North Coast Journal Weekly link to homepageIn the News

June 19, 2003

Tree-sitting wars resume

A fitting structure
A new building for the Karuks will be made of nothing but wood

Drive-by shooting

Survivor recent HSU grad

Thumb returned

Manila official busted

Fortuna backs recall

Shooters sentenced

Budget imperiled

Backing Dean

Jobs safe

Biz park coming

Tree-sitting wars resume


Jerry the redwood tree with climbers, tree-sitter, platform and ropesTree-sitters clashed again this week with the Pacific Lumber Co., both in the forest and in the courtroom.

Company-hired climbers removed platforms and supplies that three tree-sitters had been using in the Grizzly Creek region off Highway 36 on Monday, near the area where protester David "Gypsy" Chain was killed when a 135-foot tree cut by a logger fell on him in 1998.

[photo at right: Climbers working to extract "Smokie" from the tree called "Jerry"]

Climbers then moved Tuesday to Greenwood Heights Road in Freshwater, where they attempted to remove three more tree-sitters as about 20 people protested on the ground.

Meanwhile, in Humboldt County Superior Court, one tree-sitter's trial ended in a hung jury while another had her case dropped in mid-trial.

Stacey Gilligan, 27, and Julia Trunzo, 26, both of Arcata, were arrested on suspicion of trespassing and resisting arrest as they stood on Greenwood Heights Road during the tree-sitter removals in March.

In the middle of their trial, Trunzo was given a court acquittal. The jury deadlocked in Gilligan's case on June 12; a new trial is scheduled to start for her on July 7.

Both women were representing themselves.

Gilligan has argued that she was not doing anything illegal and that she was attempting to leave an unsafe area as instructed by sheriff's deputies when they pulled her back into the area.

"My arrest was the result of police misconduct and Maxxam/Pacific Lumber's unlawful activities," she said.

The Sheriff's Department could not be reached for comment on the case.

Other Freshwater cases are working their way through the courts. According to Naomi Wagner of North Coast Earth First, the protesters have received a wide range of plea bargains and sentences.

For instance, three protesters were recently sentenced to 10 days each in jail, Wagner said. In the meantime, Pacific Lumber officials accused District Attorney Paul Gallegos of reneging on his promise to prosecute the tree-sitters "to the fullest extent of the law" after his office offered Jeny Card, aka Remedy, a plea bargain that resulted in a $10 fine with no additional jail time. Card, the most well-known of the Freshwater tree-sitters, spent just short of a year in the tree called "Jerry."

PL officials did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Wagner herself was in trial this week, along with Amy Gershman, who calls herself Wren.

Wagner said the forest activists were incensed that PL was apparently planning to cut down a redwood tree named "Aradia" near Gypsy Creek, which tree-sitters have reportedly occupied for five years.

"The issue on Gypsy Mountain is that that tree is in negotiation to be included in the memorial [grove] for David `Gypsy' Chain," she said. "This is so in contradiction to the Forest Peace Alliance," the community forum created as part of the legal settlement of the civil suit against PL brought by Chain's mother and designed to bring the two sides together.

Tree-sitters also took note of a paid ad that appeared Monday in the Times-Standard from Eric Schatz of Schatz Tree Service, the company Pacific Lumber hires to extract tree-sitters.

Under the heading, "Tree Sitters: We Have to Save Their Lives," Schatz described some protesters as "fanatics" who use drugs and endanger their own lives and those of their cohorts. He suggested that those supporting the tree-sitters would be "morally responsible if one of these young people dies." Schatz could not be reached for comment at press time.

A fitting structure
A new building for the Karuks will be made of nothing but wood

story & photos by ANDREW EDWARDS

Rick Zumbrun standing in the warehouseThe warehouse was large, cavernous, like an airplane hangar. Inside, the steel ribs vaulted up, creating a space that amplified the chirping of birds nesting among the girders into a pleasantly dissonant symphony. Down below, spread out on sawhorses and stacked on the floor, were huge beams of Douglas fir, the basic elements of a new building.

They looked solid until you got close. The sides were cut to receive cross beams. Holes had been drilled to receive wooden pegs. The ends formed complicated joints. It will all have to match perfectly when it is finally assembled, on site, into the skeleton of the new headquarters of the Karuk Tribal Housing Authority in Happy Camp. That's because it will be a structure without nails or steel couplings: just wood on wood.

The project is led by Rick Zumbrun [photo at left] , who runs Zumbrun Construction, based in Arcata.

He and his crew rough out the timbers using tools, many of them imported from Japan, a country where timber joinery is an established construction method. Once connection points have been formed, they finish up with hand chisels, many of them antiques, sharpened to a razor edge.

The techniques were common in this country back when nails were made by blacksmiths. Not many people could afford enough handmade nails to put a house together.

