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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Parting the Redwood Curtain:A one-mile highway project could change an entire region

U.S. 101, the longest highway in California, starts in Los Angeles and meanders northward through Santa Barbara, San Francisco and into redwood country. For California's sparsely populated north coast -- the stretch of forests and farms and the smattering of towns that make up Humboldt and Del Norte counties -- 101 is a lifeline. It's the main artery for a region that was in economic trouble even before the Great Recession.

Just across the Humboldt County line, the highway bisects tiny Richardson Grove State Park, where it drops from four lanes to two and weaves through ancient redwood trees. The top speed is 35 miles per hour, along curves too tortuous for full-size commercial semis to navigate. The park is the one place along Highway 101 through which these trucks -- the kind that serve businesses across the United States, from mom-and-pop shops to big-box behemoths -- cannot legally travel, with a few exceptions.

Now, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) wants to improve and widen the highway. But locals are divided. Some see the restricted highway as a bottleneck obstructing economic development in a recession-racked community. To others, it's the finger in the dike forestalling a flood of development in a deliberately bucolic landscape. Both sides agree on one thing: Management of the highway through this state park has implications for development in the entire region the highway serves.

Verdant Humboldt County lies near the southern end of a temperate rainforest that once stretched from just north of San Francisco Bay to southern Alaska. The county's population density is among the lowest in California, and is concentrated around two hubs, Eureka and nearby Arcata. The woods form a largely pristine corridor from the inland hills to the rocky coast, creating a physical barrier from the more metropolitan south, and preserving the paLinkstoral atmosphere that distinguishes the region. Locals call it the "Redwood Curtain."

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

New TreeSpirit project coming to Richardson Grove!

Dear fans of trees,

Photographer Jack Gescheidt here, with exciting news of the next, large TreeSpirit photo event YOU are invited to join, 7-9AM Sunday, Sept. 12, 2010 in Humboldt county, CA (a 4-hour drive north of San Francisco). It's hard to believe but CalTrans plans to "remove" or cut the roots of over 100 old-growth redwood trees—some 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 years old—to widen one mile of Hwy 101 through Richardson Grove State Park, 7 miles south of Garberville, CA.

I meet so many fellow tree lovers and environmentalists, I sometimes forget that what I call "the old paradigm" is still at large. Namely, cutting down precious, inspirational, natural beauty for short-sighted, temporary, and in this case illusory gain: CalTrans wants to spur economic growth by getting more and bigger trucks through, by killing the rare, spectacular trees that attract tourists to Humboldt in the first place. The flyer below contains more information about this debacle. These links lead to,

Please share this email with everyone you know who appreciates the immeasurable value of these ancient trees and put Sunday, Sept. 12 on your calendar. Come spend the weekend among these amazing trees and enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience early Sunday morning (7-9am). Join me and 100-200 (or more) fellow tree and nature lovers to make art and gain public attention in order to protect these redwoods for future generations.

Email me,, to join the (confidential) email guest list for updates and info. Because of this event's goals of this, you're invited to attend even if you're uncertain about participating. The TreeSpirit documentary film crew will, as usual, respectfully record the proceedings as will local media invited to attend too. As with all TreeSpirit photo events, this gathering will be peaceful and heartfelt.

For the trees; for all our sakes,

Jack Gescheidt
Tel: 415.488.4200

Sunday, August 1, 2010


3 charged with Caltrans bribery scheme

Friday, July 30, 2010

(07-29) 18:12 PDT SACRAMENTO -- Two Bay Area contractors were charged Thursday with bribing a Caltrans supervisor in Stockton to win state transportation contracts, federal prosecutors said.

A federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted Siavash "Mike" Poursartrip, 56, and Sara Shirazi, 52, both of Walnut Creek, along with the Caltrans employee, Clint Gregory, 48, of Sacramento, on charges of bribery, bid-rigging and fraud, U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner's office said.

Prosecutors said Poursartrip and Shirazi gave Gregory money, a Persian rug, a cell phone and other gifts to win contracts for their firm, InfoTek Associates. InfoTek's website describes it as an Oakland company specializing in software and communications.

Each contract was worth less than $131,000, but Caltrans lost a total of more than $1.2 million, prosecutors said.

They said the defendants also paid straw bidders to sidestep a Caltrans rule that at least two contractors must compete for each project.

E-mail Bob Egelko at

This article appeared on page C - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle