Education

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Communication Failure Leaves School in Lurch Following Shooting

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 3:46 PM

cover-badge_.jpg
A shooting in Southern Humboldt last week has left a school district and the sheriff’s office both looking for better lines of communication.

The shooting occurred in Redway shortly before 2 p.m. on Dec. 13, and the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene to a report of a gunshot victim lying along Whitmore Avenue (the victim survived). By the time they arrived, the suspects had fled the scene in a gray pickup truck. A search of the area came up empty.

The problem is that Redway Elementary School, just a few blocks away, didn’t receive word of the shooting until students were boarding school buses to head home and alarmed parents were calling the office. The apparent lack of communication was a concern for district parents, some of whom called the school in the ensuing hours to criticize administrators for not putting the campus on lockdown or doing more to protect children.

The issue bubbled up so quickly that Southern Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Catherine Scott penned a letter the following day to all district parents and guardians, offering a timeline detailing the afternoon from the school’s perspective. The timeline notes that school officials were never contacted by the Sheriff’s Office, despite trying diligently to get more information after learning of the shooting nearby. It would be more than an hour — filled with decisions about whether to allow students to walk home, whether to cancel basketball practice, whether to lockdown the afterschool program and whether to allow junior high and high school students to unload from their buses in Redway — before a district official finally got someone from the Sheriff’s Office on the phone.

Reached a few days after the incident, Scott said she was working on setting up a meeting with the sheriff or the undersheriff to discuss the district’s frustrations. She said the incident is an example of a larger problem but underscores the need for better communication.

“It’s really just a symptom of the inadequate services the sheriff is able to offer Southern Humboldt and that’s an ongoing issue,” she said. “I have a great deal of respect and admiration for law enforcement and I’m not trying to criticize them, but I have a responsibility to make sure my schools are safe. So if we need to improve communication, we need to improve communication.”

Scott made clear she wants to hear about any violent incident near one of her campuses that could pose a threat to student safety, and quickly. “I would rather be safe than sorry. Always,” she said.

Reached on Monday, Sheriff Mike Downey agreed that communication could have and should have been better. But Downey said dispatchers did try to call the school office numerous times within 20 or so minutes of the shooting, but repeatedly got a busy signal. Further, he said the fact that deputies were confident the suspects had fled the area in a vehicle meant a more robust school response wasn’t necessary.

“If we feel someone’s in danger, or a school district especially, we’ll go in there and tell them they need to lock down,” he said. “But in this case, based on the information we had, there was no danger to the school at that point.”

Moving forward, Downey said his department we’ll look at putting together a master list of points of contact for each school in Humboldt County so if a critical incident occurs nearby, dispatchers aren’t forced to simply call a school’s main office, which are often understaffed and receive high call volumes at certain times of the day.

See the full text of Scott’s letter by clicking here.
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Saturday, December 17, 2016

UPDATED: One Time at Band Camp

Posted By on Sat, Dec 17, 2016 at 2:05 PM

None of this for a while. - FILE
  • FILE
  • None of this for a while.

UPDATE:
The Humboldt State Lumberjack's only learned the allegations that led to the band's suspension through a university press release, according to a statement issued Friday.

The Lumberjacks claim university "representatives" have failed to respond to requests from band leadership for details regarding the allegations facing the band, which include boozing it up, graffiti and "inappropriate printed materials and photographs" in the on-campus band room.

"The band is growing increasingly frustrated with the university's lack of official communication," the Lumberjacks say in the statement. See the full release copied below.

PREVIOUSLY:
Cue a sad trombone sound. The rollicking, helmeted Marching Lumberjacks have been benched. Humboldt State University sent out notice that it's investigating policy violations regarding booze, graffiti and "inappropriate printed materials and photographs" at the band's on-campus digs. For now, the band kids are on suspension. HSU reps had no further comment beyond the statement below.

From Humboldt State University:

Humboldt State University has placed the Marching Lumberjacks Band on suspension while it investigates possible violations of University policies. The investigation may extend well into the spring semester.

