It began with an outdoors column by Journal publisher Judy Hodgson detailing a day of "civil disobedience" spent cutting blackberries and brush along the railroad right-of-way between Arcata and Eureka. She followed with a publisher's column saying in part,
The response to the story was immediate and overwhelming. How can we help? Where can I join? I could not keep up with individual e-mail responses, so sent a generic reply. I said the Journal would be happy to sponsor a clean-up day in the spring. KHUM radio offered to help spread the word as well.
Well, apparently folks don’t want to wait. They want the tracks cleared and they want to start using it at least as a hiking trail. So somebody (Rondal Snodgrass, shown above with 'Honk' sign) picked a date and time and that information began appearing in e-mails from various individuals and organizations. Here it is: Saturday, Dec. 15 at 10 a.m. The plan is to show up with tools and safety gear (goggles with weed whackers, please) at various entry points: behind Target, by Bracut and especially at the Arcata end by South G and Highway 101 and by the Marsh Interpretive Center.
A couple of dozen trail-loving volunteers showed up. As reported in this week's Town Dandy , the plan was just slightly complicated by Bracut owner Rick Hess' assertion that he actually owns the right-of-way through his property since the railroad hasn't used it for years. Hess was hoping someone from the trail people's ad hoc volunteer weed-wacker army would consult with him before showing up on "his" land. They did. Rondall Snodgrass reported to the group that he'd talked with Hess and found that the brush near Bracut was already cleared so they would not need to go there.
A representative from Supervisor John Woolley and the embattled North Coast Railroad Authority showed up as the wackers assembled and assured everyone that NCRA was not planning on prosecuting anyone for trespassing. Instead they were asking participants to sign a release from liablilty for anything bad that might happen "related to a project to clear garbage and rubbish from the NCRA right-of-way."
The media was well represented with John Driscoll from the Times-Standard , Terrence McNally of the Arcata Eye and a vid-crew from Access Television all in evidence, so expect to hear more about the project in the days to come.
update : Turns out the self-described NCRA/Woolley rep with the release forms was Lawrence LaBranche of Capdiamont's Weblog , who weighed in in the comments here. He has a post on the clearing party (with lots of pix) in which he says that he's not exactly a representative of the Railroad Authority.
And you can see more of my photos here .