These days timber joinery is rarely used for anything more than decoration. It's not because timber-joined buildings are less structurally sound than steel-framed ones (if anything, they are sturdier). But since today's complex engineering codes assume that buildings will be built with things like steel brackets and re-bar, it's difficult to prove on paper that a timber-joined building is up to code. For most projects, it simply isn't worth the time.

finished timber on sawhorse and rought-out beams nearbyTo make the facility in Happy Camp uniquely Karuk, a wooden lattice structure interwoven with copper in a traditional basket design will form the facade at the entry.

"We want to make a building that has some kind of connection to the people who are using it," Zumbrun explained.

When all the timbers are finished, their rough wood brushed clean and preserved with a citrus-based linseed oil stain, the ends of exposed beams capped with copper fittings, they will be trucked from Arcata to Happy Camp and assembled on site.

Zumbrun said the building is designed to last 300 years. Long enough, he said, for the old-growth trees that were used to build it to grow back in time for its replacement.

"We're going for stuff that's going to last a long time," Zumbrun said. "It all comes back to paying the real cost and making things that are not fad-oriented."

[photo above right: A finished timber sits on a sawhorse next to roughed-out beams.]

Drive-by shooting

A 19-year-old Eureka man was killed Monday night in a gang-related drive-by shooting as he stood near the intersection of California and Del Norte streets, the Eureka Police Department said.

The suspect, Maher Conrad Suarez, 18, of Eureka, is still at large and is considered armed and dangerous. The name of the victim had not been released as of press time this week pending notification of family members.

Police responded to calls of shots being fired in the area around 9 p.m. on Monday night, said department spokesperson Suzie Owsley. Upon their arrival, police found the victim dead on the sidewalk with gunshot wounds to the chest. The shooter's car was on the scene but Suarez had left, Owsley said.

No further information was available about the circumstances of the shooting. Police said it was gang-related, but declined to elaborate.

Anyone with information about the shooting is asked to call Eureka Police Criminal Investigation Section at 441-4300.

Survivor recent HSU grad

Among the survivors of Saturday's tragic charter boat accident off Tillamook, Ore., that claimed the lives of 11 people was a 22-year-old deckhand who graduated from Humboldt State University last month.

Tamara Buell was crewing for a veteran skipper as he piloted her father's 32-foot charter vessel, the Taki-Tooo, across the bar at the inlet to Tillamook Bay.

According to Buell, who faced national media Monday, the boat was following another mid-sized charter boat out to sea with 20 people on board when it was struck by two big waves. The first, about a 10-footer, pulled the stern down and turned the boat sideways. Buell gripped the wall of the flying bridge as the second wave, about 12 to 15 feet high, flipped the boat.

Buell landed in the 52-degree water about 100 feet from the boat. She could not reach the life raft, so the 5-foot-7, 135-pound Buell stripped off her heavy raincoat, boots and pants and focused on keeping her head above the choppy water.

She told reporters even though the U.S. Coast Guard vessel was in sight, she began to give in to exhaustion and extreme cold when suddenly she felt a sandbar underfoot. She was dragged out of the water by a friend who is a deckhand on another vessel.

Buell worked on charter boats every summer for her father during college.

Thumb returned

upper view of McKinley statueThe thumb that was snapped off the statue of William McKinley in the Arcata Plaza was recovered by Arcata police last week.

The stolen digit was returned to police at the end of the day on June 13 after an extensive investigation that involved several days of negotiation with people who had details of the theft, Sgt. Dave Brown said in a written statement.

It was not immediately clear whether anyone would be charged with a crime. Police were not available for further comment at press time.

Mayor Bob Ornelas, who had put up a $500 reward for return of the thumb, said he had heard conflicting stories about who might get his hard-earned money and wanted to be sure it would not go to the thief.

"Until I know the results of that negotiation [with police], my $500 is staying in my pocket," he said.

Ornelas expressed disgust at the vandalism. "I just think it was a stupid, selfish, unjustifiable act. It's public property. I don't care if you don't think it was art. Get drunk and pierce your nose, but leave McKinley's statue alone."

Manila official busted

A member of the Manila Community Services District board of directors has been arrested on suspicion of marijuana possession and cultivation.

Timothy Andrew Dellas, 47, was arrested shortly before 8 a.m. on June 9 when the Humboldt County Sheriff's Office drug enforcement unit, assisted by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Humboldt County Drug Task Force, served a search warrant on a property located off Elk Ridge Road in Briceland.

Officers said they found two indoor commercial marijuana-growing operations that contained 180 grow lights, and they seized more than 5,500 marijuana plants from 2 to 24 inches and 20 1-pound bags of processed marijuana buds. The set-up was powered by two 60-kilowatt diesel generators.

Dellas was on the scene when officials arrived, officials said. He was released on $20,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned June 24.

