John Shelter has been trying to provide homeless men and women with work in Humboldt County for decades, and his latest cleanup project has led to a contract agreement between Shelter’s New Directions program and Caltrans.


New Directions will clean up the areas under 10 bridges in Arcata and Eureka, including the Samoa Bridge and the Eureka Slough Bridge, so that Caltrans inspectors and work crews can perform required maintenance and inspections.


Shelter’s aim is to help homeless men and women turn their lives around.


“The philosophy is employment,” Shelter said on Friday. “Get them up and working, get them going and then address the mental health and addiction and you have a new direction. We change attitudes that change behavior.”


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jensamplingIn late 2017 Humboldt Baykeeper rode a tidal wave of Clean Water Act victories aimed at reducing pollution in California’s second-largest natural estuary, filing four court actions, and winning each time.


But despite Humboldt Baykeeper’s banner year, Jen Kalt bemoans the current lack of enforcement of environmental laws across the United States. For authorities to enable businesses to operate outside of those laws, she says, is “an injustice to the people who believe in running their businesses in ways that follow the law and protect the environment.”


Photo: Humboldt Baykeeper Jen Kalt collecting bacteria samples for a continuing source identification study. Photo by Todd Kraemer, Pacific Watershed Associates.

The Humboldt County Public Works Department is set to tell the Board of Supervisors that moving forward with the Humboldt Bay Trail Project is going to necessitate the removal of more than 200 eucalyptus trees along U.S. Highway 101 north of the old California Redwood Company mill.


While conceding that it received a host of comments urging preservation of the 90-year-old trees in the county’s California Environmental Quality Act review of the project, the department warns it will “recommend termination of the project if the northern group of eucalyptus trees cannot be removed.”


In an 11-page CEQA comment evaluation memo, the department makes the case that the trees would pose a danger to users of the yet-to-be constructed 4.2-mile segment of multi-use trail connecting Eureka and Arcata, as the trail would fall within 10 to 15 feet of the trees, between the railroad tracks and the highway.


“Trail users would be situated within the failure zone of many elevated limbs measuring 6 to 12 inches in diameter and weighing hundreds of pounds,” states the memo, citing the county’s Hazard Tree Plan and the Tree Risk Assessment, which apparently sets the national standard for such decisions.


The memo also includes newspaper accounts of several eucalyptus-related horror stories: the tree that fell on a wedding party, killing a 61-year-old grandmother, in Whittier last year; a woman seriously injured by a falling 10-foot branch while walking with her boyfriend in San Diego in 2013; and a 4-year-old girl killed on a playground in Highland Park by a falling tree limb in 1990. At least a couple of the stories include reports of resulting lawsuits.


In all, the department is recommending removal of 219 trees — or 42 percent of the entire row.


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The past is a sometime thing. Some dismiss it most of the time, others part of the time — or part of the past. Let’s face it, some live in it. As one who reads, writes and muses on the past, I float amongst all the above.


Certainly there are things I would rather not dwell upon. Others I revisit so often that friends and family run screaming from the room.


I try, as with good fortune I grow older, to limit the nostalgia to appropriate occasions. Mike McGuire’s proposal for a Great Redwood Trail is such an occasion.


State Sen. McGuire, D-Healdsburg, whose district includes the proposed 300-mile route of the trail, can get almost poetic talking about the beauty of it.


“I have to say,” he told me last week, “this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity … so few times in our lifetimes do we have a chance to see such a thing happen.”


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The bill that is proposing to create a trail system alongside North Coast Rail Authority tracks is propelling through the Legislature. It cleared its first major hurdle — passage in the Senate — in May and passed out of an Assembly committee in late June.


The bill proposes to dissolve the North Coast Rail Authority, a state-created entity that has overseen a 300-mile stretch of rail through Northern California since 1989, and create a new entity, the Great Redwood Trail Agency, which will oversee the trail system envisioned to snake along the same route.


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