Great Redwood Trail Bill Passes Senate

Train tracks

Train tracks [Photo from the North Coast Railroad Authority]

Press release from Senator Mike McGuire’s Office:

Senator Mike McGuire’s groundbreaking bill that will create the Great Redwood Trail, which will extend from the San Francisco Bay to the Humboldt Bay, is one step closer to reality after it was approved with a unanimous 36-0 vote in the State Senate last night.

“There is tremendous support for this trail project both in the state Legislature and on the North Coast and we couldn’t be more grateful for the support thus far,” said McGuire, noting the strong bi-partisan vote in the Senate and significant local backing. “However, there is still major work to do and we know that anything that makes a big difference is never easy. We need to resolve the significant financial debt that NCRA has racked up over the years as our first step.”

McGuire is continuing to meet with state government agencies, land owners, trail advocates and transportation officials on a plan to work out the agency’s financial debts and chart a way forward for the popular trail system.

The bill, SB 1029, has become one of the top priorities for environmental organizations around the state, making the Green California “Hot List” of critical bills this year. This list is compiled by leading environmental organization like the League of Conservation Voters, the Sierra Club, Trout Unlimited and dozens more. The California Transportation Commission is also in support of this important bill.

“From the San Francisco Bay, through the incredible beauty of wine country, alongside the glistening banks of the Russian and Eel Rivers, into the stunning old growth Redwood forests, and up to and around panoramic Humboldt Bay – this is truly an incredible piece of earth. SB 1029 sets the stage to turn this 300 mile long-suffering train track into a world renowned trail system that will benefit locals and visitors alike and be a boon to our local economies,” Senator Mike McGuire said.

The Great Redwood Trail will be a significant economic driver for the rural North Coast communities it would wind through. California outdoor recreation is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Golden State’s economy. It generates over $92 billion a year here in California, is responsible for nearly 700,000 jobs with over $30 billion in wages, and brings over $6 billion in tax revenues back to state and local communities. The trail will attract hundreds of thousands of locals and visitors alike to hike this spectacular landscape and inject needed funds into our small, rural economies.

The North Coast Railroad Authority will be dissolved through SB 1029, and the 300-mile-long right-of-way will be segmented roughly at the halfway point. The Northern Segment, from Willits to Arcata, will be transferred to the newly created Great Redwood Trail Agency who will begin railbanking the right-of-way and start the planning for the trail, including a significant community input process. The Southern Segment will be transferred to Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit who will be responsible for passenger and freight trains, and will build the southern section of the Great Redwood Trail.

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84 comments

  • Wow. Looks like this legislation is moving very quickly. I hope all the “environmental organizations” will back decommissioning and removal of the Potter Valley Project too.

    • Taking down the dam at Pillsbury would be a very complex, costly and time consuming project. There is a tremendous concentration of mercury in the sediment behind the dam. Removal would have to be done in stages with ongoing stabilization of the shoreline as the project proceeds. It could be done but who would foot the bill? If if the downstream smaller diversion dam is removed and the tunnel to Potter Valley is closed it would result in significantly more year ’round flow but would choke off a major irrigation source for downstream users who possess heavy political clout.

      • I knew that. What is your point? That it would be difficult?

      • As the owner, PG&E should be responsible for removal. They have the money.

        • They have the money, that has to be the bestest argument I’ve ever heard

          • How about, they have the money AND the responsibility. PG&E is like the grower that leaves their property trashed over the winter. They made their money, now its someone else’s problem.

            • Exactly the point of my earlier comment. As the owner it is their responsibility. That is why they should pay for it.

              I am hoping the FERC relicensing is denied and that PG&E (the owner) is required to remove the project.

      • oh right, of course, how silly of us.

      • The Hermit of Grizzly Mountain

        Besides, how would the global elites wash away all that sacrificial blood off of the altars at Bohemian Grove after Potter Dam is removed? Potter Dam is here to stay, regardless of whatever PG&E does.

  • Cool. I can’t wait to get the 4 wheeler out.

