This is the second in a series of three updates on some of the exciting Humboldt County trail developments. In the first installment, I focused on the Humboldt Bay Trail. Today we shift to the Arcata Ridge Trail, the McKay Community Forest and the Annie and Mary Trail.
I have a special fondness for the Arcata Ridge Trail as it has unfolded in my own backyard. Although the envisioned 4.5-mile trail has yet to connect the south and north across Fickle Hill Road, each end offers some wonderful walks. Most signage has yet to be installed, several of the trailheads remain unfinished, and some timber harvesting will be occurring through August and early September, so the trails remain only ‘softly open.’ The South Fork Janes Creek Loop is now accessible from West End Road as well as the Diamond Drive Community Forest Trailhead (Trail #5 via Trail #10). This 2-mile loop begins about .6 mile from the Diamond Drive Trailhead and nearly a mile up the new Ridge Trail from unfinished West End Road trailhead.
From the Sunny Brae Forest, accessible from the cement stairs at the end of Margaret Lane, is a growing network of trails including the challenging Beith Creek Loop, a 2-mile single-track trail that requires one rather precarious stream crossing and some 600 feet of elevation gain. A new Panorama Lane access is nearly finished. At this time, there is minimal signage that may make it easy to get disoriented and spend more time walking than you may have intended.
Mark Andre, the Director of Environmental Services for Arcata, told me that the next phase of the Ridge Trail project would be completing the access to the Arcata Community Forest from the north side of Fickle Hill Road. The final stage would be building the link from the Sunny Brae Forest to Fickle Hill Road and then preparing the road crossing. No specific time frame has been established.
Since the 1,000-acre McKay Community Forest property transfer occurred late last summer, we all have been “chomping at the bit” for the development of that parcel to begin. A Community Advisory Group has been meeting monthly (at 4 p.m. on the second Thursday of the month at the Turf Club at Redwood Acres). The priority has been the identification of access points and the development of a trail plan. As cautioned by Hank Seemann, Deputy Director of Environmental Services, Humboldt County Public Works Department, there is also a rather extensive permitting process that must be completed before work can begin.
The McKay Community Forest property did not come with perfect, “ready-to-go” access points. Access points need to have adequate parking and be compatible with adjacent properties, in addition to linking to trail segments. The County is looking at several potential access points that include Harris Street, Redwood Acres, the new Hospice of Humboldt facility, Manzanita Avenue, Redwood Fields, and Northridge Drive. Many people may be under the impression that the main logging road through the McKay Tract is part of the community forest, however that is not the case (it remains under Green Diamond’s ownership). The County is developing a Trail Plan that will identify a network of trail segments connected to access points, planned with considerations for sustainability and accommodating multiple-use as much as possible. There is a general reluctance to speculate on a date when some trails will be officially open for walking. 2016 seems to be the most I can squeeze from anyone. Patience!
In his conversation with me, Hank continued to reinforce the important role that community volunteers would be playing in the development and maintenance of trails as well as serving as eyes and ears in support of appropriate use. Although Volunteer Trail Stewards have yet to be called to action, they will be. You can get your name on the list by contacting Dave Hayes at 831-334-2488.
The progress of the proposed Annie and Mary Trail between Blue Lake and Arcata has been hindered by a complicated jumble of old railroad right-of-way deeds and the challenge of crossing the Mad River. Hank Seemann, who has been the shepherd of this project as well, has recently focused attention on the Blue Lake to Glendale section of the trail. Upcoming work will explore alternative routing that would avoid the old trestles, ranch lands, and industrial sites en route. The bottom line with the Annie and Mary Trail is that it has suffered from the diversion of resources and attention to the Bay Trail and McKay Community Forest over the last several years.
The final installment of this status report on trails will include the oak and conifer woodlands of beautiful Lacks Creek, the new trail along Freshwater Slough at the Northcoast Regional Land Trust’s Freshwater Farms Reserve, plans for a safe pedestrian and cyclist alternative to crossing Little River on the Highway 101 bridge, and the plans that Caltrans has for a half-mile trail along Highway 255 in Manila.
Rees Hughes is working on a walking guide to Humboldt County — Hiking Humboldt (Part 2): Short Day Hikes, Road and Urban Walks on California’s North Coast – that will be published by Backcountry Press as a complement to Ken Burton’s Hiking Humboldt (Part 1): 58 Hiking Adventures on California’s North Coast. He also helps with the coordination of the Volunteer Trail Stewards program, a community-based effort to support the maintenance and care for local trails.