Arcata Ridge Trail Funding Finalizing

Friday, March 8, 2013

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

ARCATA/SACRAMENTO – As trail enthusiasts heave shovels at volunteer work days in Arcata forests, rehearse music and organize auction items for the 16th Annual Arcata Eye Ball, important Arcata Ridge Trail matters are afoot in Sacramento’s marbled halls as well.

The Arcata Ridge Trail Logo by artist Dave Held.

The Arcata Ridge Trail Logo by artist Dave Held.

Next Monday, March 11, Environmental Services Director Mark Andre will attend a meeting of the state Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB). The board is expected to approve a $180,000 grant for purchase of a two-and-a-half acre parcel along the north side of Fickle Hill Road – the final missing link in the Arcata Ridge Trail. After years of work and millions of dollars in other Ridge Trail-related acquisitions, that leaves just $7,000 to be raised to complete the trail.

Andre said the multiple community fundraising efforts have been key in helping secure grants from other sources.

“From the beginning, the Arcata Ridge Trail project required broad-based community support to be a success and this community has really stepped up and supported this project with funding, enthusiastic support and on the ground volunteer sweat and labor,” Andre said. “Strong community support and local financial contributions makes it so much easier for the City to  leverage additional state and federal funding to make a project like this a reality.”

The small parcel remaing to be acquired, part of what is known as the Humphry Property, will make a 515-foot connection linking the Arcata Community Forest with the Sunny Brae Forest across Fickle Hill Road.

Andre said that if approved, the WCB funds would be available as early as April. Northern portions of the Ridge Trail could be properly marked and ready for use by this summer, but the Sunny Brae Forest – still being rehabilitated from decades of logging – will require more preparation.

Residents of Fickle Hill Road near the planned Ridge Trail crossing have expressed concern about loss of privacy, possible crime exposure and safety issues along the narrow roadway. Andre is incorporating their concerns into trail planning.

We must work carefully with the neighbors,” Andre said. “We’ll go slow for their comfort level.” One challenge will be installing a safe crossing at the site, and it could be a costly proposition which would require more creative funding.

Another improvement will be devising a new southern entrance to the Ridge Trail, which is presently accessed via stairs on Margaret Lane. “We don’t want the staircase to be the only entrance,” Andre said.

Despite the challenges, it might be possible to hike all four miles of the Arcata Ridge Trail by Thanksgiving. “It could be ready by fall,” Andre said. “The whole thing.”

While the Ridge Trail effort has been a compelling force for the multiple acquisitions and the easement which span its length, Andre said that something even more significant has been achieved – a contiguous forest ecosystem preserved in perpetuity. “More important to me is the four-mile long ridge of greenspace that we don’t have to worry about being subdivided,” he said.