Environmental activist and former Arcata City Councilman Dave Meserve stepped up his ongoing campaign for the removal of billboards along the Hwy. 101 safety corridor between Arcata and Eureka today by erecting his own small signs in front of each large sign demanding, “Mr. CBS/Outdoor Outfront, Tear Down This Billboard.” But Meserve reported that shortly after the protest signs went up they were removed.

Meserve’s suspect for the removal was local sign company Allpoints Signs, which manages many of those billboards on behalf on Outfront Media (formerly CBS Outdoor). But Geoff Wills, owner of Allpoints Signs, said it wasn’t him.

“I was going to, but someone got to them first,” he said. Wills later spoke with Randy Simmons, owner of North Coast Signs, which also manages billboards on the corridor, and Simmons reportedly took credit for removing most of the protest signs, with Caltrans employees also removing a few.

Meserve, who remembers Arcata officials battling CBS Outdoor in court when he was on the city council a dozen years ago, recently launched a Facebook page called Humboldt bay billboard bye bye. He also started a petition on change.org that, as of this writing, has gathered 780 signatures.

“CBS basically holds public agencies hostage because they have deep pockets and they don’t mind litigating,” Meserve said. The online petition campaign states, “Most of the billboards along Humboldt Bay are on public lands, and landowner permission for them to be there was revoked years ago.”

Meserve told the Outpost that those signs — the ones on public land blocking views of the bay — are the ones he’s focusing on, not those on private land.

Wills, meanwhile, said he doesn’t understand the fuss. “Honestly, I’m just baffled it’s even a topic of conversation,” he said. “I feel like there are so many things people could focus attention on to try to better the community than focus on signs. … I’m just trying to do business the best I can.”

The California Coastal Commission made removal of those signs “to the extent feasible” a condition of approval for Caltrans’ proposed improvement project on the corridor. Outfront Media sued over that action, but the suit was tossed by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge Bruce Watson, who ruled that the company doesn’t have any grounds to sue yet. But if the order for removal goes forward, Outfront is likely to renew its legal challenge.