The Humboldt County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously this afternoon to put language in the General Plan Update’s Conservation and Open Space element supporting the creation of a “regional trail system.”
Today’s meeting kicked off on an unusual note, as 5th District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg cued up his cell phone’s speakerphone and played a voice mail he’d received recently from an unidentified, angry sounding woman who decried Sundberg and his fellow board members as liars for “taking trails out” of the General Plan Update. While short on specifics, the voice mail was likely referring to a controversial Feb. 18 vote of the Humboldt County Planning Commission that recommended eliminating language from the open space element supporting the stated goal of “a countywide trail system that meets future recreational and non-motorized transportation demands.”
The commission’s 4-2 vote in February caused a bit of a firestorm from trail advocates, who felt the stated goal of a countywide trail system was important to have in the element. Some even charged (erroneously) that the vote took trails out of the general plan entirely.
When the matter wound up before the board this afternoon — with staff recommending the board reject the planning commission’s recommendation — it was quickly apparent that there was a consensus on the board supporting trails and the goal of creating some type of overarching system. Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell suggested the board swap in the term “regional” for “countywide,” saying it was less restrictive.
Sundberg agreed with the suggestion, saying it was also more consistent with other parts of the GPU, especially the Circulation Element, which contains numerous references to a “regional trail system.” The supervisor also noted that he’s heard “angst” from a number of farmers and owners of Timber Harvest Zone landowners who feared the stated goal of an expansive trail system might lead to the county using eminent domain to turn private lands into public trails.
County planning staff said such concerns are unfounded, as the county policy limits use of eminent domain for matters affecting public health and safety or national security, and would not permit a public land grab for recreational purposes.
After minimal discussion, and a few comments from the public, the vote was unanimous.
“Does that mean trails are back in the general plan?” Board Chair Rex Bohn asked.
“I wish I could call my friend back,” Sundberg quipped as some in the audience applauded.