    • DELUSIONAL LIBERAL

      Was wondering what the rules are going to be for this proposed trail system. What kind of enforcement? Will there be outlaw Harley riders riding wheelies through people? Can you ride a motorized bicycle from Eureka to A.P.? Can you camp on it? Dirt Bike racing?? Who will be responsible for the B+B’s every 1/4 mile?? What else…

      • local observer

        have you ever been on the pacific crest trail? it will be the same. pack out what you pack in. no motorized vehicles.

        • I think it will be very different from the PCT. This amazing public owned right of way passes through private land (my own included). I am a teacher without a huge nest egg and I look forward to the opportunity to provide services to the people passing through. I have hiked similar long trails through majestic private lands in Patagonia. I didn’t have to carry anything with me because there were shelters (refugios) with great dinners and lodging waiting for me at the end of the day. Hikers come from around the world and dropped money as well. Anyway, I already have my url — redwoodtrailrefuge.com. greatredwoodtrail.com had already been taken. I also look forward to using the trail as there aren’t really many up here along the Eel River. Shoot, one day I’ll have to bike to SF, and at least to neighboring Willits. The trail will be relatively flat and accessible to people of all levels of physical fitness.

  • What a total fucking waste. We don’t need more trails. We do need everything possible to try to restore honest industry before pot prices crash.

    “The trail will attract hundreds of thousands” … no. no it will not.

    • The trail will be the new devil’s playground.

      • The whole reason the devils playground was a thing was proximity to resources. Do you see homeless people on the McKay track? No! They’re all still here in town.

  • Never happen, environmental impact reports alone would bankrupt the state, just like the bullet train.

  • From Dyerville to Dos Rios is no man’s land. I wouldn’t go down that trail with an armored tank.

      • local observer

        more like fear. people paddled that stretch quit often when the water level is right. never a problem.

        • Plenty of paddlers over the holiday weekend.

        • Maybe if you’re in a raft in the river. Try walking the old track in September. You will hear warning shots.

          • local observer

            it will be a thing of the past. weed was in Humboldt for one reason, that reason no longer exist. I was paddling up the Mad one day from the launch and got shot at. it was the property with the peacocks and does the pumpkin patch. redneck tweakers won’t be a thing of the past, but them growing weed will be. and if people put some effort into raising them just maybe they will be a profile of the past.

    • Yes I wondered about that no man’s land. How the hell will they spend like crazy for that section. More likely they’ll use some sections and route around others on Hwy 1 and 101. This would therefore be a local segment use facility not a through use for bike tourists.

  • Yeah honest industry like bushytails said. When any white guy could show up and grow a plant and sell pounds of it to folks on the other side of the country without any real repercussion while the people (mainly minorities) buying grams on the other end risk jail time. Writings on the wall buddy, I think it’s time to fAce reality and stop complaining. Trails are good things.

  • Put that money towards Last Chance Grade.

  • I had the opportunity to ride one of the last excursion trains from Willits to Eureka. The stretch downriver from Dos Rios is different from the lower stretches. Some very scenic areas. Less gravel bars and more bedrock.

    • I road those Eureka to Willits rails atop a loaded lumber car.; a fantastic route. What a great thing to happen. I hope I get to hike/bike it someday. An incredibly wonderful thing to happen! Over the top! The way it should be. =)

    • That was the Eureka Southern and North Coast Daylight train, right? It was yellow with a big orange stripe? I took it a couple times. I hope with this new rail to trail idea, they don’t let people put business on it, like kiosks at the mall, every mile or so someone trying to sell you something…

  • What about the 500 pieces of private property in the middle of nowhere that will all the sudden have random people walking through their yards.

    • and crapping, littering, lighting fires, etc.

      • local observer

        homeless don’t venture very far from their support system. the rail trails across the country have been nothing but a success. this will be a huge success and in ten years things will be much different in Humboldt and Mendo.

    • Kholewatcher@yahoo.org

      I think they call those “trimmers” out there.

    • Most of the right of way is not an easement, it is owned by the railroad. as long as people stay on the trail they won’t be going through anybody’s yards. They will be walking on a government owned piece of land.

      • That is true but the land between the right of way and the mean annual high water line of the river is still private. Trespass across that land will almost certainly be routine.

      • In your dreams they’ll stay on the RR hiking path. Just like the canoe folks stay on the river AFTER they climb ranch fences to hike on private property. Some go to empty houses along the Eel River to just “ nose around.” Yeah, yeah, the hikers will be different. Want to buy a bridge?