During the suspension, the band will not be allowed to represent the University locally or outside the region, and it will not have access to campus services that are available for recognized student organizations.

The suspension follows the discovery in the band’s on-campus space of inappropriate printed materials and photographs, graffiti, open containers of alcohol, and numerous safety and building code violations. The space has been locked and secured, and the University has begun the process of returning personal belongings to club members.

In the California State University system, if student organizations or individual students are found responsible for policy violations, they face disciplinary action ranging from a warning to expulsion. In order to protect the rights and privacy of both students and employees, the University will only be able to provide general information on the investigation.
From the band:

The Marching Lumberjacks are aware of the press release from Humboldt State University
on December 14, 2016, regarding our organization’s suspension.
To date, University representatives have not responded to requests from the band’s student
leadership for details regarding the specifics of the alleged violations.
The band is growing increasingly frustrated with the University’s lack of official
communication.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

DA: No Evidence Juveniles Had Means to Pull Off Bomb Plot

Posted By on Wed, Nov 16, 2016 at 4:50 PM

da.png
The Humboldt County District Attorney’s office has decided not to pursue criminal charges against two 15-year-olds accused of plotting the bombing of a Fortuna High School assembly.

“To date, the investigation has yielded no evidence that either juvenile had the means to create an item that could be a hazard — one individual possessed approximately 2 grams ([less than] .1 ounces) of sulfur, a readily available legal product with a variety of uses,” a press release from the office states. “Further, there is insufficient evidence to indicate the two juveniles conspired to commit an attack.”

Both findings are in direct conflict with statements from Fortuna Police Chief Bill Dobberstein on Nov. 11, the day after police thwarted the alleged plot. The chief told the Journal and other media outlets that one of the juveniles was found to be in possession of “several components for making some kind of toxic chemical gas explosion devices” but were missing a “key ingredient” that police believed was stashed somewhere on campus. Dobberstein said it appeared the students were planning on making multiple explosive devices with a substance akin to homemade mustard gas, or sulfur mustard, to detonate them at an all-school assembly that day.

Further, Dobberstein said it appeared the students had been planning a “mass casualty event” for some time and targeting “when there was going to be a large gathering of students and teachers in one place.”

The Fortuna Police Department also issued a press release this afternoon, stating that it has been made aware of the DA’s Office’s decision and will continue to follow up on any new leads in the case.

See past Journal coverage of the incident here, and find the press releases from the DA’s Office and Fortuna PD copied below.

From Fortuna PD:
Fortuna High School Threats case update
The Fortuna Police Department has been made aware that the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office will not be bringing charges at this time against the two 15 year-old boys arrested on November 10, 2016 at Fortuna High School.
The Fortuna Police Department has worked tirelessly over the last 6 days investigating this case with the assistance of the Federal Bureau of investigation. We have followed every lead and conducted multiple searches in regards to this case. The safety of the students and citizens of Fortuna never wavered and was a paramount concern during this investigation.
Although no charges will be filed at this time, the Fortuna Police Department will continue to follow up on any new information related to this case.


From the DA's Office:
DA Perspective on Potential Threat to Public Safety at Fortuna High
Office of the District Attorney - Maggie Fleming, District Attorney
NEW RELEASE
November 16, 2016
This press release provides current information from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s perspective on the potential threat to public safety at Fortuna High School last Thursday.
Based on statements by students, Fortuna High School staff and the Fortuna Police Department responded immediately to a potential threat and took appropriate action. The ensuing investigation resulted in the FBI and Fortuna Police Department serving search warrants on the homes and computer devices of the two juveniles suspected of plotting an attack at an assembly. To date the investigation has yielded no evidence that either juvenile had the means to create an item that could be a health hazard – one individual possessed approximately 2 grams ([less than] 0.1 ounces) of sulfur, a readily available legal product with a variety of uses. Further, there is insufficient evidence to indicate the two juveniles conspired to commit an attack.
The FBI and Fortuna Police Department continue to investigate the case, but at this point the evidence does not support filing of state criminal charges against the two individuals involved.


