September 20, 2012
There is a spot along Turner Road, on the south edge of downtown McKinleyville, where you can stand in a light-dappled forest and hear the steady, soothing whir of traffic on Highway 101 nearby. Walk a few yards and the sound becomes suddenly brighter, closer, not as compact and forward-sounding. It's the even more soothing whir of water cascading.
Walk to the edge of the narrow country lane and you'll see it: a short path that drops precipitously downward and, suspended among the leafy black-and-green, a frothing whiteness. A waterfall! Right next to the Mill Creek shopping center! Why, you could soak up some nature here, feeling as if you were in the wild beyond, then amble over to watch a movie or get groceries. Amazing, really. And what's even more amazing is the town hasn't given it even a backward glance. The land around it has suffered as a consequence. Word gets out when you've got a beautiful waterfall in the neighborhood, within walking distance of a big parking lot. We're spreading it right here. But the path that wobbles down to the base of this gorgeous fall is a nasty, makeshift scrape made by feet, not engineers, and not only is it slippery and dangerous, but years of urban waterfall seekers have eroded the bank. Plus, folks looking for this place likely will just drive onto the road leading to it, rather than park at the shopping center and walk in. There's one teensy pullout, so they'll keep driving until they're intruding upon a paradise of private property dotted by cows milling around a scooped-out pasture pond. Probably the neighbors there get tired of this.
How about a little direction, town planners -- not so much to make it easy on the seekers, but to protect the stream bank and the privacy of the residents nearby?