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August 7, 2003

The Eureka icon that's off limits
Tourists feel misled by promotion of Carson mansion

McCrone's afterlife
At a time of cuts and layoffs, former HSU prez hauls in $200,000

PL offer buffed

HSU hard hit

Get ready for potholes

Economic gains at risk

CAMP season starts

Stormy weather

A would-be guv

New rail chief

More HSU shuffling

The Eureka icon that's off limits
Tourists feel misled by promotion of Carson mansion


ON A BALMY AUGUST MORNING IN EUREKA, at the height of the tourist season, Jay Smith gazed up wistfully at the ornate green Victorian. He paced before the wrought iron gate, seeking different vantage points. He eventually left after snapping some pictures from the M Street sidewalk.

What else could he do? The sidewalk was as close as he would ever come to the 118-year-old Carson mansion, which houses the exclusive, members-only Ingomar Club [see sidebar].

"I had no idea that it couldn't be toured," said Smith, who traveled up to the North Coast from Arizona. "It's too bad Eureka's claim to fame is a private club."

His traveling companion, Kathy Zalecki of San Francisco, said the two would likely have extended their stay if the mansion were open to the public. "We'd consider staying overnight if we could set up a tour," she said.

Smith and Zalecki aren't the only ones disappointed by the fact that the architectural treasure put forth by local tourism officials as the embodiment of the "Victorian Seaport" is an attraction that can only be seen at a distance.

Joe Innis, who recently moved here, said in a letter to the Journal last month that given the prominence of the mansion in local "tourist literature," there should be a disclaimer informing people that the place is off-limits.

"Spend 15 minutes in front of [the mansion] some pleasant early evening as tourists gather to learn for the first time that they're not going to get any closer to it than the photo in the ad that drew them," Innis wrote. "The anger and disappointment are palpable."

While there has been talk over the years of setting up an informational kiosk on the sidewalk outside the mansion, replete with historical details and photographs of the interior, it has so far remained just talk. Meantime, officials with the Ingomar Club, which raised private money to restore the mansion in the 1950s, have made it clear that they wish the mansion to remain private.

The mansion, billed by the Eureka Chamber of Commerce as "one of the most photographed buildings in the world," graced the cover of last year's Humboldt Visitor, an annual publication put out by Regional Visitor Publications, a publishing house based in Eureka.

Another shot of the mansion, with the caption "a popular and famous landmark," ran inside, along with an article on Old Town. Deep in the story was this sentence: "Although it can be enjoyed from the outside, it is now a private club and is not open to the public."

In this year's edition of the guide, the mansion was at the top of a list of "Eureka Highlights." Additionally, its photograph accompanied a piece on the "rough and tumble seaport" of Eureka. Nowhere was there a mention of the club's exclusivity; that was reserved for another page, where once again the information was quietly tucked into the middle of a larger story.

Co-publisher Damon Maguire acknowledged that the magazine, popular with tourists due to its wide distribution, does not go out of its way to inform visitors that there are no tours of the Carson mansion. "We could make it more prominent that's it's not open to the public," Maguire conceded. "At the same time, every time you mention it you hate to have to say, `Hey, you can't see it.'"

Other organizations in the tourist promotion business have also shied away from highlighting the mansion's inaccessibility.

The Eureka chamber, for example, prominently features the mansion on its website. But until a few days ago, it did not explain that the public isn't allowed inside.

J Warren Hockaday, director of the Eureka Chamber of Commerce, said employees at the chamber always inform tourists that the Carson mansion is not open to the public. He said that the absence of notification on the website had to do with shortness of space on the page.

Not long after the conversation, Hockaday apparently found the space, as there now appears the following disclaimer: "The mansion is privately owned and maintained and is not available for public entry."

Ray Hillman, owner of Pride Enterprise Tours in Eureka, said he has seen plenty of tourists disappointed when they learn they'll never get beyond the gate surrounding the mansion.

To compensate, Hillman provides a myriad of facts about the Victorian, information about the Carson family and other historical tidbits. But he said that people still want the firsthand experience.

"It would be nice if once a month they opened for tours, by appointment, for 200 people at most," Hillman said. "I don't think it would do much harm."

Others in the tourist promotion business concurred. "The Ingomar Club is missing a good thing by not offering tours of at least the grounds if not the inside," said Maguire of the Humboldt Visitor. "It could be a good source of income."

