Great Redwood Trail Bill Passed State Assembly Today

Train tracks

Train tracks [Photo from the North Coast Railroad Authority]

Press release from the office of California Senator Mike McGuire:

Senator Mike McGuire’s landmark legislation that seeks to turn the crumbling 300 mile North Coast railroad line into the Great Redwood Trail passed the State Assembly today on a vote of 62 to 3. The bill will be voted on by the State Senate tomorrow and will then head to Governor Brown for his signature. The Trail, which would extend from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay, runs through some of the most dramatic landscapes on earth.

“There is overwhelming support for this trail system on the North Coast and we are getting closer to making it a reality,” Senator Mike McGuire said. “We’ve always known that undoing 30 years of debt and troubling decisions by NCRA wouldn’t be easy, but nothing that’s worth doing ever is.  The approval by the State Assembly today is a massive step toward creating the Great Redwood Trail.”

Senator McGuire offered amendments to the bill last week that addressed his serious concerns about the complex contracts and significant debt of NCRA as well as their liability issues. These amendments cut NCRA’s authority and powers, taking away their mandate to work on freight rail and requiring them instead to focus on transferring the Right-of-Way for trails and closing the functionally bankrupt agency down. The bill is officially titled “The NCRA Closure and Transition to Trails Act.”

The State Transportation Agency, along with the Natural Resources Agency, will complete a debt study of NCRA and develop a road map to shutting them down. They will review governance plans for the Great Redwood Trail and identify what agency would be the most successful at managing the trail long term. The bill launches the all-important master planning process for the trail itself examining railbanking issues, easements, trail alignment and terrain suitability – all items needed to create the trail.  Senator McGuire is thrilled to now have the Natural Resources Agency as part of the study, since they specialize in trails and park issues, and could be part of the eventual ownership of the trail.

“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 crumbling 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 bill, presented on the Assembly Floor today by North Coast Assemblyman Jim Wood, also gives the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit the ability and funding to negotiate for the take over of the complex, long-term freight contract that NCRA sold to Northwestern Pacific Company over a decade ago. This could give SMART a boost in completing their mandate for passenger rail in Sonoma County and a significant head start in planning their section of the trail – which runs from Willits to Marin. The Transportation Agency Secretary and the director of the Department of Finance would have to approve any takeover plan.

SB 1029, became 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 bill will now be heard on the Senate Floor before midnight Friday, and if approved sent to the Governor.

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60 comments

  • I would much, much rather have a train.

    • You can get one down at the hobby shop. Otherwise, there’s not a damn thing that would justify the expense of running tracks up here again.

      That is, unless the regulatory agencies got their heads out of their asses and invited every gravel-mining company in the western United States out here for ten years or so, to scour all the gravel out of these French drains we call rivers.

      Then maybe we’d get our fish back.

      • Why do people consider it OK to throw tax money at roads and trails, but not tracks? Sure, the tracks might never make a profit – but neither do roads nor trails. I’d much rather see my tax money go to an unprofitable train system than a not-even-trying-to-be-profitable trail system.

        • I have to agree. I think it’s be way better for the economy and tourism if we had a rail coming up here. I’m a lefty but I think a rail system would be preferable. But the NCRA has been run into the ground, there doesn’t seem to be sufficient will or maybe the numbers don’t crunch or something, so I’ve resigned my hope. Trails aren’t bad, but a train would be a huge benefit (at least in my mind) to local businesses, possibly to the bay, probably keep trucks off the road, and would be a great way for tourists to see the beautiful landscape without driving the ugly highway.
          I don’t like that we are giving up so easy. It used to be that we could do anything… I think the government could subsidize it and make it happen.
          Bar car to San Fran- let’s make it happen!

      • i second this!! that is the gravel mining and getting fish back. ive mentioned this before and people looked at me like i was dumb. its worth a shot as long as they dont play stupid and over do it

      • I Wish I had been able to comment on this yesterday when more people were following, Steve Parr that has to be the most Sensible comment I have ever heard on this site.