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Saturday, November 12, 2016

UPDATED: Police Chief: Fortuna High School Narrowly Escaped 'Terrible Tragedy'

Posted By on Sat, Nov 12, 2016 at 7:23 PM

fortuna-police-department.jpg
UPDATE:
The Fortuna Police Department sent out a press release this evening stating that it has investigated additional reports of violent social media threats since Thursday and found them not to be credible.

Since officials thwarted two students’ alleged plans to set off numerous homemade chemical bombs during an all-school assembly Thursday, FPD has been working with the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office on the case, according to a press release. Additionally, there will be a “strong law enforcement presence” at the school Monday as a precaution and to help “allay any fears that students, staff and parents may have following Thursday’s arrests.

See the full press release copied at the bottom of this post.

PREVIOUSLY:
According to Police Chief Bill Dobberstein, three short hours is all that stood between Fortuna High School and tragedy.

Fortuna police announced last night that they had arrested two male 15-year-old students at the school who had been planning a “mass casualty event” to take place during an all-school rally on campus yesterday afternoon.

“It could have been a terrible tragedy if that rally would have taken place,” Dobberstein told the Journal this morning. “The whole school was going to be there for this thing.”

The police chief said word of the plot — which the suspects had been planning for some time — came to school administrators’ attention around noon yesterday. Dobberstein said one of the suspects in the case had apparently texted a friend, telling him or her to “basically stay out of the gym during the rally.” The friend then told another student, who told another student, who told his or her mother, who called another mother who ultimately called the school and made them aware of the warning, according to Dobberstein.

Fortuna High School Principal Clinton Duey was then able to trace the origins of the warning back to one of the suspects, and brought him into his office. Duey was able to get the other suspect's name, Dobberstein said, and brought him into the office as well, holding both suspects there while he called police.

Dobberstein said his department was notified of the situation at about 1:15 p.m. and responded immediately to the school. “It was literally about an hour before the school was scheduled to go to the rally,” Dobberstein said.

The chief said officers searched the students and, in one of their backpacks, found “several components for making some kind of toxic chemical gas explosion devices.” The students were missing a “key ingredient,” Dobberstein said, but police believe they had the missing chemical stashed somewhere on campus, based on witness statements and messages found on the suspects’ phones, tablets or computers. It appears the suspects were planning on making multiple explosive devices with a substance akin to homemade mustard gas, or sulfur mustard, a chemical agent that causes severe burning of the skin, eyes and respiratory system.

“Absolutely more than one,” the chief said. “They had enough material to definitely make more than one.”

Dobberstein said investigators will be serving search warrants today, including one to gain access to “electronic messaging devices” used by the suspects. But the chief said that based on what police have accessed thus far, it appears the suspects may have been planning a mass casualty event for some time and targeting “when there was going to be a large gathering of students and teachers in one place.”

So far, police don’t have any reason to believe anyone else was involved in the plot, Dobberstein said, but can’t rule out the possibility. Both suspects were arrested yesterday and booked into juvenile hall.

As to a motive for the thwarted attack, Dobberstein said many have been “thrown around, but we couldn’t say with certainty what the motive was at all.” The chief said he doesn’t believe either of the suspects had a lot of prior police contact, but otherwise wouldn’t comment on the boys. He also said it doesn't appear either of the suspects had access to other weapons.

Fortuna High School administrators didn't immediately respond to messages this morning.

The case remains under investigation by the Fortuna Police and the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office, and police ask anyone with information to contact the police department at 725-7550.

Dobberstein commended the response of students and parents who relayed information, and of administrators who quickly identified and detained the suspects.

See the full press release from FPD copied below:

Fortuna Police Investigate threat to Fortuna High School

On November 10, 2016 at about 1:15 PM the Fortuna Police Department responded to the Fortuna High School for a report of a threat to student safety.

Officers contacted two 15 year-old students that had been detained by high school staff. Officers learned the two juveniles were communicating with each other, planning a mass casualty event that was to take place at a rally at FUHS later in the afternoon. Officers located some components for making an explosive device, however incomplete, in the possession of one of the juveniles. Evidence and items located on the juveniles indicated the threat was very serious in nature.