Don Leonard, head of the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said of all the Victorians in Eureka, opening the Carson mansion to the public would have the greatest impact in terms of persuading visitors to extend their stay in the area.

Chris Corbin, general manager of the Ingomar Club, said that if the public were allowed in for tours, the wear and tear on the building would be too costly. If membership took a nose-dive, he said, and fees could no longer cover the costs of maintenance, only then would tours be considered.

He added that if the club were to charge for tours, the tax structure of the Ingomar would change, from a nonprofit to a for-profit organization.

"If we needed the capital, then we might give tours," Corbin said. "It's just not necessary yet."

 The skinny on the Ingomar

As most Humboldt residents know, the Carson mansion is the home of the Ingomar Club, an exclusive, members-only organization. Less well-known is the fact that were it not for the group of businessmen who started the club back in the 1950s, the mansion would likely have been demolished.

"They established a preservation group and helped restore it," said Don Leonard, head of the Humboldt County Convention and Visitors Bureau, adding that the work was done with private funds.

Built by lumber baron William Carson in 1885, the three-story, 18-room mansion was bought by the businessmen for a mere $35,000. It subsequently became the home of the Ingomar Club -- a haven then and now for Humboldt's elite, the people who can not only afford its initial entry fee of $2,500, but who also have the proper social connections. (New members can't buy their way in; they must be invited.)

Once in, the member pays close to $2,000 yearly to keep their membership. Fees go toward maintenance of the building -- primarily the exterior -- and payment for the staff. A restaurant -- open only to club members, their families and their guests -- was attached to the bay side of the Victorian in the mid-1950s.

There are 400 members, 250 of whom are considered "resident" members, meaning they live within 50 miles of the mansion. The club is overwhelmingly male -- 385 men to 15 women. The Ingomar didn't start accepting females until about a dozen years ago.

-- reported by Helen Sanderson

McCrone's afterlife
At a time of cuts and layoffs, former HSU prez hauls in $200,000


Thought he was gone? Former Humboldt State President Alistair McCrone continues to occupy an office at the university and has been involved in various projects since his retirement last year.

McCrone, 71, worked on sabbatical status the past year for the California State University system, reviewing an emergency preparedness plan to be implemented on all campuses, for which he was paid $203,088 by the Chancellor's Office. In 1997, he had chaired a system-wide committee on the matter.

"I guess they felt I was knowledgeable on this; [the idea was] I would review what had been done on our recommendations since 1997," he said.

As a former petroleum geologist and geology professor, McCrone said he also follows local and national developments regarding energy supplies, including Calpine's proposal to build a liquefied natural gas terminal on Humboldt Bay. It is unlikely he would teach again, he said.

McCrone, who works out of room 313 of the library, is classified as a former CSU executive on emeritus status, "which carries with it a permanent office on campus, parking privileges, telephone, library privileges, access to secretarial support and a personal computer," according to a CSU Board of Trustees decision adopted in 1989.

The Arcata resident served 27 years as president of HSU. The details of his retirement package were not available at press time, but the package would include approximately 70 percent of his former salary, a CSU spokeswoman said.

PL offer rebuffed

In what it called an attempt to "restore peace in the forests of Humboldt County," the Pacific Lumber Co. has proposed a truce of sorts with treesitters, saying it will refrain from cutting certain trees for six months if protesters stay off PL land and meet other conditions.

However, a representative of the tree-sitters said the deal was unworkable and proposed one of her own at Tuesday's Humboldt County Board of Supervisors meeting.

The PL proposal, if it is ever agreed to, would be signed by PL President Robert Manne and Cindy Allsbrooks, founder of the Forest Peace Alliance, a group organized following the 1998 death of Allsbrooks' son, protester David "Gypsy" Chain.

PL's Rich Bettis floated the idea of an agreement on June 17, the day the removal of a Freshwater treesitter named "Smoky" -- who had attached himself to a tree with a large container of cement -- seemed to bring company officials' frustration with the standoff to a head, said former treesitter Jeny Card, who calls herself Remedy.

Card said Bettis approached her and a treesitter known as Shunka about the agreement.

"It was a total circus and it was obvious that they weren't going to be able to cut the trees that day," Card said.

But neither she nor anyone else is in charge of the forest movement and cannot control those involved, Card said -- referring to the stipulation that all treesitters and trespassers "cease and desist" from such operations for six months, and that no one harass any of Pacific Lumber's employees, customers, suppliers or contractors.

"What they're asking us to do is impossible," she said. "I don't even know all the treesitters."

