Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Great Redwood Trail Faces Skeptics, Human Resource Failures Will Be Investigated—The Scoop on Mendo’s Supes

[L to R] 4th District Supervisor Dan Gjerde, 5th District Supervisor Ted Williams, Ukiah resident Carrie Vau, 1st District Supervisor Glenn McGourty, 3rd District Supervisor John Haschak, 2nd District Supervisor Mo Mulheren [From the County of Mendocino Youtube Page]

The Great Redwood Trail met with stiff opposition during an informational item at this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting, though supporters continue to insist it will be an economic boon to the area.

And supervisors formed an ad hoc committee to respond to a scorching Grand Jury report about the county’s failure to fund a human resources director and implement basic workplace protocols.

Supervisors Ted Williams and Dan Gjerde are tasked with recommending how the full board should respond to detailed findings about a workplace culture that’s been described as toxic and riddled with favoritism and bullying. In a 45-page report released last month, the Grand Jury said that having 19 HR directors over the past 25 years has led to a lack of long-time strategic planning and institutional knowledge. Now most county departments evaluate employee performance using a perfunctory scale of 1-5 and a video provided by a contractor. Supervisor John Haschak summarized a few of the challenges, saying that he and Supervisor McGourty spent “six months or a year,” on a previous ad hoc committee, trying to find a new HR director. Deputy CEO Cherie Johnson is now overseeing the department, in addition to her other duties. “I understand that that position is not funded anymore,” Haschak noted; “So that’s kind of a technical problem that we’ll have to deal with.”

In a later item that drew lively discussion in spite of an hours’-long delay, Louisa Morris, a project manager with the California Coastal Conservancy working on the Great Redwood Trail, told the Board that she’s collecting input on the master plan for the project. She said an economic impact report anticipates $100 million annually in benefits to Mendocino, Humboldt, and Trinity counties. “These come from increased economic activity, as well as community savings in transportation and health,” she said. “So there are three areas of benefit.”

Carrie Vau, a landowner in the Ukiah Valley, was skeptical, saying, “I predict what will happen is, all the private property owners, including myself, who are along the trail, are going to fence in the entire trail…it’s going to be a single corridor that’s lined on both sides by fences.” She assured the Board that she would install razor wire on top of the fence on her property. “I don’t think this is going to be as great a trail as you think it’s going to be, when you have all the private property owners,” she concluded. “They’re going to have to protect themselves.”

Devon Boer, the Executive Director of the Mendocino County Farm Bureau, wanted to know how the trail would be funded in the long term. “I think there is going to be a burden placed on private property owners” especially in the Ukiah Valley, she said. “Because that’s key production agricultural property.”

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Morris said the trail will be a collaboration with other agencies, like the sections of the trail that already exist in the City of Ukiah. “We will not open any segment of the Great Redwood Trail unless we identify a partner that will plan, get the permits, construct, and commit to doing perpetual operations and maintenance,” she declared, saying it would be similar to the California Coastal Trail, which she was also involved with. “No segments of the California Coastal Trail are opened without having a very responsible and capable partner who will take on the operations and maintenance, which includes sometimes responding to emergency situations,” she acknowledged.

Williams invoked scenarios involving stabbings, shootings, wildfires, and kidnappings, which Haschak suggested might be hyperbolic. But Williams wanted to make sure the state continues to fund the project once it gets started. “I think we’re really underestimating the potential impact,” he said. “If you’re bringing thousands of people through here, you will have problems. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. It will be a bad idea if you’re relying on volunteers to deal with those negative consequences. I think the message from our county to the state needs to be, if the state is going to do this trail, and it seems like they’re going to, they need to own responsibility for it. The rescue personnel, the phone service along it,the litter pickup, the restrooms. Everything that’s entailed. Because you can’t put us down as a partner and have the county pick up more responsibility. We can’t do what we’re supposed to do today.”

Morris said some suggestions from concerned parties will already be included in the master plan, like CalFire’s suggestion that campfires be prohibited during fire season. Neil Davis, the Director of Community Services for the City of Ukiah, said he believes the trail is not the potential tinderbox some of its detractors make it out to be.

“Our teams have been able to do fuel management that has not happened prior to our taking over the project,” he said of the stretch of trail alongside the track in parts of Ukiah. “Particularly as we move from it being something that has been unmanaged and unmaintained into a place where we can maintain it. Not only does it give us the opportunity to maintain it and keep weeds down, it actually ends up providing a fire break through the center of the county.”

And Supervisor Maureen Mulheren, a longtime supporter of the trail, pointed out that the concept is hardly unheard of. Reeling off the names of trails like the California Coastal Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Appalachian Trail, she said, “This is not something that is earth shaking and ground breaking. There are trails all across the country that have already been built. So I don’t think that we need to reinvent the wheel. There’s models that work in other areas, and we can figure out what is working and what isn’t.”

The next community meeting about the Great Redwood Trail in Mendocino County will be on July 27th at 5:30 pm at Brutocao Cellars in Hopland.

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  1. The so-called Great Redwood Trail was spawned in a hoax and it will continue as a fraud funneling money to the supporting elite of the Democrat Party until all the money is gone.

