The Eel River bar near Ferndbridge has long served as Humboldt County’s Mad Max-style no-go zone of lawlessness, as the Outpost‘s Hank Sims put it five years ago — a place for you and some bro-bros to go muddin’, maybe crack open yer engine block, and definitely shoot some goddamn firearms like YEEHAW!
Alas, some of the folks who partake in such pleasures aren’t the sharpest of sharpshooters. As Humboldt County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Mike Fridley explained at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, stray bullets have struck livestock and farming equipment on neighboring ranches.
One man was inadvertently shot twice after he passed out in the foliage along the river bar, Fridley said. Ranchers no longer feel comfortable venturing onto certain portions of their properties, the areas where they hear bullets and rifle rounds whizzing overhead.
And so, after years of complaints from the public, the law is coming to the riverbed, and it’s coming to local beaches, dunes and all other public areas in the county’s unincorporated regions that don’t meet safe shooting standards.
At Tuesday’s board meeting, Fridley told supervisors that the situation near Fernbridge caused the problem, but a proposed ordinance, which the board advanced unanimously, would also ban target shooting within half a mile of all state highways, including Avenue of the Giants, Route 255, Hwy. 36 and the entire length of 299 to the Trinity County line.
It would also outlaw target shooting “on, into or over any public place” unless the spot meets “safe shooting standards,” which include a 20-foot-tall backdrop of earth behind the target area — one that can catch all stray projectiles.
A number of local ranchers spoke in defense of the ordinance on Tuesday. One woman read a letter from Tim and Dorice Miranda that described having to put down cows and heifers injured by rifle rounds. The Mirandas also said in the letter that their son and grandson have heard bullets flying over their heads, and they no longer feel safe visiting the corner of their property that had been their favorite spot along the river.
Joseph Alexander said he hired a high-schooler to change irrigation on his property, and it’s “difficult to ask” him to do the job because it has become “a dangerous situation.”
“Society talks a lot about gun rights; there are also gun privileges,” Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson said, suggesting that people who abused the privilege by shooting irresponsibly made this ordinance necessary.
The ordinance will be summarized and set for adoption at a future meeting. Even if it passes, the ordinance itself states that it won’t interfere with “lawful hunting activities outlined in the California Fish and Wildlife Regulations, or target shooting on private property.”
Anyone who violates the ordinance will be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in the county jail or both.
You can read the full ordinance below.