Card also criticized PL's effort to involve Allsbrooks, calling it an attempt to legitimize their effort.

Card proposed a different agreement, which she described to the Board of Supervisors this week. (Bettis had apprised the board of PL's version in a previous meeting.) In her version, she suggested that "direct action will come to a halt" if Maxxam, Pacific Lumber's parent company, stops clear-cutting, stops cutting old growth trees, stops using herbicides, and stops logging on steep and unstable slopes.

Pacific Lumber did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Since March, the number of treesitters in the Freshwater area has dwindled from about 20 to just a handful. On Saturday night, Pacific Lumber cut two trees that flanked Greenwood Heights Road when treesitters temporarily left their perches.

HSU hard hit

The new state budget includes cuts that will hurt Humboldt State University much more than College of the Redwoods, which is protected from deeper cuts by Proposition 98, a constitutional amendment voters approved in 1988 that guarantees minimum funding levels for K-12 schools and community colleges.

HSU must trim $10 million --11 percent -- from its $92 million annual budget. The impacts will be felt this year and years into the future, according to Paul Mann, HSU interim public information officer.

"We are not rehiring about 40 to 50 lecturers. We are losing maintenance and security people. The overall impact to the community will be significant -- about $30 million to $50 million yearly," he said.

The university uses a multiplier effect of three to five times the actual dollar loss to estimate the impact on retail and services in the Humboldt economy.

The cuts are even deeper than at many other CSU campuses, HSU President Rollin Richmond said Tuesday.

"Other campuses have grown substantially over the last decade and have received additional new revenue. HSU's enrollment has been below target -- almost flat for 10 years. It is one of the reasons we need to focus on increasing enrollment."

HSU and all CSU students will also share significant pain in tuition increases. A full-time student will pay $2,046 yearly, up from $1,572.

HSU was anticipating 7,240 students in the fall -- the highest number ever. What impact the tuition hike will have on the enrollment is "the $64,000 question," Mann said.

The impacts to College of the Redwoods budget and student fees are decidedly less severe.

"We cut about $750,000 last [fiscal] year," said CR President Casey Crabill. "This year the figure could be another $100,000" for a total of $850,000 out of a $26 million budget --more than 3 percent.

CR students will feel less pain in the fall and some will even benefit from the fee hike, up from $11 per unit to $18. Due to fee increases, the neediest students -- those who receive federal financial aid -- will see their grants increase.

"Some of them may actually be better off," Crabill said.

Get ready for potholes

A county official on Tuesday outlined a host of impacts to Humboldt from the state budget that was approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Gray Davis last week.

Speaking before the Board of Supervisors, county administrator Loretta Nickolaus also talked about ways to mitigate the impact of the looming state budget cuts, which may cost the county $5.6 million.

A priority, Nickolaus said, was to persuade the state to more promptly pay the county back $1.6 million in vehicle license fees that the state wants to strip from county coffers over the next three months. Counties are still eligible to receive the money if they can demonstrate need. Otherwise, they won't get the money back until August 2006.

Nickolaus said the most visible effect of the budget cuts will be in road maintenance. The state is redirecting funds from gasoline taxes -- originally designated for road work -- to the state's general fund. For Humboldt thoroughfares, that equates to a $700,000 loss -- meaning 20 fewer seasonal workers for the summer months, a minimized brushcutting crew and the freezing of 12 vacant road crew positions.

A county staff report on the budget cuts called a state plan to shift federal child support penalties to counties "unconscionable." (The state is being penalized for an inadequate tracking system.) That plan will cost the county an estimated $393,000.

Further discussion on the local impact of the state budget cuts will take place in late August and early September.

Economic gains at risk

The most recent economic indicators show Humboldt County with surprisingly low unemployment, strong retail sales and a healthy increase in lumber manufacturing -- all gains that could be more than wiped out by cuts in state money for local services threatening the North Coast's fragile recovery.

June's seasonally adjusted retail sales figures shot up 15.7 percent and lumber manufacturing rose 14.4 percent from May.

The retail rise was part of a recent trend. Retail was down early in the spring but came back "very, very strong in May" to the highest level in nearly 10 years of tracking, said Erick Eschker, executive director of the Index of Economic Activity for Humboldt County, hosted by Humboldt State University.

Unemployment fell slightly in June to 6.1 percent, while the state and national jobless rates rose significantly. The state figures were 6.7 percent and national rate was at 6.5 percent for the same time period.

