Friends of Richardson Grove Will Hold A Rally & Celebration of Spring On Friday April 1st, 2011 Challenging the Highway Widening Project Threatening Ancient Humboldt County Redwoods
GARBERVILLE, Calif.— A group of Friends of Richardson Grove State Park invite the public to a Rally and Celebration of Spring on Friday, April 1st, 2011 from 12:00 Noon until 4:00 PM at the Garberville Town Square. This will be a family-friendly event focusing on educating the public about the ill-advised highway-widening project that not only threatens the ancient redwoods of Richardson Grove State Park, but could also change the rural character of Humboldt County.
The event will feature local speakers, musicians including Bud Rogers, Jefferson Parsons and Defenders of the Holy Grove, educational literature, sample letters to send to elected representatives, a craft table for children and adults and the opportunity to discuss with neighbors the effects this project might have on our State Park and Community.
The highway project is widely opposed by local residents, business owners, conservation and Native American groups, and economists as unnecessary and damaging to the State Park, the venerable old-growth grove and its wildlife, tourism, and the coastal communities of Humboldt County.
Caltrans and certain business interests have attempted for decades to provide access for larger commercial trucks through the area, and in the past few years have pushed for widening the narrow, meandering section of Highway 101 through the world-renowned ancient redwood grove in Richardson Grove State Park. This park at the southern entrance to Humboldt County is considered to be the “redwood curtain” protecting the small communities of the north coast from blight and urban development. Public outcry has so far protected the grove from development, but Caltrans and a handful of business interests have aggressively pushed for access for larger trucks.
Established in 1922, Richardson Grove State Park was recently rated as one of the top 100 state parks in the United States, and attracts thousands of visitors from around the world every year to explore one of the last protected stands of accessible old-growth redwoods. It is here you first encounter significant old-growth forest when driving north, and this popular tourist destination has provided many people with a transformative experience walking through some of the oldest living beings on the planet.
The proposed spoiling of Richardson Grove and widening of the highway through the “Richardson Grove Operational Improvement Project” does not serve the region’s best interests and threatens the area’s environment, economy, and way of life. The Humboldt County Economic Development Program has used public funding for a misleading public-relations campaign claiming the widening and increased large-truck traffic are needed for safety and commerce and will benefit Humboldt County through falling retail prices, bolstering the local economy, and making travel into the county from the south safer. Bigger trucks do not somehow translate to consumer savings, but do increase wear and tear on roadways and decrease safety for smaller vehicles. The widening would provide incentive for big-box retailers like Walmart and Home Depot to move into Humboldt County, to the detriment of local businesses. The reality is that this project has the potential to change forever a rural lifestyle cherished by residents of the North Coast.
Caltrans claims the “realignment” project is needed to safely accommodate large-truck travel, remove the restriction of larger vehicles on this section of highway, and improve movement of commercial goods. However, it appears from Caltrans’ own statements and signage that the portion of road for which this project is contemplated is currently designated for larger trucks and that Caltrans has exaggerated potential safety problems.
Advocates for the grove forced the agency to complete a full Environmental Impact Report, rather than the Categorical Exemption and minimal environmental analysis Caltrans originally tried to employ. Caltrans’ preferred project appears to be a predetermined decision taken in advance of the environmental analysis. Federal law prohibits transportation projects on public-park lands except in cases where there is no feasible alternative. Since smaller-sized commercial trucks already travel through the grove to deliver goods to Humboldt County, one feasible alternative would be to leave the highway as it is and retain the integrity of Richardson Grove.
The project is opposed by the Environmental Protection Information Center, Save Richardson Grove Coalition, North Coast Environmental Center, InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Friends of the Eel River, Center for Biological Diversity, Bay Area Coalition for Headwaters, Californians for Alternatives to Toxics and Richardson Grove Action Now, among others.