      • Fire On The Mountain

        the easemants were for a railroad not a public trail. We will not allow anyone thru our ranch law suit is pending

  • Rail Banked Trails elsewhere have brought significant tourism
    (see Elroy to Sparta Trail: http://elroyspartatrail.com/ , this is America’s first rail to trail, opened in 1965).
    A wider range of people can use these trail because of the graded bed there are no steep hills or switchbacks. People love the tunnels too. My great-great-grandfather worked on the Elroy-Sparta tunnels in 1870. The North Coast Railroad has a similar notable history.

    • There may be opportunity for some of the landowners to set up support businesses along the route. Maybe a few nice cabins to stop at with showers and supplies? I’d pay a few bucks for a hot shower and dinner while on a week long trek.

  • So does this mean that the North End rail system will be dismantled and never ever attempted to be used, if this is the case it’s such a waste you will never get it back, it would be good if they can incorporate Trail with rail

  • I see it as a helluva benefit. I’m not Johnny Bicyclist by any means but I enjoy the rails-to-trails in 10 mile increments. No danger of some drunk or texting fool in a car smearing me into nothingness. I always worry about the “decent” people on bikes I see plying up and down 101, how dangerous of a thing just to be able to say you bicycled the Calif coast. If I were one of them, I’d much rather take a serene THREE HUNDRED mile route along the Eel than stay on 101 and eat fumes and risk death. I do concur that the section in soHum / norMendo could be sketchy though…

  • Rail Trails do work other places. The heart of the Emerald Triangle might not be one of them. There would have to be a period of adjustment if it did work. Lots of paranoid people live in the Eel River canyon now. The trail would have to be wide enough to get emergency vehicles down. I’m all for it.

    • local observer

      in ten years it won’t be the emerald triangle anymore and those remote grows will be abandon.

      • I hope you’re right. Like I said, I’m all for it. I rode down the canyon for many years when my Dad worked for the NWP. I’d love to have access to that beautiful country again. This might just be a dream, but I’d like to have access to the river for steelhead fishing once again.

        On a side note, it would be an adventure in itself to walk through the Island Mountain tunnel as it’s just under a mile through it. I’ve done it before, back in the 70’s.

    • One gets the impression that financial reality will tend to thin out the population around here. Certainly some of the old pot paranoia will abate. But what the new dynamic of outlaw vs. legal grows will bring is anybody’s guess.

  • I all for it, however obviously most of the supporters haven’t seen the landslides that have happened of the last half a century. There are allot of them, some are massive and they all are in or touching the eel river which means fish and game will make it so labor intensive and expensive to rebuild that it is a nonstarter. The state can’t even hardly fix the landslides on the road and all of a sudden they think the can fix the railroad!?? The railroad couldn’t even fix the railroad!! It would be beautiful but california politicians don’t know how to operate the buttons on a calculator to run a budget. “But it has the word environment in it so it has to be good”

    • I think you’re right. The right of way is currently very tough walking and in places impassable. To be a workable trail the railbed would almost surely need removed. The environmental impact would be huge.

      • I’ll second that….rough country… kind of impressive that the railroad operated as long as it did.

      • The railbed is missing for hundreds of yards in places. The landslides are nothing short of impressive.

        • Yes. I have no idea how you could construct a stable trail across the slides and you can’t just let people scramble across them.

  • Not Through Our Ranch

    The Easement through our ranch is only for the railroad, not a trail. just what we need for fire season a bunch of city folks burning us out.We will sue and stop the public from going through our ranch.

    • You must be one of the few that actually have an easement on your land. The majority of the railroad is on separate parcels owned by the railroad.

      It would be interesting to see the language in some of the original easements to see exactly what the restrictions on use were.

  • Log Truck Driver

    Just means more Garbage more Homeless encampments along with more Wanna Be Growers having access to Untouched lands

  • It is significant that the bill did not pass the appropriations committee. I’ve heard lowball estimates of one billion for clean up and removal and double that to build it. This doesn’t count the cost of compensation to the land owners for the takings of their interest in their land. In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled 8 to1 in Brandt v. U S that the land reverts back to the land owner in cases of railroad abandonment. The rail banking act and the rails to trails act do not relieve the government’s responsibility under the 5th amendment to justly compensate land owners in takings cases.

