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Dec. 2, 2004

The Weekly Wrap

New group pushes port development

Disc golfers enjoying 'new' Arcata park


The Weekly Wrap

CONGRESS FUNDS LOCAL PRESERVATION: Local conservation efforts were given a big boost last week after Congress approved $2.3 million to fund the "Six Rivers to the Sea" project. The money, part of the federal government's Forest Legacy Program, will be divided among three components of "Six Rivers to the Sea": the Sunny Brae Forest in Arcata, the Iaqua Ranch near Kneeland and the Price Creek Ranch near Rio Dell. The Sunny Brae-Arcata Neighborhood Alliance (SANA) will use its share of the money to help complete the purchase of the 171-acre Sunny Brae Forest from Sierra Pacific Industries, a deal that has been in the works since April 2002. The Sunny Brae Forest will be added to the existing Arcata Community Forest. The remainder of the money will be used to purchase conservation easements on the two Southern Humboldt ranches. Last year, Congress killed funding for the Sunny Brae Forest at the last minute: In a press release, SANA director Mark Lovelace gave credit to Rep. Mike Thompson and his staff for securing the money this time around.

MOTHER IN FATAL CRASH INTOXICATED: On Oct. 19, Eureka resident Deann Hash, 43, ran her car off Greenwood Heights Road and into a tree, killing her 6-year-old daughter. Last week, the California Highway Patrol said that drug tests have shown that Hash was under the influence of marijuana and prescription drugs at the time of the accident. CHP Officer Stefanie Barnwell said that her office would not be releasing what sort of medication Hash was taking. She added that the department still did not know whether or not Hash had a prescription for the drug. The case was forwarded to the District Attorney's Office.

COURT OK'S PALCO LOGGING: A state appellate court that had stayed Pacific Lumber Co.'s logging operations in the Van Duzen Watershed earlier this month reversed itself last week. The reversal was apparently based on a miscommunication whose circumstances remain murky -- originally, the appellate court had acted in the absence of a decision from Humboldt Superior Court Judge J. Michael Brown, who is overseeing an Environmental Protection Information Center's lawsuit against the company. EPIC attorneys asked for a stay when Brown hadn't ruled one way or the other. But it later became known that Brown did, in fact, rule on EPIC's motion -- denying it -- on the very day that the appellate court halted logging operations. The remainder of the case, which charges the company with harvesting too-small trees, will proceed.

FLU MIST AVAILABLE: With the nationwide shortage of vaccine this year, many health care providers have rationed their small supplies of flu shots to people at greatest risk of complications from the virus. But the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that others do have options if they wish to protect themselves this flu season -- the Longs Drug store on Myrtle Avenue in Eureka is selling "FluMist," a spray-based version of the vaccine that is administered nasally. Dr. Ann Lindsay, the county's health officer, said that the spray was a "safe and effective alternative" to the traditional jab. For more information, call the Public Health Flu Vaccination Line at 476-4945.

ATTORNEY JACK DALTON DIES: A memorial service was held Sunday for John M. "Jack" Dalton, 76, a Eureka attorney and grandson of an early area settler, who died of cancer Nov. 23. Dalton was a talented athlete, an avid fisherman and a man who was always quick with a smile and a friendly word, said longtime friend Bob Barnum of Barnum Timber Co. "He had a genuine interest in people, and that came through in his personality," Barnum said. As a young man, Dalton worked briefly at Holmes-Eureka Lumber Co., where Bayshore Mall is now located and where his father, Walter Henry Dalton, had been president. When he finished his undergraduate and law degrees from UC Berkeley, Dalton returned to Humboldt County to practice family law. Before retirement, he was a partner at Dalton and Bicknell law firm of Eureka. Dalton is survived by his wife, Sandra Dalton of Eureka, and five children: Michael Thomas Dalton, John Fox Dalton, James Patrick Dalton, Laura Dalton Zugzda and Joseph Neil Dalton, all of Eureka.

TEACHERS HONORED: The Arcata branch of Wells Fargo presented 10 local teachers with "Stagecoach Legacy Awards" at an event held at Baywood Country Club Tuesday evening. The awards, which come with a $500 prize that the teachers may spend on classroom supplies, honor each teacher's excellence in the classroom and commitment to the community. The first-place winner, Jen Mishkin of Big Lagoon Charter School, received an additional $500 and won $2,000 for her school, to be used as the principal sees fit. Wells Fargo Store Manager Alison Hong said that though all the teachers she reviewed were worthy of the award, Mishkin stood out for the number of volunteer hours she spent organizing a math club, instituting a farming program and always being available to parents. "She's just overall a pretty amazing person," Hong said. The other winners are: Virginia Mullan of Bridgeville Elementary, Greg Gaiera of Big Lagoon, Marliese Healy of Garfield Elementary, Debbie Reis of Morris School, Cheryl Valley of Fieldbrook Elementary, Geri Linari of Fieldbrook & Cuddeback Schools and Cindy Condit, Ed DeWald and James Washington of Arcata High School. Parents, students and colleagues submitted their favorite teachers as nominees for the awards earlier this year.