The two juveniles were taken into police custody and later transported to Juvenile Hall. The Fortuna Police Department is working this investigation with investigators from the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office. This is a very active investigation with multiple locations being searched.

The Fortuna Police Department asks the public for any information and assistance in this case. Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Fortuna Police Department at (707) 725-7550.

From FPD Saturday:

Fortuna High School threats case update

The Fortuna Police Department is continuing our investigation on the threats reported to us on Thursday afternoon, involving two students who reportedly had the intention to commit an act, or acts of mass violence at Fortuna High School’s Pep Rally, scheduled for that afternoon.

Both individuals were arrested, and found to have items in their possession which lent credibility to those threats.

We have also become aware of further allegations of planned violence on social media by other individuals. These allegations and reports are being taken very seriously and have been followed up by investigating officers. These allegations have been found to not be credible.

However, our department continues to work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the US Attorney’s office on this investigation.

As an added precaution, there will be a strong law enforcement presence at the High School on Monday to help allay any fears that students, staff and parents may have following Thursday’s arrests.

As more information becomes available to us as result of this investigation, we will provide pertinent facts to help dispel any unfounded rumors being circulated on social media and by other means.

We ask that citizens call the department, at 725-7550, with any information that they may have regarding Thursday’s incident, or any rumors regarding any threats to students or other citizens.


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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

'Not the Norm': HSU Students, Faculty Speak out on Racism

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Diego Morales speaks out at the university senate meeting discussing marginalization at Eureka High School.

The words that ignited anger and displeasure among students and staff at Humboldt State University came from their president. “Racism is not the norm on our campus,” Lisa Rossbacher wrote in an email two weeks ago concerning race issues on campus. But according to students, HSU is anything but the norm.

The University Senate held its bi-weekly meeting Tuesday and saw the usually sparse crowd replaced with an energetic group of students and staff ready to get their two cents in with Rossbacher.

The Goodwin Forum didn’t have an empty seat and floor space was filled with student backpacks as a tense audience crowded the room to capacity before the meeting could start. But from the moment it was announced Rossbacher wouldn’t be in attendance, it drew displeasure from the crowd.

Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday. - JAVIER ROJAS
  • Javier Rojas
  • Students and staff filled the Goodwin Forum for the Humboldt State University Senate on Thursday.

A student Facebook group #POCNormHSU, which has drawn more than 500 likes since it opened last week, organized the large turnout and has been a platform for students of color to share stories of racism they have faced attending HSU and living in Humboldt County.

The senate allowed an open space for students and staff to talk and each were given three minutes to say whatever they pleased. Ethnic studies professor Maria Corral-Ribordy read a letter directed to the President that discussed issues she has noticed as an instructor working in the Critical Race and Gender Studies (CRGS) Department.

“I want to acknowledge, Why is the university not doing more for students of color?” Corral-Ribordy said. “The president knows how students feel about the email and I want to see some changes made.”

Corral-Ribordy’s letter set the tone for the meeting as students followed by sharing their own experiences of racism on campus and in the community. With stories of prejudiced teachers and racist encounters in the university library, students let the majority white senate know what they perceive to be the norm on campus.

“I’m happy to say I’m leaving [Humboldt County] soon,” Graciela Chipres, a former student senate representative, said. “I have many stories of personal struggle mainly to do with the environment here.”

Chipres held back tears as she spoke about her encounters with racism at HSU. She stated that over the five years she has lived here she has encountered many forms of racism, even run-ins with neo-Nazis.

Yet according to Diego Morales, HSU isn’t the only place in Humboldt County where students don’t feel they belong. Morales is a tutor at Eureka High School and said some Latino students there feel marginalized compared to others.

“At times, I feel like I’m their only resource and ask myself if this can really be,” Morales said.

CRGS professor Ramona Bell talked about the disconnect between faculty and students of color.

