Richardson Grove is not the only front in this battle for our way of life. The gateways to exploiting our paradise have been opened throughout Humboldt's history, such as with the timber, gold, whaling, and ganja booms. These booms all had their windfalls for the few, steady and honest work for the many, and of course their various detriments to the land, and native populations. These booms also bring more people. Then the retraction, or “bust” as resources plummet, demand dwindles and profiteers jump ship (sayonara Charlie Hurwitz).
The commercial boom is not quite different, except for the fact that the future of small business owners will be bleak. Whether the plan is to create a bigger harbor, reinstate the rail system, build a larger airport, free up timber lands for tract homes or as in this case ... widen the highway thoroughfare to the nearest major city (San Francisco) and seaport (Oakland); the overall plan is for a few to profit from the hard work of the many. The bigger picture is the plan to develop Humboldt.
The shock wave from small business collapse will be felt by all native (or current) Humboldt residents. As corporate chains and “big boxes” create vacant storefronts, wages will begin to fall. Profits will leave Humboldt County (remember the corruption of PL after the Maxxam takeover?), and homes will become vacant. Meth and gangs will become rampant. Opportunities for entrepreneurial pursuits will cease to exist in a corporatised wasteland of McDonald's, Home Depots, and cookie cutter tract homes and mini-malls.
I lived through this type of change myself. In fact, by the time my hometown was overrun by mass commercialism, I was old enough to move out. I've worked so many different jobs, sometimes as much as two full-time jobs while sleeping in my car between them. Jobs were easy to get because no one wanted them, like graveyard shifts at Taco Bell or a security guard at the apartment complex. All to pay for a place that was beyond my means, impress a girl that was beyond my means, and live up to mass media's imposed living standards, which were beyond my means.
My point is not to scare you with fear tactics. I am simply sharing my experience of my hometown community that became a zombified version of some Orweilian nightmare. The world won't end for Humboldtians if the project goes through. Some trees that have been around for thousands of years will probably die eventually from root disturbances, but at least that Caltrans worker will have a meager paycheck and a slim retirement plan for their 80 or so years on the planet. Some people will definitely benefit. But most of us will see Humboldt permanently distorted, and you can't go back once this occurs. There are some people in our community that welcome this, but they do not have the foresight or experience of Southern Californication.
Is it more than widening the highway through virgin redwood stands? It should be for all of Humboldt's labor force that has had its shares of ups and downs. There's always that “greeter” position for minimum wage at Wal-Mart, a company that leaves Medi-Cal and food stamp information in their break rooms.
Jeff Musgrave lives in Arcata.