DOMESTIC PARTNERS WORKSHOP: Legal Services of Northern California will sponsor a workshop entitled "Estate Planning for Unmarried Couples" this Monday at 1 p.m. The workshop, which will be led by attorney Catherine Koshkin, will discuss upcoming changes to California law stemming from California's "Domestic Partner Rights and Responsibilities Act," which becomes law on Jan. 1. The act gives registered domestic partners legal rights equal to those enjoyed by married couples where pensions, health care benefits and other issues are concerned. It also makes registered domestic partners liable for each other's debts. Heterosexual couples over 62 or same-sex couples of any age are invited to attend. The workshop will take place at the Humboldt Senior Resource Center, 1910 California St., Eureka. Attendance is free.

K-9 `OFFICER' MOURNED: The Arcata Police Department announced last week that Axel, an 11 1/2-year-old German shepherd and a five-year APD veteran, died of natural causes on Nov. 20. Axel, who retired from the force in 2000, was the beloved partner of APD then-Officer Randy Bates, now an investigator with the department. "When it came to performing his duties as a K-9 officer, Axel was always focused and ready for Officer Bates' every command," eulogized Arcata Police Chief Randy Bates in a press release.

NEW NATIVE AMERICAN SERVICES OFFICE: Two new offices in Humboldt County, sponsored locally by the Bear River and Big Lagoon tribes, have been set up to help low income Native Americans get help with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance. The tribal partnership offices are located at 2720 Central Ave., Suite C, in McKinleyville, and 1136 Main St., in Fortuna. For information, call 274-3180.

CORRECTION, Dec. 9, 2004: The above item has been corrected from the original version. It was incorrectly stated that the offices would help low income Native Americans get food stamps. The offices will provide help with TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) cash assistance, but food stamps and Medi-Cal are available only through the county social services office. The Journal regrets the error.

CALTRANS: `TALK TO US': Caltrans wants to know what you think about state highways. The department is surveying the public to "identify areas for improvement," and invites state residents to log onto its Web site, to answer certain questions. Locate the red text, "Please take our maintenance survey." The survey runs through Jan. 5 and takes about 15 minutes to complete, Caltrans says.

New group pushes port development


The county's railroad tracks have lain dormant for nearly 10 years. Financial troubles at the Stockton Pacific pulp mill may threaten the only major shipping service in Humboldt Bay.

Transportation problems are nothing new in Humboldt County, but an energized new group of business leaders believe that the region is ideally poised to become a player in the movement of goods produced in the global marketplace, if only it would grasp the nettle.

The Rail and Port Infrastructure Task Force (RAPIT), which was formed earlier this month, argues that the current international climate gives the county an opening to develop its port and railroad, bringing in new jobs and business opportunities.

"The opportunity is here -- we need to take advantage of it, now," said Eureka attorney and task force member Bill Bertain. "We want to catch this tide at its full."

In a letter sent to business owners and government officials earlier this month, the task force noted that the great increase in trade with Asia in recent years has caused costly delays at major ports up and down the West Coast. Humboldt Bay may be the only California shipping port that lacks the cranes and other dockside equipment to handle container traffic; RAPIT believes that with a little investment in these tools -- plus a revitalized railroad -- the county could easily attract some of the large ports' excess traffic.

RAPIT members say that there are many other reasons why now is the time to push for a revitalization of the region's transportation infrastructure. The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District recently acquired a deep-water dock in Samoa. The Headwaters Fund has made $5 million available to fund improvements to local transportation projects. Concerns about terrorist strikes against vital routes have meant that the federal government, through its Department of Homeland Security, has been willing to spend money on infrastructure.

But the task force believes that the potential for attracting some of the global shipping from Asia has the greatest immediate potential to bring new jobs to the county. A recent article in the Journal of Commerce, an industry newsletter, reported that the Port of Long Beach -- which has experienced record backlogs in the run-up to the holiday season -- has been steadily hiring dockworkers in recent months. The article stated that port operators hope to add 1,000 registered longshoremen and 3,000 part-time laborers to its rolls in the coming months.

RAPIT member Marc Matteoli, a Eureka real estate broker, believes that the Humboldt Bay region could develop these kinds of high-wage jobs too, if only the infrastructure were in place. Matteoli lamented what he described as the failure of politically active citizenry not to take the needs of blue-collar workers into consideration when planning the county's future.

