I was glad to learn, at the very end of Mr. Burns' autopsy report on poor dead Arcata ("Whose Arcata?" Aug. 25), that it's not quite over yet, though something essential to the place has been irrevocably lost. My heart soared when I read that: "The city will keep changing." (Not to quibble, but shouldn't that be "City"?) By recognizing that the City will continue to change (see how much better that looks?), Burns seems to conclude that the dreadful impending conflict of which he warns - between the Hippie Founders and the ungrateful and unaesthetic Usurpers - probably will not cause death and destruction from Bayside to Northtown; apparently only our mortal souls are at risk.
Anyway, as an aging one-time Haight Ashburyite turned gainfully employed property owner, and as someone who moved here recently enough to find all the navel gazing both kinda charming and way insipid, but long enough ago to have bought real estate at pre-Bust prices, I can see both sides. So should I join the Transients - with all their joie de vivre and rakishly casual charm - and bask in the sunshine in the butt-filled gutters of Bar Row; or cast my lot with the Locals, and blow the rest of the 401K on free-range chimineas and artisan corn dogs? I await further enlightenment.
Bill Hassler, McKinleyville
What a poorly researched and terribly written article you published ("Whose Arcata?" Aug. 25) in last week's Journal. I have lived in downtown Arcata for 32 years and have raised my children here. This is not the Arcata I experience every day. You have greatly misrepresented our city. Who is this Ryan Burns? What credentials does he have to write such a scathing article on this town? Does he live in Arcata? Has he ever participated with any Arcata civic or community based organization? You really took a look through a very narrow lens and should be ashamed at your lack of journalism.
You fell right in to the pot issue like the other sensationalist media before you and never even spoke of the incredible markets, festivals, community forests, schools and so much more that we in Arcata have tremendous agreement on. This is a creative and diverse town with a very enthusiastic population. It is my experience that despite some challenges, the people who reside in Arcata love being part of this incredible and friendly community. Is there a town anywhere that doesn't have its share of problems? Your article made it sound like those few issues you dwelled on were all we talk and argue about here. There is so much more to Arcata. Please take a deeper look next time you do an article. Interview a much wider spectrum of people. Do your homework; you really failed with this one.
Dan Tangney, Arcata
Arcata: Find a friend on the plaza. ("Whose Arcata?" Aug. 25) Walk in circles and shop at the lucky locations those stores have. Don't ask about a public bathroom, though. Only players like Ferndale and Eureka can work that municipal magic. Remember that the Arcata Marsh is an international accomplishment to be proud of and should treated with utmost respect. On the other end of town, we have the Potawot Indian Health Village, also a fine accomplishment that should be regarded as an example. Arcata is an Indian name, and it would be nice to remind people of that. Idea - transfer that godawful statue of a corrupt president on the plaza to Minorville, er, McKinleyville, where it belongs. Put a realistic bronze statue of a Humboldt or Del Norte or Trinity Indian in its place. This would help the people rediscover the identity of the town that has been there all along. And maybe they would quit trying to reinvent it with every passing trend. Provide a grounding civic image for all the various camps as they find "a place to land."
Rick Sessions, McKinleyville
As a one-year Arcata resident, after living 40 years in a major metropolitan area, I would like to respond to Mr. Burns article ("Whose Arcata?" Aug. 25).
The issues raised are valid and there are no easy answers. I have been fortunate to discover this town and find the beauty, the people and the cultural influences here to be just what the doctor ordered. I wish I could have raised my family here. The problems that exist here pale in comparison to the rest of the state, country and world.
In searching for the town's identity, I felt the writer missed the largest piece of the puzzle. Arcata is a college town. Take away Humboldt State University and you would have just another north coast town struggling to recapture the economic heydays of lumber and fishing. I have to believe that the Green and liberal bias came about because of the college. I also believe that HSU holds the key to solving the problems that were well chronicled by Ryan. I believe that the major conflicts that Arcata faces are the social issues associated with the transients and travelers, many of whom come here because of a mystique associated with our cash crop culture. The college's strong suit in terms of education seems to be in the social services area. I am not aware of how closely city government and the college work on identifying and solving these problems, but it seems a natural fit. I am just as uncomfortable as the next person with the brazen and aggressive attitudes of the underbelly. I believe that everyone should live within the law. Some of these people don't want to - [that's] law enforcement's responsibility. Some of these people need help. A more active participation of the college and their students would benefit everyone.
Now, one question, why do all the city services (trash pickup, street sweeping and deliveries) take place before the break of dawn?
Arcata is a unique community. It's going to take some planning and work to ensure all that made it this way is preserved.
Patrick Quinn, Arcata
Ryan Burns's piece on Arcata ("Whose Arcata?" Aug. 25) is somewhat OK on the 10 or 20 percent of actual Arcata that he considers. The 80 or 90 percent he ignores - or fails to notice - is much more interesting.
He focuses on Arcata's pair of problems, bums and grow houses. True, contemplating these two intractables is about as rewarding as watching a pair of brown slugs copulate on your front porch on a cold wet summer day. There's a lot more to Arcata than that.
Arcata is, for instance, a place where people make stuff. Like the coolest refrigerators, the best marimbas, the best kayak wear, the best goat cheese (and other gourmet delights) and countless excellent arts - fine, wearable, practical and decorative.
One way of evaluating a town is to look for empty storefronts. You won't find many in Arcata. They're occupied - by regular people providing goods and services to other regular people.
Then there's the initiative that, by model forestry and prudent timber harvest in the public forest, funded the purchase of park lands and building of the community center.
And then there's the top high school in California, NPA. I won't even start enumerating the innovation and dynamism the university brings to - you guessed it, Arcata.
Your article decries the loss of a fuzzy kumbaya spirit that supposedly once animated Arcata, now replaced with general irritation. Guess what - Arcata's as friendly as ever, and was never sappy.
Most important - in four decades I have never heard Tavern Row (Ninth between G and H) called "Bar Row," a term Burns uses repeatedly. An ill phrase, "Bar Row," not enough syllables.
Ed Munn, Arcata