Map showing area for Humboldt Bay Trail Planning Study: Eureka to College of the Redwoods | Image provided by Carol Vander Meer

It was a big day when construction finally began on the Humboldt Bay Trail south – the long-planned portion of the Bay Trail that will connect Eureka and Arcata. But this big step doesn’t mean the work is done, and the county is already busy laying the groundwork for the next extension of the trail, which would run between Eureka and College of the Redwoods. 

Carol Vander Meer, projects coordinator for the Redwood Community Action Agency (RCAA), which is helping coordinate public outreach efforts for the trail effort, said that the county is conducting a planning study for the potential trail area using funding provided by CalTrans. As a part of that study, planners are holding a public input meeting tonight to inform people about the proposed project and gather feedback from nearby property owners, CR students and other folks who would be impacted by the trail. 

“This is a really exciting opportunity to better connect the community to an important resource – College of the Redwoods,” Vander Meer told the Outpost in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “Having another option will help improve access for students without vehicles… and having more options for non-motorized transit improves health, reduces vehicle miles and reduces greenhouse gasses.” 

With the project still in the planning study phase, there aren’t currently any designs for the potential trail, but Vander Meer said that the dream is to construct roughly four miles of paved, multi-use trail starting at the end of the Hikshari’ Trail (the southernmost segment of the Humboldt Bay Trail) near Herrick Avenue, and ending at CR campus.

Like other segments of the Bay Trail, the CR leg would be constructed along portions of the former railroad, something made possible by the passage of Sen. Mike McGuire’s Great Redwood Trail Act, which eviscerated the North Coast Railroad Authority and facilitated the conversion of defunct railroad lines into a massive trail network. If McGuire’s dream is realized, the Great Redwood Trail will eventually consist of 320 miles of paved trail connecting the San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay and beyond. 

Existing and underway segments of the Humboldt Bay Trail. The CR leg would start at the south end of the Hikshari’ Trail

Of course, building the section of trail that would connect to CR will not be without its challenges. One big consideration, Vander Meer said, is that this section of the trail would need to cross Highway 101 to be able to connect to the college, which is on the east side of the highway. Vander Meer said that this is definitely possible and that planners are looking at “some key connectivity places” that need to be addressed. One of the goals of the input meeting, Vander Meer said, is to identify points where the crossing would be possible and gauge how the community feels about it. 

Another big consideration for building the trail, Vander Meer said, is how it would impact other properties in the area. The project would likely require construction near South Bay Elementary and Middle School, which might cause concern for some. Vander Meer said that outreach efforts will include things like holding a pop-up event at South Bay schools to show the public how the project will impact the school. The trail would also run through some culturally and environmentally sensitive areas, and Vander Meer said that a community advisory committee has been formed for the project and includes representatives from the Wiyot Tribe, as well as the Humboldt Bay Wildlife Refuge. 

After holding this community meeting, planners will work on the initial designs, before obtaining funding for the design completion and construction. Vander Meer said that if all goes well construction on the trail could begin in three to five years, but she admits that is a hopeful prediction and that, as we know from the Bay Trail, building trails can take a very long time.  

If you have strong feelings about this proposed trail, or just want to learn more about the project, you’ll want to attend the Community Input Workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Agricultural Center Conference Room – 5630 South Broadway, Eureka.