"I think we've got a moral duty to consider that group," he said. "There's often an unfortunate elitist attitude among those who think that quality of life is the first issue."

Jacqueline Debets, the county's economic development coordinator, is skeptical that the region's economic woes can be solved be a single "silver bullet" such as shipping. She said that although infrastructure is vital, the county would be better served by getting its residents additional training for jobs that are likely to be marketable to companies that may seek to invest in the area.

"I think that the reality of the economy of America is that it's hard to find a high-paying job with a high school education," Debets said. "The fact is that the economy of America is changing to a high-end service-sector economy."

Debets added that when she talks to local business leaders -- even those in the manufacturing sector -- the infrastructure improvement they most desire is another fiber-optic line to service their Internet needs.

But Bertain argued that other countries -- particularly those in Asia -- have become extremely competitive with the United States' technology industry lately, turning out millions of skilled engineers in recent years. With those countries developing the "high-end service" industries that Debets spoke of, there may be more of an opportunity -- and a need -- for manufacturing jobs in the United States, according to Bertain.

"We should not think that America is not going to be a manufacturing country," he said. "We're going to have to be."

If the county had a dependable shipping system, he said, local government leaders and the business community could lobby members of this new wave of manufacturers to set up shop here.

RAPIT members said that their highest priority will be to lobby local officials and representatives of the Port of Oakland in the hopes of encouraging a stronger relationship between Oakland and Humboldt Bay. The two ports recently applied for a $50,000 grant from the federal Maritime Administration to fund a study of a proposed barge service between Humboldt and the San Francisco Bay. l

Disc golfers enjoying 'new' Arcata park


Though players have used it for almost seven years, the disc golf park near the water district pump station in Arcata has become one of the newest official courses in California.

But the transition took some doing.

Located on Warren Creek Road, about three miles east down West End Road, the park's use by the golfers posed a potential risk for unsuspecting hikers and other park users. In June, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, which owns the land, and local disc golf club Par Infinity, agreed that, in the best interest of all parties, the course would be closed for disc golf.

Then Par Infinity approached the water district to try to work something out. Negotiations were slow to develop because of the water district's hesitancy to get involved with managing a disc golf course. At the same time, though, the water district did not want to limit public enjoyment of the park.

"We have a longstanding tradition of allowing community members to use our parks -- by virtue of having land along the river we have an obligation to allow the public access to this land," said water district General Manager Carol Rische. "We were able to reach a use agreement with Par Infinity that will allow this."

The agreement requires Par Infinity to manage the playing of disc golf in the park. It is the club's responsibility to ensure that golfers respect the posted rules of the course and are able to co-exist with other park users. The water district must approve all decisions regarding repairs, improvements, or any other changes.

"This is an opportunity for disc golfers to show the community that this is a positive thing," said local attorney and Par Infinity member Nick Kloeppel, who played a major role in the negotiations. "Part of our agreement with the water district was that we take full responsibility for maintaining the course. That means it's up to us to keep the area clean and safe for all users."

Aron Johnson, a resident of the area surrounding the Cooper Gulch disc golf course in Eureka, can testify to the positive effects that course has had on that community. The golfers have helped keep away the drug users, prostitutes and campers that plagued the park, he said.

"I've talked to my neighbors and most of them have told me that, since the course was put in, they feel safer than they've ever felt around the neighborhood," Johnson said.

The object of disc golf is to throw a disc (heavier and stiffer than a traditional Frisbee) into the basket, a contraption equipped with hanging chains that provides a "hole."

While disc golf provides a wonderful community activity, it is not free from controversy. As golfer population increases, so does the threat posed to surrounding flora and fauna.

Yvonne Everett, an Environment and Natural Resource professor at Humbold State University, taught classes three years ago that studied the environmental impacts of the disc golf behind HSU in the Arcata Community Forest.

"We compared soil compaction and vegetation trampling in various locations around the forest. Around the disc golf holes we found very significant compaction, which can have negative impacts on root growth and thus reduce vegetation cover and potentially increase soil erosion," Everett said.

Par Infinity said it remains sensitive to these environmental issues. They have put on "work parties" in an effort to restore some of the damage done to the forest; the next one is scheduled for Saturday. It is also hoped that foot traffic will be more diffuse now that there are two operating courses in Arcata, thus minimizing the damage to any one area.

"Since part of our agreement includes maintenance, picking up litter and respecting the natural setting are high priorities," Kloeppel said.

Disc golf has been around since the `70s, but the last six years have seen a dramatic increase of courses worldwide. There were 850 courses in 1998; today there are upwards of 1,700 courses in the world, with 1,500 of those in the United States and 90 in California. l

Luke Johnson is a writer and Americorps worker in Arcata.



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