A spokeswoman for the Community Services District declined to comment on the matter. The district was scheduled to hold its regular monthly meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

A woman who answered the phone at Dellas' Manila home said he has been advised by his attorney not to comment.

Fortuna backs recall

The Fortuna City Council, which has already taken a stand against District Attorney Paul Gallegos' fraud lawsuit against the Pacific Lumber Co., passed a resolution Monday night endorsing his recall.

Monday's resolution did not mention the lawsuit. Instead, it charged Gallegos with the "coddling of criminals," and asserted "law enforcement officials lack confidence in him."

Both the Humboldt Deputy Sheriffs Organization and the Eureka Police Officers Association have declared their support for the recall drive.

Shooters sentenced

Two men who went on a drive-by shooting spree earlier this year have received the maximum sentence of seven years in state prison.

Christian Johnston and Jason Atkins, both 24, were convicted of shooting at occupied residences during the five-hour episode on March 12. No one was injured.

Defense attorneys argued for leniency, stating that both men were alcoholics and were under the influence when they committed the crime.

The case got caught up in the ongoing controversy over the job performance of District Attorney Paul Gallegos. Leaders of a fledgling recall movement say Gallegos' failure to slap multiple charges on Johnston and Atkins is proof that he is soft on crime. Gallegos says the charges fit the crime.

Budget imperiled

The Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau is feeling the heat of the unfolding state budget crisis.

If the county and the cities of Eureka and Arcata go ahead with planned cuts to cope with anticipated shortfalls in state monies, the visitors' bureau -- which markets Humboldt as a tourist destination -- will see its $255,000 annual budget significantly reduced.

Arcata has plans to slash its funding of the bureau by $9,000, Eureka is proposing a $16,000 cut and the county plans to pare its share by $28,000. All told, the bureau would lose $53,000, or 20 percent of its current budget.

Arcata City Manager Dan Hauser said the state's budget deficit forces the city to cut funds from programs across the board.

"We have make cuts to a lot of basic services, including public safety. When it comes down to it, we need to cut less from the police and more from other programs," Hauser said.

But Don Leonard, executive director of the visitor's bureau, said the cuts would hurt everyone. He said that if the bureau's marketing budget shrinks, it will mean fewer tourists and fewer dollars brought in from the outside.

He said that the growth in funds generated by the transient occupancy tax -- a bed tax on hotel and motel rooms -- is evidence that the bureau's marketing programs are effective at drawing visitors. In Arcata, funds from the TOT have increased by 27 percent over the past four years, from $469,000 to $597,000 in 2002.

Backing Dean

Vermont's a long way away, but former governor Howard Dean, who's making a run at the Democratic presidential nomination, has supporters here in Humboldt.

Members of the Humboldt Dean Action Committee will meet at Coffee Break in Arcata at 7 p.m. on June 23 to view a broadcast of a speech Dean is scheduled to give that day in Burlington, Vt., officially announcing his candidacy.

Dean's maverick, underfunded campaign has surprised many political observers. He is running neck-and-neck in the polls with Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.

Dean, who served as Vermont's governor from 1991-2003, is outspoken in his support for environmental issues, his pro-choice stance on abortion, his opposition to war, and his support for civil unions for gays and lesbians.

"It's nice to finally be excited about a presidential candidate," said Dean supporter Erin Mooney. "Dean doesn't change his tune to appeal to every organization out there. He simply states his opinion on issues and I really respect that honesty."

Jobs safe

Forty-one Eureka public school employees who were in danger of losing their positions can breathe a sigh of relief. Their jobs are safe.

In March, the school district, as required by law, issued layoff notices to the teachers and other staffers because it appeared their positions might have to be eliminated at the beginning of the new school year in the fall.

After accounting for 32 retirements, resignations and employee leaves, the Eureka School District was able to rehire all previously dismissed workers.

"We are very pleased that after careful consideration of our staffing needs for next year we are able to bring everyone back," Superintendent of Eureka Schools Jim Scott said in a prepared statement.

In other Eureka schools news, Jan Schmidt was named the new principal of Alice Birney Elementary. Robert Effa will become assistant principal of Zane Middle School.

Biz park coming

[Corrected version]

Plans are in the works for a business park near the Arcata/Eureka Airport in McKinleyville.

The 53-acre parcel near the Arcata/Eureka Airport, site of the Holiday Inn Express, presently has 15 acres that are serviced by roads, water and sewer pipes. The longtime owner of the property, McKinleyville developer Steve Moser, is now extending that infrastructure to 25 additional acres on the property, bringing the total usable land to 40 acres.

Three buildings will soon be built there: an 8,000-square-foot office building, to be occupied by Moser Properties, Bay Point Mortgage and as many as three additional tenants; a 2,000-square-foot building, which at this point has no tenants; and a 5,000-square-foot facility that will house an accounting firm, Hartley, May and Abrahmsen.

Construction on all three buildings is scheduled to begin in coming weeks and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.



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