Folks enjoying the Arcata Plaza during the 2018 Oyster Festival | Photo by Stephanie McGeary

Home of zany traditions, statue-centered controversy and some rather bizarre crimes, the Arcata Plaza is an important part of the town which could maybe use a little work. That’s why in 2018 the Plaza Improvement Task Force was formed. After extensive research, receiving public input and suggestions, the task force will present the Arcata City Council with its suggestions on how to improve the town square.

Illustration by Martha Jain from the Plaza Improvement Task Force report

According to the task force’s 126-page report the plaza is like a “great mug,” because it can hold many things, an analogy brought before the task force by local architect Martha Jain. With this concept in mind, the task force made recommendations which aim to “protect and improve our public Plaza for the many different roles it plays in the community,” the report states.

In addition to Jain’s input, the task force heard from various organizations including the Arcata Police Department, HSU and the Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities (CRTP). As part of its public outreach, the task force also asked citizens to fill out a survey asking what they thought could be improved about the Plaza.

“When comparing demographics of who responded to our survey to the demographics of our area’s population, younger people and people of color were under-represented,” the report states. “White people and people between the ages of 25-74 were over- represented.”

Besides learning that mostly older, white people responded to the survey, some other key takeaways were that people would like to see more events and activities and less homeless people, less drinking and drugging and more art.

Based on its research the task force is recommending adding more programmed activities to the plaza such as ukulele, badminton, yoga, zumba and tai chi, and events such as movie nights or live theatre. The report also suggests some ways to enhance the beauty and infrastructure such as adding murals and removing the planter at the center of the plaza which used to hold the McKinley statue.

A big area of concern is the plaza’s safety. The task force recommends enhancing street lighting, increasing police presence and establishing  a “safety corridor” from HSU campus to the plaza. To reduce DUIs, the task force recommends staggering bar closing times and increasing random checkpoints.

Proposed one-way changes from the PITF report

Accessibility and safety for bicyclists and pedestrians is another topic of the report. The task force recommends considering designating Eighth and Ninth streets and one way from F to K or N streets and exploring additional road closures during events on the Plaza.

If you would like to voice your opinion on this or other issues, you can attend the next Arcata City Council meeting tonight at 6 p.m at Arcata City Hall — 736 F Street.

You can view the full agenda here.