The lone remaining wall of the Devil's Playground teeters as a crew works to demolish it Thursday.
The PalCo Marsh is looking a lot different these days. Not only was the marsh cleared of the city's largest and most entrenched homeless encampment on May 2, but crews from Figas Construction have now started demolishing the old concrete lumber kilns that have long been dubbed the Devil's Playground. For decades, the kilns have been a magnet for graffiti artists and taggers. But a recent lawsuit rendered them a massive liability for the city, which added a sense of urgency to long-held plans to lay a waterfront trail through the marsh. Check out the slideshow below to see pictures of the graffiti covered kilns as they stood, and as they now lie in rubble.
Pastor Rick McRostie, of Eureka, began the memorial for Jimmy Smith held Friday, May 27 at the Jimmy Smith Fields Landing Boat Launch in Fields Landing.
There were more jeans than heels, and half the parking lot was filled with pickup trucks. The line of cars stretched down the small main street of Fields Landing, and the parking lot in front of the boat launch named in honor of the man everyone knew as Jimmy filled with mourners. A strong, persistent wind made the microphone hum and the speakers wobble. It was a good wind, the kind his friends said Jimmy would say was good for the salmon. It was the kind of day that brought the smell of the sea into your lungs, the kind Jimmy Smith would have liked.
Rex Bohn, who filled Smith’s seat representing the 1st District on the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors when Smith stepped down in 2012 due to health problems, was one of the first speakers. He said that he and other officials bent some rules in order to dedicate the ramp to his predecessor in 2014.
“We broke procedure policy, we didn’t ask anybody, we just did it,” Bohn said, spurring the audience to applaud. Of course, the decision was voted in unanimously at the next board meeting. Smith, everyone agreed, was a rare kind of politician, the kind who united people who normally wouldn’t come together.
Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace, who served on the board with Smith for four years, said privately that it took him a while to figure out his colleague’s method. For Smith, it was all about compromise.
“For a long time we were perceived as kind of a 2-2 board with Jimmy in the middle. But after a while, I realized that the last thing he’s going to do is stick a 3-2 crown on an issue. He’d hold out until the winning side would accommodate some things. He wanted a 4-1. Or a 5-0.”
Smith was dedicated to the preservation of wetlands, to rural communities, to knowing as much about what was going on in Humboldt as possible. Loretta Sands (formerly Loretta Nickolaus), a former county administrative officer and Jimmy’s “sister from another mister” spoke with reverence about her colleague and friend’s humility, about how during difficult financial times for the county, he demanded a cut in his salary.
“He never asked for reimbursement, never used a company car. It was his pleasure to serve,” Sands said. “He led by example. He’d do just about anything for anybody.”
Sands said, and everyone nodded, that the world would be a better place if everyone were a little more like Jimmy.
Other speakers talked about his dedication, how he never stopped working, about his yellow lined pads on which he’d write lists of things to do, checking them off one by one, about how he kept a garage so neat and clean you could eat off the floor. They spoke often of his wife, Jacque, who after 40 years of marriage Smith would still sometimes sigh about, saying, “Isn’t she cute?”
Smith’s many trips to rural parts of the county, his willingness to always take a phone call or buy dinner for a friend, to offer advice and champion for those who requested his help, would take him away from his beloved Jacque for long lengths of time. Bohn thanked her for nursing him in his final years, and for sharing him with the public.
Jacque Smith spoke with Ron Fritzsche, who served with Jimmy Smith on the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, prior to the memorial.
“Jacque, you shared him like no other person,” Bohn said. The audience clapped again. “We’re all better for having known him. I’m a better person for having known him” Bohn continued, adding that he often met Smith for breakfast and asked him for advice.
In the crowd, men dressed in baseball caps and Carharrts, fishermen and firefighters, lifted their sunglasses to carefully wipe their eyes. Couples leaned against one another for comfort and shelter from the wind. Jimmy’s widow sobbed next to the podium. Their son, Gary, proudly wore his father’s favorite hat, which was autographed by members of the television show The Deadliest Catch.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman, who drove from Sacramento to attend the memorial, shared his first impressions of Smith, who said he would endorse Huffman under realignment if his friend and the North Coast's former representative, Congressman Mike Thompson, also endorsed him. For the next few months, Huffman told the crowd, he was put through the paces. He met with multiple groups, multiple people, all over Humboldt County, what he called a “Humboldt County boot camp.” He said he knew that it was due to Smith’s prodding, that Smith thought it was important he knew the place he was representing. And when Smith gave his approval, Huffman received the full benefit of his influence, with support from all sides rolling in.
“One of the things I most appreciated about Jimmy is that his word was his bond,” said Huffman. “His reputation was just golden. He taught us that we need to treat other people, whether they agree with us or not, with respect. Wouldn’t politics be a lot better if we all did that?”
The audience applauded again. Huffman presented Jacque Smith with a plaque honoring her husband.
"I don't know where the souls of really good people like Jimmy go when they die," said Huffman. "But I hope the rivers are cold and clean, the salmon are thick and the ocean is calm."
