In its continued effort to improve Eureka’s streetscapes, local volunteer group Keep Eureka Beautiful is in the process of planting more than 30 trees along Fourth and Fifth Streets, marking the first time the group has been permitted to plant along Highway 101.
Michel McKeegan, a Keep Eureka Beautiful volunteer, told the Outpost that this project has been nine years in the making, and that planting trees along 101 was more complicated than in other areas the group has worked in. The issue was that because the streets are technically a part of the highway, there was a lot of debate about whether Caltrans or the City would be in charge of approving the project. After years of back and forth, Caltrans took over and recently approved the tree planting, McKeegan said.
“I tried to stay up with [the process] and tried to nudge it along,” McKeegan said, when asked why she thought the process was so complicated. “Every once in a while I’d hear ‘We’re almost there.’ Then it would seem like they’d be back at square one.”
In most areas where Keep Eureka Beautiful plants trees (McKeegan said the group has planted around 1,400 trees in the city over the years), the process is pretty straightforward. A resident or business will contact the group to ask for trees to be planted in front of their property. The group’s volunteers then work with the resident or business owner to identify the best spots for the trees, checking to see which locations will not disrupt any underground lines. The volunteers then draft a design plan and submit it to the City for approval. Once the location has been approved, the City takes care of digging up the sidewalk where the trees will be planted, charging $100 per hole. Keep Eureka Beautiful covers half of this cost, as well as provides the trees for free.
For the trees along Fourth and Fifth Streets, Caltrans required that root guards be installed, which McKeegan said also added some time to the process, since the holes had to be dug much larger to add the root barriers. Caltrans also had more specific requirements about what species of trees could be planted. For example, they group was not allowed to plant magnolias – often a popular choice because they are pretty and grow very well here. Caltrans did not want magnolias because the “leaves are too big and don’t disintegrate easily, like other leaves,” McKeegan said.
Keep Eureka Beautiful and the different property owners ended up selecting a mix of Kwanzan Cherry and Yoshino Cherry trees, which have been planted on Fourth Street next to the North Coast Co-op and next to the Best Western Plus Humboldt Bay Inn, and on Fifth Street between L and M Street, in front of several businesses, including Visiting Angels senior care services and the Linden & Company Salon and Spa. On Thursday afternoon the volunteers will also be planting several trees in front of Northcoast Audio on Fifth and C Streets.
McKeegan is excited to finally be able to plant these long-awaited trees, which will help make this well-traveled section of Eureka a little bit more attractive.
“[These are] our two main streets and they represent Eureka to anyone who goes through – visitors and residents alike,” McKeegan said. “It’s really important to make that area as inviting and pleasant as possible.”