    • Nor Cal Historian

      The train cost enormous amounts of money, the only benefit to the timber industry, the train caused major fires every spring and summer. The line runs in an naturally geographically unstable environment for trains. The line is built on the flood plain of the Eel River, when the river floods, the tracks and bridges wash out costing major repairs and dumping millions of yards of gravel into the Eel River as well as creosote soaked rail ties. This line was only built to access the redwood forest, in return, NWP gained 20 acres for every mile of track laid courtesy of the US Government.
      1964 Storm And Flood Damage North Western Pacific RAILROAD
      https://youtu.be/GE6vkl7mJpg

      • I’m glad trails are immune to washouts and floods, and that no camper has ever started a fire, and thus these problems will magically go away now.

  • 1st… bet they didn’t ask the Wailaki.
    2nd… missing from this press release is the million/billion dollar funding amount. Won’t it have to go through a budget committee?

  • Is this a joke, we need better roads and schools not afucking trail. This state is run by lunatics.

    • Like the city of Eureka itself, who has the McKay property benefiting a few but will not redesign it hugely outmoded streets which would benefit most, the State can not pass on a nice idea that they can’t afford. And yet they will not spend money on the things ordinary people need to have a satisfying life.

    • State money being pumped into the local economy? Good paying park service jobs? A hiking trail through beautiful, historic country? What’s not to love?

      • Right. Like that’s done wonders for our economy when the State appropriated under the Redwood Park Expansion Plan. There were promises of compensations but they disappeared faster a robber at a convenience store.

  • you wanna see fires? wait until the public is set free to wander over the rivers and through the woods on easements that are essentially on private lands.

    • He public is already free to travel along the eel river, and they do. If anything, the trail will make remote area more accessible to emergency service.

      • Didn’t do that the last time the Parks were expanded. What changed was the wage earners were traded for … well every knows what the trade was.

        • You must not be in the tourism industry. Lots of money made from tourists around here. Don’t be such a Debbie downer.

          • First I don’t think there are that many more tourists than 50 years ago. But even if there were, they certainly do not make up a full time good wage job by visiting a couple of days in the summer. We lost 10% of our population due to the Redwood Park Expansion.

      • I wonder what they are going to tax to pay the 100 million in environmental impact revues. Fish and game needs their paycheck for doin absolutely nothing

      • That is not true, only if they stay in the water way. Most of the land along the river is private property.

    • Nor Cal Historian

      Correct this text

      Supervisors hit proposed rail cut

      URIAH – Proposed closing of Northwestern Pacific Railroad service to Eureka was denounced today by the chairman of a regional supervisors’ committee. A 1 Barbero, chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Mendocino County, and also chairman of the transportation committee of the North Coastal Counties Supervisors Association, opposed the move, which was publicized by NWP as a result of the September fire in Island Mountain Tunnel. Barbero said termination of the Willits-to-Eureka freight service would affect Mendocino County forest products firms like Masonite. Georgia-Pacific and Louisiana-Pacific as well as those in Humboldt County to the north of the closure. Barbero. a trucking executive, said he has been told by lumbermen that this is because railroads allocate freight cars on the basis of regions served, and that NWP’s closure would hit the Mendocino companies too. •’We view such a proposal

      as irresponsible,” Barbero continued. “Appreciating the expense of continuing to clear the blocked tunnel, the country is gripped by an impending fuel shortage. One freight train from the Humboldt County mills can carry as much lumber as 100 trucks This should be an important consideration to NWP and its huge corporate

      parent’. Southern Pacific. Barbero said abandonment of the NWP line will throw thousands of lumber trucks onto Highway 101, repelling motoring tourists who want to view the redwood forests and National Park He said NCCSA will join the Redwood Empire Association and other groups in opposing the NWP abandonment. Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar, Number 28, 12 April 1979

  • Bum freeway and campground.

    • But stay around public services. You do not find homeless people on the Lost Coast trail for instance.

      • But you do find them on the railway just south of eureka which is literally the exact railway that we are talking about turning into a trail.

        • Yes, you find them south of Eureka, near public services. The further you get from Eureka, the fewer homeless you see. Are you expecting homeless people on limited diets and with limited resources to mass-migrate hundreds of miles through the wilderness from the bay area, instead of just taking a bus? That is bananas.