“Where can students go for help, honestly?” Bell asked the senate. “It shouldn’t be this hard to find some resources on campus, but it's the sad truth.”

As the senate meeting dwindled down to its last speaker, attention turned to senate member Erik Eschker, who students claimed rolled his eyes and didn’t acknowledge the severity of the discussion at hand. The economics professor was derided as he tried to respond, saying something about having some personal problems he was dealing with. Students pointed out that such instances are why progress is hard at HSU when the problem can’t even be acknowledged.

Various senate members agreed with some of the audience’s opinions, including the need to address some changes within the university and support students of color.

Senate chair Julie Alderson said the meeting’s huge response will prompt another forum concerning racial dialogue on campus in the near future. Alderson added that the next meeting will hopefully have Rossbacher in attendance.
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Thursday, September 22, 2016

Internet Drug Sends Eureka High Students to Hospital

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 4:24 PM

FILE
  • File
A number of Eureka High School students were hospitalized today after taking a natural hallucinogen.

Eureka Police Chief Andrew Mills said it’s believed a student purchased Hawaiian baby woodrose seeds over the Internet and shared them with his friends, many of whom then suffered nausea, vomiting and generally “feeling terrible.” In addition to the students who were hospitalized, some were sent home with their parents, Mills said.

City Ambulance of Eureka transported one student to the hospital, and others were treated by Humboldt Bay Fire or transported to St. Joseph Hospital by their parents.

Mills said he believes all students are expected to fully recover but couldn’t say that with certainty at this point. Eureka High School Principal Jennifer Johnson said it appears some students ingested the seeds not knowing their hallucinogenic qualities. 

Hawaiian baby woodrose is a perennial climbing vine with large heart-shaped leaves and white trumpet-like flowers. It’s large furry seeds grow in pods, and contain Lysergic Acid Amide, a naturally occurring tryptamine that gives off LSD-like psychedelic effects. According to the drug information website erowid.org, when the seed are chewed they give off a hallucinogenic trip that lasts for six to eight hours.

Webmd.com warns that ingesting the seeds is unsafe, and can cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, dizziness, blurred vision, rapid eye movement, sweating, increased heart rate and high blood pressure. People with psychiatric conditions or psychotic tendencies might also suffer more severe reactions, the site warns.

Johnson said the school's automated phone system has notified all parents of what happened, urging them to talk to their children about the dangers of ingesting unknown substances. She said about 10 students total took the drug, and said they were very cooperative with the school's investigation.

"We do know who the source of the seeds was and that student is facing disciplinary consequences," Johnson said. 

Mills, who spoke to the Journal on his way to St. Joseph Hospital, said the case remains under investigation.

“The main thing from our standpoint is we are investigating it and if we can bring charges on it, we will,” Mills said, adding that officials already believed they have identified the student who purchased the drug and brought it to school. “The problem is, and I could be wrong, but I don’t believe it is a scheduled narcotic. The question then is, what can we charge?”


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Friday, September 2, 2016

Feds Find Improper Care After Fisher Death at HSU

Posted By on Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 10:10 AM

A resting female fisher in the wild. - HOOPA VALLEY TRIBE, REBECCA GREEN
  • Hoopa Valley Tribe, Rebecca Green
  • A resting female fisher in the wild.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently found that Humboldt State University failed to follow laboratory protocols as staff observed the declining health of a dying fisher for nearly a week without calling a veterinarian.

The routine inspection report dated Aug. 3 includes a daily log kept by the animal’s caretakers in the days before the fisher, a rare member of the weasel family, was found dead in its cage:

4/25/16 - "fisher bald patches larger than I last observed, bald patch on belly as well now"

4/26/16 - "fisher appeared to be heaving/retching after exiting box but observed eating right after that. bald patches increasing in size."

4/28/16 - "fisher appears to be thinner and labored breathing wt - 3.67 kg" (Note - was over 5 kg earlier in the year)

(4/29/16 - Fisher not mentioned in daily observations)

4/30/16 - "fisher still breathing heavily. Didn't eat all of canine diet."

