacent beaches.

Now the club is seeking to amend the county zoning to allow off-road vehicle use in the contested area. The club submitted an application for a General Plan Amendment in May, but has since held up the petition in order to present more data.

Unlike most zoning matters, plan amendments go first to the Board of Supervisors, which can decide to reject them or accept them for consideration by the Planning Department and Planning Commission. One source familiar with county issues suggested the club may wait until after the November election to put the controversial petition before the board.

Members of the Humboldt Coastal Coalition aren't waiting. In a May 29 letter to the board the group urged the supervisors to reject the petition. "If you legalize the buggy club's violations of law, you will send a powerful message to other dunes property owners: `We can make our own law by riding where we choose.'"

Officers of the buggy club could not be reached for comment.

reported by Jim Hight

Replacing Sampson

The former president of Antelope Valley College in Lancaster is expected to be appointed as College of the Redwoods' interim president and superintendent Monday, Sept. 14.

Allan Kurki was tentatively selected last month to replace former CR President Cedric Sampson through May while a permanent replacement is sought.

The Redwoods Community College District Board of Trustees will consider ratifying that appointment at its noon meeting on the Del Norte County campus in Crescent City.

Sampson left CR last month after 10 years to take the position of chancellor for the South Orange County Community College District in Mission Viejo. The search for his permanent replacement begins this month and is expected to take one year.

It will be the third time Kurki has taken an interim job with CR. In the 1996-97 school year he was the interim vice president for academic affairs and the following year worked as the interim vice president for management information.

In his new position he will be paid $91,874.

Born and raised in Finland, Kurki holds his undergraduate degree in aeronautical maintenance engineering, has three master's degrees in business and economics, industrial engineering and liberal arts and has a doctorate in higher education administration.

He has written several books on World War II history and has served on numerous boards, including the Lancaster Community Shelter and the Antelope Valley Cultural Foundation.

Wal-Mart book hot item

Word went out in the Times-Standard on a recent Saturday morning that J.J. Perry's Books and Video in Eureka was selling at cost copies of a book outlining how Wal-Mart "is destroying America." Later that day, within an hour of opening, the store had sold every copy on its shelves.

"We had 22 in stock and they sold out in the first hour. That was very exciting as far as I was concerned," said owner J.J. Perry.

Another 40 or so copies of the book "How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America And What You Can Do About It" by Bill Quinn were expected to arrive this week.

The popularity of the book is evidence, says Perry, of how many people feel about the giant retailer's plans to build a 130,000-square-foot store on the Eureka waterfront.

"I don't understand why our city and county government is willing to do this," he said. "I have found no one wanting to see this."

Contrary to what Wal-Mart officials say that their giant discount chain attracts retailers and consumers to an area rather than destroying existing stores the book published by a San Francisco Bay area press maintains that most communities suffer a net loss after Wal-Mart opens. For every job Wal-Mart creates, the book says, 1.5 jobs that existed are lost in many communities and the overall rate of pay goes down because of the low wages Wal-Mart offers.

Perry called the book, which he's selling for $5.88 plus tax, "shocking worse than I imagined."

Wal-Mart officials expect to employ 250 people, the majority of which would be full time, they say.

For a decade Wal-Mart has been eyeing this area, seriously considering locating at the Indianola Cutoff north of Eureka. The California Department of Transportation and merchants worked to block that idea.

The latest proposal is to build the store on Union Pacific Railroad land between Broadway and Washington Avenue. The 30-acre parcel is in the state coastal zone and will require extensive permits.

Some consumers who have traveled to Crescent City in the past to shop at Wal-Mart there are likely to be excited about the prospect of the store in their backyard. But, says Perry, "anything you can find at Wal-Mart you can find for sale right now in this community within 10 percent or less of the price you can buy it at Wal-Mart."

Home sales, economy up

Humboldt County home sales rose sharply in July, contributing significantly to an improvement in overall economic activity for the month, statistics compiled by Humboldt State University show.

According to data provided by the Humboldt County Board of Realtors, 125 homes were sold in July 1998, the largest monthly total since the HSU School of Business and Economics began tracking the Humboldt County economy in January 1994.

The median home price in July was $120,000 and the 30-year mortgage rate was 7.15 percent on average as of late August.

But the average and median price of homes sold during the month were down slightly from the same time the previous year.

The Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County, released monthly during the academic year, also shows a 13 percent dropoff in county lumber production and payroll (likely a result of falling lumber prices) and slightly lower than normal hotel/motel occupancy rates.

"July is usually a peak month for economic activity in Humboldt County lumber production and payroll usually peaks in July, retails sales are generally strong in July, and hotel/motel occupancy rates (an indicator of tourism) are at or near their annual peak," the Index states. "The year-on-year comparison ... indicates slow but steady growth."

Railroad relief nearer

Two more audits are needed on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad to meet the demands of state and federal emergency relief agencies that are holding up some $10 million in disaster relief money owed the beleagured line for weather repairs.

Completed audits showed poor bookkeeping but did not reveal any wrongdoing on the part of the North Coast Railroad Authority, which runs the line between Eureka and Marin County.

The line is also awaiting $2 million in state funds approved by the Legislature to pay bills, improve the accounting system and hire staff.

Storm relief money isn't expected to be made available until October, about the same time rain is likely to begin falling. Officials have said if repairs aren't made on the heavily damaged track in the Eel River Canyon, problems could become worse and lead to damage to the environment.

Tuna a-plenty

Signs leading into Woodley Island Marina in Eureka alert motorists that fishermen have albacore for sale, and lots of it. Half a dozen fishermen are selling the frozen fresh fish to the public directly off the boats for $1.25 a pound. That's because of the downward swing in the Asian economy.

As a result Korean and Taiwanese fleets ceased supplying tuna for the Japanese sashimi trade and opted for selling their fish to big canneries like Starkist and Bumblebee, undercutting the American market.

It's estimated the U.S. fleet has about 7,000 tons of fish ready to sell.


Sept. 10, 1998 Table of Contents

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