          • There are also transient encampments along the tracks in and around fortuna, how do you plan on relocating them as nothing has worked yet. I don’t expect the homeless to venture off into the wilderness but I don’t expect them to care that you want to build a trail through their living situation. The epd can’t even keep devils playground cleaned up but you think it’ll be no big deal to tackle a far larger area with far more homeless people?

  • I’ve owned my place adjacent to the tracks and lived here for 23 years. Not at all in favor of paying more taxes to have more idiot trespassing thieving flatlanders around. Laws already allow you to traverse a blue line creek.

  • Stupid and dangerous idea! Besides the obvious statments above, this stretch (Dos Rios to Alderpoint) is sketchy in a raft, in the river corridor during the “off” season. It has turned into a fucking lawless 50 miles where you get to experience HUGE mastiff/pitbull guard dogs. Renegade pot grows all through this area (google map it) have made it just fucking scary! God knows what else is being “cooked up” as well out there. I raft it., but I don’t venture above the high water mark, and NEVER without a rifle. Taking a week long hike through there would be a very bad idea…Worse than trying to build a railway in the most geologically unstable terrain in the lower 48.

    • Relax. Our good Sheriff Billy Honsal will target your mad dog grows pronto and send those outlaws out of Humboldt. Plus a sidearm with extra clips might help during the ‘break in’ period for this trail to somewhere right here

  • Horrible idea

  • I would like to see a trail AND a train run up the Eel River canyon.

    We have the technology to build viaducts to cross slides, similar to what they did at Indian Maiden Rock near Cloverdale. The slides simply run into the river and wash away.

    Slide are naturally occurring. The Eel River canyon is one of the most erosive rivers in the world. However, we have more dirt in the hills of the north coast right now than we had for over a hundred and fifty years, before the dastardly white man showed up. It’s provable to any student of the local environs. Every time that we have an earthquake the ground lifts a little, sometimes more sometimes less. That dirt goes somewhere. That’s why we have canyons, it washes away.

    Most railroads in other countries are subsidized. Most highways are subsidized. Our very own Highway 101 is totally subsidized by taxes. The only way that the rail will ever go back up the Eel is with subsidies. One small portion of the money that will be spent on the High-Speed Rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco would build the north coast a decent passenger railway.

    We could have a tour train from San Francisco through the Napa valley wine country, through the Ukiah agriculture area, up over Ridgewood pass, one of the highest and most scenic passes on the north coast. Then dive back into the Eel River Canyon for an almost private viewing of some most beautiful oak and grassland anywhere, slowly changing into Douglas fir forests and then into the magnificent redwood forests. All ending up in the fishing village of Eureka for an outstanding seafood dinner. And, maybe a few side excursions to a cannabis growing area to view where cannabis was basically invented as a premier product.

    The people of the north coast need to come together to solve a huge economic problem. The Cannabis farmers, the trail people, the environmentalists, the rail people and business people, ALL need to work together to fix our dead economy. We are too busy calling each other names and killing ideas instead of trying to find a way to make it work. It could work, but it can only work if we work together. Together we stand, divided we fall.

    Even if the railway doesn’t succede, the world would be a better place because of it, and our economy would certainly improve.

    Call me a realist, but I’m not the only one.
    Ernie

    • Gonna make money for our dying area all around prevailing wage jobs , money spent on resources some land owners might even get land bought from them that’s probably worthless and also tourism good all the way around in my eyes .

    • Concerned In Humboldt

      I’ll call you a realist when you provide us with reasonable economic statistics to support reestablishing the rail line between Cloverdale and Eureka.

      Now, your call for the people of the north coast to come together to solve a huge economic problem is spot on. Realism at it’s core. What can we do to provide for a healthy economy? Farm? Log? Be hospitable to tourists? What do we have to offer to companies who provide jobs? How do we make our communities hospitable to the types of businesses who pay a living wage? What are the economic incentives that would lure real job providers to our location?

      The list goes on.

    • Yeah, what Ernie said. I agree. As usual he is way more articulate than I. Ernie for supervisor haha
      Seriously though, we are humans, we can make a railroad work. And many infrastructure projects like this would get subsidized by govt and benefit the communities served and the commerce will follow.