5/1/16 - "fisher ate none of yesterday's food, appears extremely weak and wobbly when walking. FM & KC notified" (Note - not veterinarians, and they did not notify veterinarian)

5/2/16 - "fisher found deceased in box. RB notified" (Note - RB is the Attending Veterinarian)

“The Attending Veterinarian was not notified regarding the condition of the fisher over these dates, until after its death,” the report states. “Daily observation of animals by assigned personnel must include prompt communication with the attending veterinarian, or his or her alternate if not available, in the event that any health problems are noted. Failure to consult with a veterinarian could result in suffering and/or a poor medical outcome for the animals.”

The fisher population has declined dramatically over recent decades with the loss of its forest habitat due to logging and, more recently, the threat of poisons used at illegal marijuana grows.  

Richard Boone, dean of HSU’s College of Natural Resources & Sciences, said in a statement that the school is “committed to teaching and research about wildlife so that we can help protect species like the fisher.”

“We were disturbed by this animal’s death, take responsibility for failure to observe proper protocols, and have taken corrective actions to ensure that a mistake like this doesn’t happen again,” Boone said.

According to HSU, where the animal spent most of its nearly 10 years after being dropped off at the campus as a baby, the fisher had health issues.

Jodie Wiederkehr, who runs the Center for Ethical Science out of her home in Chicago, said she is asking the USDA “to launch a full investigation into this incident and levy the largest fine allowable against Humboldt State University of at least $10,000 per non-compliance.”

Wiederkehr said her nonprofit chronicles citations at laboratories across the nation, which she described as a “hidden issue.”

In the case of the fisher, Wiederkehr said she believes the university should be fined and questions how the incident happened in the first place.

“Common sense doesn’t even take over,” she said. “ … No one even thought to contact the veterinarian and say, ‘This animal is suffering.’”

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Sunday, May 22, 2016

HSU Softball Stopped One Win Shy of National Title

Posted By on Sun, May 22, 2016 at 2:22 PM

The Lions celebrate their national championship with the ice bath of victory. - FACEBOOK/UNIVERSITY OF NORTH ALABAMA
  • Facebook/University of North Alabama
  • The Lions celebrate their national championship with the ice bath of victory.
The Lumberjacks entered Saturday needing just one win to become national champions. It wasn’t meant to be.

The Humboldt State University softball team dropped both its games Saturday to lose the best of three NCAA Division II national championship series in Denver to the University of North Alabama. HSU got off to a good start in the series Friday against North Alabama, which boasts the nation’s third best offense, thanks to a 5-0 shutout from ace pitcher Madison Williams.

Continue reading »

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Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Graduation Day Downpour: An HSU Commencement Slideshow by Mark Larson

Posted By on Sun, May 15, 2016 at 9:59 AM

Journalism graduate Rebekah Staub displayed her diploma as she left the stage in a downpour at the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences commencement on Saturday morning, May 14 in HSU's Redwood Bowl. - MARK LARSON
  • Mark Larson
  • Journalism graduate Rebekah Staub displayed her diploma as she left the stage in a downpour at the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences commencement on Saturday morning, May 14 in HSU's Redwood Bowl.

Rain fell during most of HSU's first commencement ceremony on Saturday morning, the weather thematically appropriate for HSU's informal motto: "I love Hills, Stairs & Umbrellas!" Most of the large crowd of attendees came prepared with umbrellas and rain gear, but HSU staff handed out free plastic ponchos to those who missed the weather forecast. The graduates sat patiently in their soggy regalia throughout the ceremony, but were apparently too chilled at the end to perform much of a toss of their soggy mortarboard hats into the air.

Slideshow
HSU Graduation 2016
HSU Graduation 2016 HSU Graduation 2016 HSU Graduation 2016 HSU Graduation 2016 HSU Graduation 2016 HSU Graduation 2016 HSU Graduation 2016 HSU Graduation 2016

HSU Graduation 2016


By Thadeus Greenson

Click to View 18 slides


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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Garden Tours with Homeland Security

Posted By on Sat, Apr 30, 2016 at 2:20 PM

Janet Napolitano addresses a group in the lobby of the Potawot Health Village. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Janet Napolitano addresses a group in the lobby of the Potawot Health Village.
The head of the University of California, who served for four years as President Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security, spent some time this week exploring Humboldt County.

