Eureka needs tourist dollars, especially since the lumber and fishing industries which once financed public works are now barely viable. Trying to see the Old Town from a tourist’s perspective, here are some of my pet kudos and pet peeves: Eureka’s Good, Bad and Ugly.

The Good

All photos: Barry Evans.

Murals! We’ve got great murals—over 100 of them, according to the mural-map (above) on E at 4th, right at the entrance to our newly designated Chinatown. The map also reminds us that we’re on Wiyot land—Jaroujiji, which extended from Little River to the Bear River ridge south of the Eel. Our murals include: Duane (El Pulpo Mechanico) Flatmo’s huge mural celebrating the Arkley Center for the Performing Arts—at 70 ft. high, it’s probably the tallest mural north of San Francisco; Randy Spicer’s “Satchmo” nearby; Blake Reagan’s paean to Billie Holiday on the side of The Speakeasy; Dan Kitchener’s Tokyo-at-Night scene in Opera Alley at H (painted in just a week, freehand); and many, many more.

The Boardwalk, completed in January 2002—giving locals and tourists alike access to Humboldt Bay, complete with a tour boat, M/V Madaket, scheduled to begin service again in mid-May.

Waterfront trails, north and south. The 1.5 mile Hikshari’ Trail running south from Truesdale is currently being extended south which will eventually, ojalá, be part of a future Great Redwood Trail. Meanwhile, the comparatively new trail from Adorni to Target will soon (next year, if all goes well) be the southernmost portion of the entire Eureka to Arcata trail—can’t wait!

The Bad

Visitor Center. You know where it is, right? No? It recently moved to new digs on the Gazebo, but you’d never know it: no sign, no sandwich board outside, no flags, nothing. Everywhere else where there’s a tourist office—everywhere, I swear (Europe, Canada, Mexico, South America, Asia…) you find it by looking for the white lowercase “i” on a blue background. If our local office did have such a sign, it would be swinging from the convenient bar right outside. (I’ve been asking about this for three years now, only to be told, “It’s in the works.”

This is how it should look!

Militarized Boardwalk. Not really, but do we have to celebrate the fact that our region has several active service men and women? Not all of us supported, or support, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, and I suspect many visitors might feel the same.

Madaket Plaza. Last August, 42-ton dolos* #1972 (celebrating the year it was cast) was moved from the old Chamber of Commerce parking lot to the Madaket Plaza, courtesy of Leroy Zerlang, Kernan Construction and North Coast Fabricators (despite the City Council previously giving the nod to its destruction). The day it was moved, the explanatory plaque “dedicated to the seafaring men [sic] of Humboldt—past present and future” was removed to “polish up.” (Couldn’t it have been polished in situ?) Eight months later it’s still being “restored.” (I’m quoting city staff.) This is part of our heritage, and visitors deserve to know what it’s doing there. (If you’re unsure, check out this link).

* Dolos = singular, dolosse = plural. (Afrikaans)

Meanwhile, right next to the dolos, Jack Sewell’s dynamic aluminum sculpture Following Current Events just sits there in its empty pond, not turning as it was designed to do—and as it did for seven years after installation. It’s evolution from a rotating feature to a static blade is a long and complicated story, but in my mind, this is such a tourist draw that the City should be paying to upgrade the pump (if that’s what it takes) and to maintain it. With the infrastructure already there and paid for, this is an opportunity to be seized, rather than a problem to be solved.

While we’re at the plaza, note the six concrete plinths on both sides as you walk in from First Street at C. These used to support local artists’ metal sculptures, but I’m told they were victims of vandalism. So, rather than surrender to idiots how about being proactive? Security cameras? Security guards? Stronger sculptures? Fences?

The Gazebo. Speaking of empty ponds, when’s the last time you saw the water in the stone chute running down from the Gazebo, with its three fountain jets, actually working? They’ve been having problems with the pump, I know, but c’mon guys! This is a worthy feature, and it’s so tacky, not to mention hazardous, when empty. Oh, and benches? Tourists like taking a break from time to time! We used to have a slew of benches in Old Town, but most are now gone (“Homeless people were using them…”—sigh). Put in lots of benches, for our homeless and tourists alike! That’s what grown-up towns do!

Waterfront park. Where? Other cities have created waterfront parks as long-term investments for locals and visitors, and we could do the same. Consider the lovely field at the east end of the boardwalk behind Bayfront One. Yeah it’s privately owned and yeah, it’ll take a lot of money and work, but a park here would beautify Old Town and pay off in appreciation by tourists. Bite the bullet, people! Buy the land, clean it up, plant trees, install trails, picnic benches, a kids’ playground! We lesser mortals will love you for it.

The Ugly

Trees, lack of. For a future column.