      • Call me a cynic, but I’m not the only one….randumb thoughts: why do I smell construction companies lobbying behind the scenes lining up the contracts for this one. Do we think they will be hiring locals? I smell the debt relief/bailout for the NRCA-will the gubner sign on?… I actually like the idea of the north end of the tracks turned into a hiking trail, have no opinion on the south end, and am extremely NIMBY on the middle section… along the “glistening” banks of the Eel…. “glistening”!!! C’mon! Get a better press release writer! Where is the economic boom coming from hikers starting near Dos Rios and hiking north? Hostels at AP? A dozen ranger jobs? I wish I had been able to take the train while it was up and running before the blue clay ‘batted last’… as it will again. And how do you take out miles of old rails without severely sedimenting up the poor old mainstem?

  • Super excited about this, I’ll be able to walk to San Francisco from my house. It’s going to be a boost for the economy and will create sustainable jobs.

    The train will never happen because it would cost like 2 billion to fix the tracks. Fires shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Most hikers are pretty responsible (worst case scenario they will help to reintroduce fire to the landscape to maintain the grasslands and oak woodlands). Bums won’t be an issue. Most of them stick close to services and the 101.

    Tourism is one of Humboldts bright spots. Number 1 on lonely planet this year!

  • The facts of this matter are simple . The rail road right away was intended for rail service. There is not or will there ever be-ever the possibility of trains opperatining in the eel river canyon. So, the right always should be abandoned and the tracks removed and the land put back to as close to original as possible. A trial is not fair for the good ranchers and homesteaders who boarder the river. There is nothing good that would come out of people wondering along this corridor. The story of this trail should end.

  • Going to bring good things to the area no matter what prevailing wage jobs landers getting bought land from them that is probably worthless and resources for the trail hopefully bought locally and of course the tourism dollars in the end great idea in my eyes

  • We are becoming a state run by idiots!
    Create a public agency like the NCRA, to maintain infrastructure necessary for commerce, which in turn, would bring economic prosperity, jobs and a tax base, but don’t give them any source of funding. Criticize them for trying to maintain and repair something with nothing, and now, disband them, and create a recreation authority that now will have the money to build a foot and bicycle path that will cost as much as repairing the railroad would have been, and effectually killing off any future plans for viable infrastructure that would have taken heavy truck traffic off our aging highways and driving the final nail in the coffin of the Port of Humboldt. WELL DONE!
    The state, county, and city cannot maintain and police the trails they have. Needles and human waste, public rest rooms locked up to prevent further vandalism. Gang graffiti all over town, Gee wiz, lets raise taxes further, drive out more business, and hard working stiffs, and build another world class trail! If we build it I am sure someone will come! Don’t forget to fund the Halverson Eco Hostel, for all these hordes of tourists to rest their heels!

  • Humboldt Cty gas 8 state parks. This is more than all county’s in CA. There was a reason for this. Use your imagination.

  • a trail from san francisco to humboldt! haha.. dont even mention tourism. homeless and dirtbag sanctuary

  • so, it has bugun. lace up your boots

  • The tracks go through Alderpoint. Bay Area yuppies in A.P. California… right when I think you can’t get any dumber you do something like this… and totally redeem yourself.

  • >”Most railroads in other countries are subsidized. Most highways are subsidized. Our very own Highway 101 is totally subsidized by taxes. The only way that the rail will ever go back up the Eel is with subsidies. One small portion of the money that will be spent on the High-Speed Rail between Los Angeles and San Francisco would build the north coast a decent passenger railway. ”

    Yup Railroads were granted huge blocks of public landholdings… (like massive) to ‘fund’ their operations.
    When they railroads decided to cut services and pull out… they were allowed to SELL the lands,
    (millions of acres)… pocket the money… and go.

    Sighs.

    >”We are becoming a state run by idiots!”

    Correct.

  • The bottomless pork barrel it has been opened. Dig in the pork,while the pork is still green, Seen likes of this before, butt this is sooooooo much more! More than it ever has bean.And hose getting the shafts? Uh tunnels?

