Graphic: City of Eureka


Do you live within Eureka’s city limits? Do you have a passion for gulches? How about greenways? Do you like traipsing about the neat little trails that weave throughout the City? Well, my friend, you have come to the right place.

The City of Eureka is working to develop comprehensive policies for its greenways and gulches, including Cooper Gulch, Second Gulch and the gulches of Martin Slough, as shown in the map above. But before such policies are drafted, the City would like to hear from its residents.

As it stands, there are no local guidelines or standards in place for the protection of wildlands, streams and riparian habitats outside of the Coastal Zone. The City’s 2040 General Plan calls for management standards for local gulches and greenways to ensure future development adheres to public safety and environmental standards for our community.

“This planning effort is just focused on the portions of the gulches [and] greenways that are within the city limits and outside or inland of the Coastal Zone,” Cristin Kenyon, principal planner for the City of Eureka, said during a public workshop on Tuesday. “Our working idea is to adopt a gulches and greenways ordinance that defines the boundaries of the Gulch/Greenway Management Area, includes statements of purpose for the area – values that we want to preserve and enhance as well as hazards we want to avoid – and then include some additional standards and limitations for development and uses in this area that align with the environmental and safety values.”

Preliminary results from an online survey call for enhanced protections for fish and other wildlife as well as the natural and scenic character of the City’s gulches and greenways. Residents also asked that the City reduce the fragmentation of vegetation throughout the area and for buffers to be established between sensitive habitats and nearby urban uses.

The standards will be subject to certain limitations, Kenyon noted. For example, the draft policies will identify uses and general standards for development in the gulch and greenway areas, but they will not provide a plan for public trails.

The standards will not provide a solution to homeless encampments or dumping either, she said.

“We have a homelessness crisis and these standards aren’t really going to do anything to help us in that situation,” she said. “The city has other programs that address the homelessness crisis and we’re currently working on a Homeless Action Plan. The standards can incentivize and require good stewardship but they’re not a complete solution to issues of trash and invasive species. Dealing with those things really requires an ongoing community-wide effort.”

More than 75 percent, approximately 772 acres, of Eureka’s gulches and greenways are privately owned, she said. Citywide standards would help prevent further fragmentation and degradation of the gulches and greenways while promoting better environmental stewardship.

When asked by one of the workshop’s 13 attendees whether the standards would address fencing on private property in wildlife corridors, Kenyon said the City had considered allowing wildlife-friendly fences but was unsure about the allowance of other fences.

“We’re debating what to recommend in terms of other types of fences,” she said. “I know there’s a concern [from] property owners if trails come [because] they want to be able to protect their private property from people using the trail. And so weighing that against the desire to have to allow wildlife movement through these corridors is something that we have to think about.”

Another resident asked how the ordinance rules and enforcement would impact activities on private properties within or adjacent to the gulch and greenway area. Kenyon confirmed and explained that the ordinance would function “like an overlay of additional standards and limitations” that would apply in the area. 

Eureka residents can weigh in on the proposed ordinance through mid-April.

The Open Space, Parks and Recreation Commission will review the draft policy on April 28 before it’s sent to the Eureka City Planning Commission meeting on May 9. If all goes according to plan, the proposal will move on to the City Council for approval in July.

Do you have an affinity for gulches and greenways? Take the survey here!