  2. I was swimming on the Eel.
    There was no one around. It was quiet. It was beautiful. Some broken glass nearby upset us.
    I looked up at the old railroad above. I imagined hikers trampling, defecating, and exploring(trespassing) beyond the trail, scrambling down to the river, taming the water they claim to want wild.
    Will the trail be better maintained than the hwy to Covelo?
    Is this just a thoroughfare grab by the government?
    A future track for delivery drones? Greenwashing?
    Does the government really care about providing hiking opportunities?
    Will humble hikers bring in as much money as Marijuana tourism could have?
    Will local students go on overnight hikes on this trail, learning about their own back yard?
    Will this just open up a new corridor for global industrial culture?
    All this money and effort to bring this trail to fruition, yet I just read in a letter to the editor that the Senior Center (who provided so many services to my father) is about to go belly up.
    How can there be so much money for expansion, yet none for our elders?
    Can we at least have maintained, unlocked, public restrooms in Ukiah that aren’t a biohazard before we go claiming to be able to maintain a whole trail full of them? There’s no where to pee in town! Try having a kid in potty training around here or a sanitary issue. Safeway thank you for your bathrooms.
    I like trails and hiking and nature and all that too. But I also just overheard some trimmigrants in Walmart buying a cheap tent and discussing how they could just leave it with “the land” when they were done, and have seen what Usal beach looks like after a summer weekend.
    I believe that our collective desire as humans to spend more time in nature is being used to force this government trail agenda under the guise of an imaginary breathtaking hike that let’s face it, most if us will never take.

  3. Another view about the Redwood Trail. In the 70’ s Lake Tahoe built a foot and bike trail around the entire lake. I lived up there at the time. It was the safest way for kids to ride into town. Today the trail is the most beautiful way to view the lake and thousands of people use the trail daily. It’s one of the biggest attractions up there. There are bike rentals everywhere! I’m sure plenty of money is being made.

    What if people started to think of all the positive aspects of the rail trail instead of the negative projecting that’s happening. A negative society is one that makes little to no progress. What if people started believing there could be some amazing possibilities? I’ll start. Sections of the trail could be named after people who have made or are making a difference in our community.

  4. The NIMBYs are going to pit the final nail in the coffin for this County. They don’t want anything at all built in this County. No housing, no business, no recreation. People are somehow shocked that all the young people move away from Mendocino County to have a better life elsewhere. If the NIMBYists have there way, my family will have to leave this dying county.

    • This is a big part of the reason I moved back after a several years here. Lots of potential but too many NIMBYs blocking anything that looks like progress.

  5. Of course Photo-Op Mo supports the trail, she needs a new picture to post on her Facebook account!!!!!! She is probably the one who suggested the Ad-Hoc Committee for the HR Director, Ad-Hoc’s are her second most favorite thing to do. She suggests these committees that never get anything done, but form a good excuse. When she is asked about failure she replies, “You know we formed an Ad-Hoc Committee, you should go talk to them.” And did you notice Haschak admits he was just on a Ad-Hoc Committee with McGourty that accomplished nothing.
    Every time this board meets they just prove their name, Board Of Stupid!!!!!!!! But let’s talk Rail Trail, while our employees form picket lines at the Courthouse and threaten to strike. Priorities People!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Ad-Hoc committees are created to buffer liability and diffuse responsibility. They brought a director in from Humboldt county to help direct the Cannabis in Mendo and it failed. Why would the BOS stick their neck on the line for new director for HR? This position is a punching bag job just like the Cannabis director role was back then. They know there are systemic problems in every dept, some more than others, which makes being an HR director here a near impossible task. The rail trail is the only positive developments happening here that isn’t a waste of time. It would bring in new tourism potential and encourage investment here.

      • Ad-Hoc committees are created to answer a question or solve a problem. Not any of the reasons you stated. Ad-Hoc committees are temporary and then dissolved when the subject they were created for is resolved.

        • https://nevadasmallbusiness.com/decision-by-committee/

          Committees are just a group of humans coming together to make a decision. There are pros and cons to this style of decision making and my version is a valid form of group think mentality that often occurs in committees. This BOS doesn’t know enough to make a decision so they diffuse the responsibility of their decision to the opinion of the newly created committee. Most small local govt committees are made up of certain segments of the population that are not always diverse in experience or thought.

  6. Another 8.5 mile stretch that was built along the Santa Rosa/Petaluma railway is an absolute multi year clusterf*ck of a situation.

    Here is what you’ll see on the surface.

    Here is what you can experience.

    They threw money at the issue constantly, and they CAN afford it. If it manifested here, you think we have millions of dollars to toss at it repeatedly? We can’t even pave our f’cking roads, or afford the many necessities our residents require.

    Press Democrat 2/21/23: “…The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, in an emergency $3 million move, is set to approve the establishment of two yearlong sanctioned camps for homeless individuals, at the Santa Rosa Veterans Memorial Building campus and on its own administrative campus in north Santa Rosa, to help clear and clean up the latest in a series of periodic homeless camps on the county-owned Joe Rodota Trail in west Santa Rosa.”

    Press Democrat 5/8/23: “…Since county parks officials reopened the Joe Rodota Trail in late-April, they have spent about $200,000 on cleanup and upgrades along stretches of the trail to ward off homeless people from setting up camp.”

    Press Democrat 3/14/20: “…There was no ceremony to mark the end of the $450,000 cleanup that followed the clearance of the massive homeless encampment that kept bicyclists, joggers and walkers from enjoying the stretch of one of the most popular Santa Rosa-area trails.

    Crews removed about 100 tons of debris and hazardous materials. The only remaining vestiges Saturday that a homeless camp existed in the area were some rat bait stations lined up against the chain-linked fences bordering the trail.”

    Wikipedia: ” Incidents such as fires and arson took place in the encampment three times in a span of two months from November 2019 to January 2020, including a tank explosion on New Year’s Eve 2019. A county supervisor voiced concern that the campsite had steered away many would-be trail pedestrians and cyclists, and had become a nuisance for people who live in the neighborhood.”

    Locals have a legit concern.

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Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith
Sarah Reith is a radio and print reporter working in Mendocino and Humboldt counties, focusing on local politics and environmental news.

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