    • The Hermit of Grizzly Mountain

      This. Unfunded bills flounder. Unfunded bills facing justified and legally precedented landowner litigation are dead in the water.

  • Comments lead me to think this is a job opportunity for the usual boobugs, to form a lobbying entity and grift the land owners anywhere near the route with fearful predictions and promises to gum up progress on it in exchange for their timely payments.
    Making boobuggery and fearmongering pay…

    • It is significant that the bill did not pass the appropriations committee. I’ve heard lowball estimates of one billion for clean up and removal and double that to build the trail. This doesn’t count the cost of compensation for the land owners who will be subject to a government takings. In 2014 the Supreme Court ruled 8 to1 in Brandt v U S that the land reverts back to the land owner in cases of railroad abandonment. The rail banking act and the rails to trails act do not relieve the government’s responsibility under the 5th amendment to justly compensate land owners in takings cases.

  • FIRST- they need a different photo for any kind of story on this trail… That photo is not a good representation. Maybe David Wilson?

  • I’ve heard for years that the eel river canyon railroad was a disaster for the river environmentally and a maintenance nightmare. I don’t understand how paving out a tourist bike trail will be any better as far as slipouts and other maintenance issues are concerned.
    It’s a nice idea, but most of us know that pipe dreams rarely manifest as intended. I stand by my earlier critique that it will either be a long distance bum trail, or a weekend jack-off for fit rich people with time on their hands.
    And the irony of this project might be that it guarantees the new east/west railroad be built mirroring the highway 36 route.
    We should be scareing off Bay Area eco-yuppies, not luring them up!
    If we can’t drive our cars on it, then we need to force bicyclists to register their bikes and pay into the piggy bank for mcguires pet project. He must be smoking some serious weed to think this is what will help make his constituents lives easier.

    • It would be better, because of Isaac Newton!

      The avg. weight of a diesel locomotive alone is 150-200 tons, without any cars or cargo involved. There is a tremendous amount of vibration and force on the earth below when a loaded freight train is moving. In comparison, the collective mass of cyclists and walkers and horses on the trail is close to zero, and the force they exert on the trail is also nearly zero.

      We can see the same phenomenon happening with rural roads in Humboldt. The ones that carry the most car traffic and the heaviest trucks, those roads also degrade the fastest. If the geology beneath the road is unstable, the process of decay is quicker and sometimes there can be catastrophic failures. Bonus points when water is involved… on the asphalt surface or in a culvert underneath.

      On the other hand think of your favorite road that carries little to no motorized traffic – say Highway 271. My guess is with the same geology as Eel River Canyon, it asks for much less in terms of maintenance.

      Volume of traffic and vehicle mass are major factors in roadbed maintenance. Geology is also a factor, but we might be surprised how easy a trail is to maintain vs. a railroad.

      • Geology is the only factor that needs to be considered in the roadbed of the railway as there has been no maintenance in half a century. obviously you haven’t walked the railway and seen any of the problems, if you had you wouldn’t be lecturing quite as much.

        • Mike is correct. Those slides are active with nothing traveling across them.

          • local observer

            I just cruised most of it on Google earth and the cows have already made a trail along the tracks for the majority of it. there are areas where there is no bank and the tracks are literally in the river all bent. some sections of this rail trail will need to be detoured for sure. some of the slides have cow trails over them, so I don’t think they are all that active. there is a house so close to the rail that this trail will be in its front yard which is a great spot for a service business to setup shop. that person will get top dollar if they sell.

        • Mike, thank you for clarifying. My point was a different one. It answered the question: why would a trail with non-motorized, low-mass traffic be any better environmentally for the Eel River than an active railroad?

          Sincere apologies if this sounded like lecturing.

          Instead if we’re comparing an abandoned rail line (status quo) to a maintained trail on the right-of-way, that’s another thing. Lack of regular maintenance on a piece of infrastructure – a railbed, road, bridge, or whatever – definitely shortens its lifespan also. I read somewhere that it takes only ~52 years of neglect for a human-built structure to completely disintegrate. OTOH Norway has many stave churches from the 9th century A.D., mostly intact due to regular maintenance.