Her itinerary included visits with the United Indian Health Services, a float to the oyster beds on Humboldt Bay and a tour of Arcata Community Forest.

The visit was the first by an acting UC president, and if you’re wondering why the leader of the University of California system — the closest campus of which is UC Davis — was in Humboldt, you’re forgetting about the UC Cooperative Extension, which coordinates and operates a multitude of agricultural and natural resource programs in Humboldt County with a variety of partners.

Napolitano’s tour began, on a rainy Wednesday morning, at the UIHS Potawot Health Village, a sprawling complex of clinics, gardens and restored land in northern Arcata.

After a short prayer under the bright paintings and high wooden ceilings of the health center’s lobby, Alme Allen, who’s in charge of facilities and traditional land management, led a tour of the center, stopping once to point a Cooper’s hawk that had landed in a wax myrtle in the wellness garden.

Alme Allen talks about a canoe built for the health village. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Alme Allen talks about a canoe built for the health village.
Allen talked about the history of the UIHS, its focus on health care and wellness for the underserved native populations of the North Coast, and the pace at which it's grown, offering services now to 15,000 people in Del Norte and Humboldt counties.

Napolitano seemed suitably impressed, asking questions during each portion of the tour. And she didn’t shy away from the Humboldt County rain, eschewing an offered ride out to the Potawot garden for a walk through the center’s restored riparian area.
A rainy walk through the restored riparian area. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • A rainy walk through the restored riparian area.
There, in a cluster of greenhouses, Napolitano heard about the cooperative extension’s partnerships with the UIHS. Those involve programs to both eductate people about nutrition — starting young, in many cases — and provide them with food, plants and skills to grow and cook them.

The garden is an impressive array: bee hives, more than 100 fruit trees, including apples, pears, plums and peaches (garden manager Ed Mata admits Willow Creek has Arcata beat for peach climate, but they get some good ones) as well as pineapple, guava, kiwi, artichokes and a host of vegetables.
The Potawot garden has culinary and medicinal herbs as well as fruit and vegetables. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • The Potawot garden has culinary and medicinal herbs as well as fruit and vegetables.
Mata especially likes getting kids turned onto weird veggies — kolrabi and romanesco, for instance — to help them build an appreciation for growing and eating vegetables.

In addition to a farmers’ market and free plant starts for UIHS clients, the garden provides food for ceremonies, funerals and other community events.

It’s all part of various efforts by UIHS and the cooperative extension to decrease high local diabetes rates and bring nourishment to so-called “food deserts” — communities or neighborhoods where access to fresh food is limited or nonexistent. Many local tribal communities are considered food deserts.

Deborah Giraud, who’s worked for the cooperative extension for 32 years, said reaching Native populations with the their programs has always been a priority. The local extension is the only entity in California to qualify for the USDA’s Federally Recognized Tribe Extension Program, Giraud said, which provides grant funding for agricultural programs.
Garden manager Ed Mata, left, talks with Napolitano, right. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Garden manager Ed Mata, left, talks with Napolitano, right.
Mata said he feels like the education aspect is catching on in the communities that use the UIHS garden and other resources. Community Nutrition Manager Jude Marshall said the start giveaways have gotten more popular every year, and more plants in backyards and community gardens means more food security.

Napolitano, who served as the governor of Arizona from 2003 through 2009, asked if this had been a good year for growing. Yes, they assured her — this spring’s combination of sun and rain has been great for the garden.

“It’s a lot different than Arizona,” she said. 
Humboldt County Supervisor Ryan Sundberg gets his picture taken with Napolitano. - GRANT SCOTT-GOFORTH
  • Grant Scott-Goforth
  • Humboldt County Supervisor Ryan Sundberg gets his picture taken with Napolitano.

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