Eschker warned that "for the significant future, the North Coast economy will remain hostage to the state budget crisis." (See related story on Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods.)

"The federal government is pumping a lot of extra money into the economy through things like homeland security expenditures. But many economists think that this stimulus will be fully negated by the states, which are tightening their budgets tremendously. California has the biggest deficit of all."

CAMP season starts

The CAMP helicopter may be in a neighborhood near you -- starting this week.

Sheriff Gary Philp said the Campaign Against Marijuana Program is officially underway. The state provides a helicopter plus a crew of five or six drug enforcement officers to seek out the illegal weed.

"CAMP is somewhat scaled back from previous years," Philp said Tuesday. "They used to start in late July and go through October. Now it's just August and September." Another change this year is that the helicopter will be shared with Mendocino County, reducing the amount of time the chopper will be hovering over Humboldt.

Philp, in his first CAMP season as county sheriff, will have input into how the patrols are carried out. He said he wants the emphasis on large outdoor operations and on catching growers.

"I don't want to see the slash-and-burn mentality of the past where they just wanted the numbers [of plants]," he said. "We want good quality investigations. We are focused strongly on follow-through."

Even though CAMP is funded directly by the state, the sheriff's department must provide support personnel.

"It's not a relief for our budget. It actually gives us more work to keep up with them," Philp said.

Stormy weather

Humboldt and Trinity counties have been hit by some unusually harsh weather in the past week.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood warning for the Big Bar area off Highway 299 in Trinity County on Sunday night, when a storm cell parked itself over the area, said meteorologist Jeff Tonkin of the weather service's Woodley Island station.

"Usually they move, but this particular one that night did not; it was stationary, so all the rain coming out of it was landing in the same spot," Tonkin said.

The weather service also issued a severe thunderstorm warning at 12:01 Tuesday morning for the Orick area, predicting strong winds and hail.

And there's more to come. "We're going to keep a threat of thunderstorms in the forecast for the next week or so," Tonkin said Tuesday.

A would-be guv

A Humboldt State chemistry lecturer is attempting to collect enough signatures to put his name on the governor's recall ballot -- which at press time contained no candidates from the North Coast.

Darin Price of McKinleyville took out candidacy papers from the county elections office this week and said he was scrambling to collect enough signatures to get himself on the ballot.

"I'm busy as heck right now," he said.

As a Natural Law Party member, Price needs 150 signatures from fellow party members, or he can pay $3,500 and turn in 65 signatures. But there are only 70 Natural Law Party members in Humboldt.

"Even the 65 is going to be tough," he said. "I'll drive to their houses if I have to."

Price, who is married to real estate broker Sandra Spalding and describes his age as "mid-40s," said his motivation for running was to grab attention for Northern California issues.

"I think we need some representation from Northern California in the discussion," he said. "We have water issues, we have timber issues, we have fishing issues, and to most people the state ends at San Francisco, and it doesn't. And common people, instead of just complaining, ought to get involved."

As of Monday, 189 candidates statewide had obtained candidacy papers, according to the Secretary of State's office. Shasta was the only county north of Sacramento to be represented among those potential candidates.

Price said he was trying to convince members of other parties, such as the Green Party, to change their party affiliation, if only temporarily, so they could sign for him.

The Natural Law Party supports disease prevention, lowered taxes through cost-effective solutions, protecting the environment through energy efficiency and nonpolluting energy sources, and mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods.

New rail chief

The North Coast Railroad Authority last week named Mitch Stogner as its new executive director.

Stogner has been a government and community relations officer for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) since 1991.

Prior to his tenure at BART, Stogner worked for former Rep. Doug Bosco of the North Coast in Washington, D.C., eight years as his chief assistant and five years as chief of staff.

More HSU shuffling

Humboldt State University has named Maggie Gainer to be director of its new Center for Economic and Community Development, the information gateway or "hyper web" that links the university's intellectual and creative resources to North Coast business and economic initiatives.

Gainer, a consultant, lecturer and author, was most recently HSU's research and grants information coordinator. She served as the director of the Arcata Community Recycling Center from 1977-1981.

In other recent administrative news, HSU appointed Debbie Goodwin as interim director of university advancement, Paul Mann as interim public information officer, and Jane Rogers as interim director of community relations, a post previously held by Elizabeth Hans McCrone.

Hans McCrone was appointed interim general manager of the campus radio station, KHSU, last month.



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