Imagine the surprise I had when I paged through your magazine and saw a picture of one of my gates in your "Titlow Hill Blues" article (Feb. 18). It really is a shame that Heidi Walters didn't cross-check the information that she obtained for her article. Isn't that a basic in journalism? To get a second or third reference or confirmation. This article seemed to be a monologue of one family's opinions.
Your article states: "Jeff St. John says someone put a locked gate across a community-access road that leads to his water catchment on someone else's property. Ken Bareilles alleges that St. John built the concrete dam on his property without a permit."
The "community access road" being referred to here is someone's driveway! This gate and road never touches onto or enters the St. Johns' land! Other neighbors, who ask, go through it upon permission all the time. Like the article states, the water catchment is on someone else's property and easement is by walking up the line or by arrangement with that neighbor.
Walters' article is full of one-sided, misleading statements, none of which are confirmed by talking to anyone else that lives in the neighborhood. Her only other reference is a neighbor who mentions a problem 10 years ago and then clearly states that: "But we're off to ourselves, so we're not impacted by it." Other statements paint a picture of a trash neighborhood, where in fact most of the folks there have children, work and pay taxes.
In fact, the St Johns have families with children all around them. All but one of the neighbors are good friends -- many have been there longer than the St Johns, who moved into the community five years ago. The neighborhood has been to planning meetings and talked with our representatives about trying to get the permit mess settled. These are parceled pieces that have had property taxes paid on them for many years. Most of the parcels are well taken care of by families that see them as the opportunity to obtain the dream that we all aspire to in Humboldt County. They are settled by nice people who have formed a community that most would like.
The next time Heidi Walters comes out to do a piece on the neighborhood I would suggest she talk to more than one family to get the story right. Maybe she would have heard about the dozens if not hundreds of frivolous complaints that this family has made to Calfire, Fish and Game, the Sheriff's Office, CHP ... the list goes on. Talk to the neighborhood and the various departments about how all that waste of time, money and energy went. Then Ms. Walters may have concluded that she too was being used as a pawn in an individual's vendetta.
A better name for this article would be: "The Journal: Being used as another Pawn in the Titlow Hills Blues game."
Nate King, Willow Creek
Bravo to former Supervisor Eric Hedlund for his thoughts on the recent hysteria centered around the neighborhood at Titlow Hill ("Mailbox," March 4). Certainly there have been some ill-advised plans aired lately to straighten out that area of Humboldt County real estate. There's plenty of blame to go around in the fiasco, settling on our oblivious-at-very-best Planning Department, and on the shoulders of "villain-developer" Ken Bareilles. The politics of today's Humboldt are a far cry from what they were in the 1970s and 1980s. During the years when these parcels first sold, there was a wide acceptance in Humboldt County of development and land use practices very different from the norm today. Rural living was still the "Humboldt Dream," and our Planners and Supervisors weren't bent on keeping their constituents efficiently parked inside urban boundaries and out of the woods.
The parcels created (legally and otherwise) between Redwood Creek and Titlow Hill were not unlike many rural neighborhoods in our county. Families settled into these new-found places, improved their properties, raised families and paid their taxes. New roads, barns and houses were built mostly without the benefit of county oversight, as had long been the norm in rural Humboldt County. Though these lands were previously logged hard, they've recovered well, and are now stocked with vital stands of timber. Nearly all current owners of these parcels manage their forests better than larger corporate "resource lands" nearby, without clear-cutting or herbicide use. While most of these properties are steep, they rest largely on shale/bedrock, and aren't unstable as has been suggested.
Many of these parcels have changed hands several times since the 1980s. Title insurance policies were generally issued at each transfer, and property taxes jumped up as fast as Prop. 13 would allow. The County of Humboldt sat idly by, collecting this growing revenue, and saying very little about these "gross violations." Now, a generation and a half later, there is suddenly a half-baked movement to turn back the clock 30 years, and to force these seasoned homesteads somehow "into compliance." By the Community Development Department's own estimates, there are more than 5,000 such "shaded parcels" in this county. (Others in the know put this figure much higher.) The Titlow Hill properties represent one percent (or less) of non-compliant lands in Humboldt.
It's high time we do what other counties have long been doing, and create a reasonable path for the owners of such parcels to get them out of the "shaded" column, and to move forward as a society. Some reasonable fees would/should be collected for legitimizing each of the parcels. Ken Bareilles would/should contribute to those fees, and then be allowed to continue on with life, older and wiser for the experience. The Community Development Services Department would/should tap this much-needed source of cash and help the families who live on these properties join with the rest of Humboldt County, working toward the future in back of the Redwood Curtain, rather than ripping away at a messy past.
Doug Frink, Elk River
Sweet Spot: Nate King wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending our favorite letter of the week.