1000 acres of Green Diamond logging land could turn into a multi-use community forest
Eureka will soon have its own version of Arcata’s established community park in the form of the McKay Community Forest. An initiative led by Deputy Director of Humboldt Public Works, Hank Seemann, looks to develop 1,000 acres of forest acquired from Green Diamond logging company into a multi-use community forest with trails for hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers.
Seemann said that Green Diamond initiated the land transfer after determining that some of its own property could be put to better use serving the community. The county is also looking to acquire an additional 197 acres from Green Diamond southwest of the current forest. Locals have been exploring the McKay tract for decades, there is currently a network of vague, carved-out single tracks running through the park.
“A lot of those trails were not planned, so they may or may not be in appropriate locations or connect to access points,” Seemann said. “One of our goals with this trail plan was to link trails to proper access points so we’re not having impacts on adjacent neighborhoods.”
On Jan. 30 the county released a draft trail plan for the McKay Community Forest. The planned trail network would contain 27 miles of trails and access roads and 1.5 miles of handicapped-accessible trail, with an additional 0.7 miles of improved access trail. The next month the county collected input from community members on what they’d like to see in their community forest.
“It will probably take the McKay Forest 10 to 20 years to resemble today’s Arcata Community Forest.”
“We received approximately 90 comments, with a large voice expressed from the mountain bike community,” Seemann said. “This group mostly was appreciative of new mountain biking trails near Eureka and offered to assist with further trail design and construction.”
Some residents living near access points to the forest were concerned that there would be increased traffic in their neighborhoods, but the proposed plan looks to phase in other access points as properties adjacent to the forest get subdivided in coming years.
“It will probably take the McKay Forest 10 to 20 years to resemble today’s Arcata Community Forest,” Seemann said. “We’re just in the infancy of figuring out the property and coordinating with community groups to ensure a robust development.”
Sean Tetrault owns Revolution Bikes and has been exploring the McKay tract since he was a kid attending Winship Junior High in Eureka. He says that after the county started its process of development he sees more use than ever before.
“People are getting curious and walking in,” Tetrault said. “I still primarily see mountain bikers out there myself, once you get distanced from the developed areas.”
For the most part, the unsanctioned trails running through the McKay tract are raw skid lines and singletracks, occasionally cleaned up by those who Tetrault affectionately dubs “Trail Gnomes.”
“This project is going to give mountain bikers better options. Mountain bike specific routes are included in the plan, which is a step beyond what we’ve seen in the Arcata Community Forest,” Tetrault said. “For people that are nervous about being on an unauthorized route, this will make it easier. I think it will grow mountain biking, honestly.”