Home to most of Arcata’s cheap motels and fast food chains, Valley West is seen by many as disconnected from the rest of town and lacking the same character and charm of other Arcata neighborhoods. Now Valley West residents have the opportunity to decide what they would like to change about the area by voting on several proposed Valley West improvement projects.
Voting will take place at a Participatory Budgeting event tonight hosted by Comunidad Unida del Norte de Arcata (CUNA) – a local group formed through Cooperation Humboldt to focus on improving the Valley West neighborhood. The City of Arcata has been partnering with CUNA on its efforts and recently allocated $15,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the group to use for projects focusing on beatification and community connectivity. CUNA wants Valley West residents to directly decide how that money is spent by selecting projects from a list of 12 proposals.
Kimberly White, a program coordinator for CUNA and a planning commissioner for the City of Arcata, told the Outpost that CUNA compiled the list of potential projects after conducting public outreach and holding several brainstorming sessions. White and other members of CUNA would talk to people at the local parks, outside the grocery store and even went door-to-door, asking residents what they would like to see in terms of beautification and connectivity in Valley West.
“The ones we chose were the most popular,” White told the Outpost. “Any [idea] that would repeat itself or seemed to be an ongoing issue, we put in there.”
The list of proposed projects for
Valley West includes weekend theater classes for kids, weekend dance
classes for adults and teens, the creation of an artisan market/flea
market, the installation of a kiosk message board and the printing and mailing of a Valley West newsletter. There are also several proposals focused on the improvement of Valley West Park and the basketball court on Hallen Drive, including planting fruit trees near the Valley West Park playground, installing a picnic bench and outdoor grill, commissioning local artist Ben Goulart to install five murals at the park, and commissioning the Rebound project to add a mural to the basketball court. Estimated costs for the different projects range from $400 to $5,000.
Voters are allowed to choose as many of the projects as they like, and will be asked to rank their choices in order of preference. Once the votes are tallied, CUNA will then select the projects starting with the community’s top choice and working down the list until the $15,000 budget has been exhausted. After the top projects have been selected, CUNA will compile them into an official proposal and submit it to the Arcata City Council for approval. White was not sure how soon the proposal will go before the council, but said it should be within the next couple of months.
These projects are just a part of CUNA’s ongoing efforts to improve the Valley West neighborhood. The group also hosts regular community cleanup days, has been working with the City on plans to makeover Carlson Park and is working toward establishing a Valley West community center. In addition to the $15,000 for community improvement projects, the City allocated $217,500 in ARPA funds to help fund the group’s operations. The money, White said, is going towards three years of salary for one full-time employee and the purchase of supplies to help with the group’s cleanup and community outreach efforts.
CUNA is also very focused on involving Valley West’s robust Latinx community, White said, and to encourage participation all of the group’s events are bilingual, provide free food and on-site childcare.
Residents can vote on the projects in-person tonight (Thursday, March 10) between 5 and 8 p.m. at the Red Roof Inn – 4975 Valley West Blvd. After voting, participants can stick around for free music, food and children’s activities. CUNA requests that only residents of Valley West vote on the projects, but anyone is welcome to attend to observe the process and enjoy the event.
For those who cannot make it in-person, you can also vote online anytime over the weekend. The online voting will be open until Monday, March 14.
For anyone interested in making Valley West a better place to be, White said that CUNA is currently seeking volunteers. You can call White at (707) 633-3867 or email email@example.com. You can also join CUNA’s monthly cleanup at Carlson Park, held on the second to last Sunday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.