Congressmen Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson sit among the crowd that gathered to remember Jimmy Smith.
The speakers in the ceremony were split evenly between friends and colleagues, but it was clear from their anecdotes and warmth that Smith had a way of blurring that line. One person who embodied both roles was Thompson, who often went hunting and fishing with his late friend.
“I’m very, very proud to be here,” said Thompson when he got up to the podium, his voice colored with a sob at the bottom of his throat. “Jimmy was a different kind of politician. He was hard-working. He was humble. He knew people and he understood people. He was respectful to a fault. People respected him. I don’t know anyone who had a bad word to say about him. I’m honored to have known him. When we first met, we just clicked. I knew we were going to be friends."
Thompson echoed what had been said earlier, that the world would be a better place if everyone were a little more like Jimmy.
“Make sure that you matter. He did that,” Thompson said. “Everything he did improved life for everybody else. We should all do that.”
After a prayer and several readings from the Bible, the ceremony closed with a rendition of Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone). As the last notes faded and the singer began to leave the stage, before the crowd could begin to speak again, the wind caught the unattended microphone and added its own voice to the proceedings – a low rush of sound, a hum. It was the kind of quiet moment you get before the fish takes the bait or you snap the perfect shot on a duck, the kind of moment Jimmy would have liked, and the kind he had too little of as he sacrificed his time to service.
The Garberville branch of the Humboldt County Superior Court has been closed due to mold issues, reports Humboldt 2nd District Supervisor Estelle Fennel. A recent inspection confirmed that there was enough mold in the walls to constitute a health threat.
The Garberville court is an arraignment, pretrial court on criminal misdemeanor matters and other low-level offenses for people in the Southern Humboldt area. We were unable to get a number on the volume of cases that go through the court, but it sounds as though a substantial amount of people will be inconvenienced by the closure. Fennel says she is scouting potential temporary locations for the court, possibly the College of the Redwoods campus in Garberville. In the forseeable future, her constituents will have to make the long trek to Eureka.
Public Defender Kevin Robinson said the emergency made for rather chaotic scene as his office arrived to defend its indigent clients this morning.
North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman blasted presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s planned visit with the leaders of the Westlands Water District in an absolutely scathing press release sent out this afternoon.
“Donald Trump, who continues to refuse to release his tax returns and show the public his personal accounting, will be sitting down with the perpetrators responsible for one of the largest municipal bond fraud cases in SEC history,” Huffman wrote. He accuses Trump and the district of using “smoke and mirrors” to manage their “questionable” financial histories.
North Coast State Sen. Mike McGuire announced this morning that he's helped secure $1 million in state funding for the Eureka Waterfront Trail, which will transform the PalCo Marsh from its current blighted state into a waterfront nature trail.
The funding will help fund the construction of 3.75 miles of new trail, which will consist of an 8- to 10-foot-wide paved path and interpretive signs, as well as bridges and a boardwalk to mitigate impacts to sensitive wetlands. Some of the funding will also go toward razing the old concrete lumber kilns that the city has deemed a massive liability.
If you’ve logged on to Facebook in the last couple days, you’ve probably seen that photo to the right. It’s real, it’s beautiful and it’s in Humboldt County. It’s not, however, the tallest tree in the world.
For whatever reason, the picture has been circulating like crazy lately, and it seems to always be accompanied by a misleading or flat-out wrong caption. There could be a whole study of the virality of images and misinformation conducted about it, but, being stuffy, old truth-seekers, we just wanted to set the record straight.
Steve Hughes says there's at least one positive outcome to his being passed over for promotion after a 26-year career with Humboldt County's Employee Training Division.
"I have an idea what discrimination feels like," he says.
Discrimination was something Hughes knew a lot about professionally. He was his division’s equal employment officer and disability program manager, making sure his workplace was up to code. It was one of the eight positions he had promoted into over his long tenure with the county. So when he and two other equally-qualified men in his department were rejected for a management position in 2010 for a less-qualified woman, he cried foul.
A memorial service has been scheduled to celebrate the life of former 1st District Humboldt County Supervisor Jimmy Smith at 5 p.m. Friday, May 27, at the Jimmy Smith Fields Landing Boat Launching Facility.
Former 1st District Humboldt County Supervisor Jimmy Smith has died. He was 67.
Smith, who tirelessly served the 1st for more than a decade, left his position in 2012 due to a cancer diagnosis. He had struggled (and largely prevailed over) the disease since the 1990s. A lifelong Humboldt County resident, Smith attended Eureka High School before going on to a varied career as a commercial fisherman, harbor commissioner and waterfowl researcher.
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.
After dropping off 20 years worth of household hazardous wastes, I rewarded myself on the way home (camera in hand of course) with a stroll through the Humboldt Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The neatly laid out and maintained gravel paths offer a great place to relax and soak up a bit of nature. There were few birds in evidence: only one large egret and a few swallows too far away to get a good photo. There were, however, some interesting insects.