          So it’s not clear that a maintained trail would be more impactful than an abandoned rail line. They’re likely to haul away the rusty rail equipment that’s in/near the Eel River right now. And if features like bridges are needed to bypass trouble spots, they are cheaper and more feasible for a trail than a railway. The trail designers might have more options than the rail-builders did. Surely they’ll know more about what impacts the river, soil, creatures, etc.

    • Aliens can fix tracks.train can be used to stockpile inland sea phytoplankton ,from ne Zacatecas.and that can be traded with the supreme leader,overseas,for whatever he might have.also our real leaders don’t have hidyholes,or underground cities stocked with ukraniane models,and frozen hamburgers.

  • Steven Bridenbaugh

    The proposed trail system will be a unique experience for bicycling. I don’t doubt that all the towns on the route will benefit. Like any other public park or wilderness area, there will be a need for law enforcement. The National Parks, if they are not carefully guarded, soon become havens for criminals. This trail system obviously will not be immune from that kind of misuse. Even beaches in Humboldt County are often damaged by motorized vehicles, who have been known to act aggressively towards visitors. They motor sports enthusiasts believe they are unfairly targeted, however, their use pattern prevent all other uses, and often the quality of the wilderness surrounding trails is damaged and permanently degraded.

    • The biggest problem with the beach is that your car is likely to be broken into while you’re gone. Thanks tweakers & junkies.

  • It’s all built on lies . Mike is pathetic and one of many that need to be flushed down the toilet of what beautiful Humboldt has become as a result of these polluted politicians ……. My opinion While I still have one

  • Ok, I’ll admit that it would be fun to have a bike path on the river through the ranch country of the main stem eel river. Especially post grow culture.
    It is hard to believe that this is a priority project though, especially when it seems the worlds governing structure that was set up post WWII is collapsing and America might well disintegrate into the diverse non-unity it always was..
    So if we want big government projects like “bike trails for no apparent reason!” Then we’ve got to reinvest as people in the idea of the biggest running project we have: our country. We need Less diversity and division, and more unity in the ideological and the practical realms. Less diversion, more integrity. Mikes project is a good idea, and traveling on the Mighty Eel would be a world class blast, but there is no proof that America will even exist past the next two elections, so build it quick buddy, I want to get myself a coffee at the alderpoint bistro!

    • The Hermit of Grizzly Mountain

      You can do it now, assuming by “coffee” you mean meth, and by “bistro” you mean the shady spot under the bridge.

      And speaking of unity, If Drumpf succeeds in taking down the deep state and frees America from the predatory central bankers (FED), maybe we can have a Citizens’ Bank that invests in small local business like you imagine.

  • So the Park people spend billions removing trails (decommissioning, rerouting) near water ways, especially so people will no longer be able to disturb the ecology of rivers by -gasp- walking on unstable ground near them, which then washes into the water. On the other hand, Parks will spend billions creating new trails to do the same thing. Or people are restricted from accessing wild life areas lest the disturb sensitive birds, so lets build trails to those exact spots where signs can be posted to keep out. What the heck. It’s only money. The State can always ask for more.

    Frankly, if the Parks are already short of funds for basic maintenance, would that not be considered a warning sign that a lovely idea is maybe is not so practical?

  • How about kym investigates why the pot holes in state parks briceland road that have been there for months and never get fixed .Why even mention the state park road to Honeydew i would not even call it a road

  • But will it keep the idiots on bicycles off hwys 1 and 20?

  • I think it will be very different from the PCT. This amazing public owned right of way passes through private land (my own included). And at least in my case, the land that the railroad runs over was sold in 1910 — not just an easement. I am a teacher without a huge nest egg and I look forward to the opportunity to provide services to the people passing through. I have hiked similar long trails through majestic private lands in Patagonia. I didn’t have to carry anything with me because there were shelters (refugios) with great dinners and lodging waiting for me at the end of the day. Hikers come from around the world and dropped money as well. Anyway, I already have my url — redwoodtrailrefuge.com. greatredwoodtrail.com had already been taken. I could be wrong, but if it is at all like similar trails around the world, it will bring people and money.

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