  • Looking forward to walking the trail. There is a lot of nature to be seen and enjoyed when you are not traveling 50 mph.

  • It is obvious the dolt that thought up this utopian recreational “byway” never set foot on it, or ever laid eyes on it either… Hey, we could have a “Murder Mtn.” warming shelter, complete with a 1st aid station equipped with snake/guard dog bite kits, calamine baths for poison oak victims, gunshot wound trauma kits for the hapless souls that venture off trail and into a grow, the possibilities are endless! No communication except sat phone, no overland route out of the river canyon except maybe at Bell Springs through locked (and guarded) gates, excellent idea! I won’t even let my dog drink ANY water out of ANY creek anymore, and certainly not the river in the summer due to the shit people put in the creek diversions for their “medicine” grows. You want a trail? you already have one, its called the P.C.T! The railway is a fucking mess that would cost many millions just to clean up, not to mention transform into a hiking, biking, equestrian, junkie bum trail. The existing right of way the tracks sit on now cuts right through private property all the way through the canyon and in many places floats above the ground from the extreme erosion that has and will continue to occur along the river. You wanna walk it? Be my guest, but remember, I told you so…

  • This is a significant tourism niche of trail users, both hiking and biking. See the Elroy to Sparta trail in Wisconsin. People that would use this trail include; families, foreign tourist, backpackers, a lot of the people now biking 101. Consider talking to folks that have hiked portions of the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail. These can be life changing events. Repairing and opening the track would be too expensive. The last several years the trains were running they were only allowed to travel at five miles per hour. It was so tempting to jump aboard just to have ‘rode the rails’ once. Imagine a B&B in Alderpoint.

  • Nor Cal Historian

    NWPRR WAS ONLY BUILT FOR TIMBER INDUSTRY AND THE EXXPORT OF OUR REDWOOD FORESTS…GOOD RIDDANCE!!
    Bosco, tourist group angry Plan to close rail line blasted
    Text
    Bosco, tourist group angry Plan to close rail line blasted

    Northwestern Pacific Railroad’s plan to close down operations between Willits and Eureka has drawn fire from two quarters Assemblyman Douglas H Bosco (D-Occidenlal) condemned the move, saying it would “cripple our ability to ship products’ from the North Coast to the rest of the country Bosco said he would personally voice his opposition to

    the proposed rail service cutback to each member of the state Public Utilities Commission On another front, the Redwood Empire Association (REA i a nine-county travel promotion and information organization assailed the cutback for damage it would do to the lumber and tourist industries “’With big corporation profits at near-record highs,

    there is a moral obligation on the part of NWP and its parent, Southern Pacific, to sustain this lifeline of our people, said Ben A Fariatti, president of REA Bosco said recent actions by the airline industry have already increased passenger and freight fares linking the North Coast with major transportation centers The railroad cutback would in-

    crease the consumer costs of lumber and other products, and “hurt our chances of attracting industry to the North Coast,” he said Northwestern Pacific has said its intention to terminate service north of Willits was based on the cost of reopening a burned-out tunnel. Bosco said he sympathized with the company’s financial problem, but added that the lax windfall Southern Pacific ithe parent company) enjoyed from Proposition 13 should cover its expenses “We re not going to take this lying down,” Bosco said. “Between poor roads, increased air fares and this threat of losing rail service, we have had enough ” Farlatti said the rail

    closure would hurt the lumber industry by forcing it to ship lumber products by truck on Highway 101 rather than by train, which is more efficient and less costly. In addition, the increased logging truck traffic will impact the tourist industry by inhibiting motorists from using highways that are crowded by logging trucks “This will result in severe losses to motel and resort operators, restaurants, shops and other enterprises which depend on the visitor dollar,” he said “NW’P’s proposal is a death blow to the economy of the Redwood Empire, and this association will not stand by and see it happen without a fight.” Farlatti said. Healdsburg Tribune April 12, 1979

  • Nor Cal Historian

    California Digital Newspaper Collection ;Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar; 9 August 1979
    Healdsburg Tribune, Enterprise and Scimitar, Number 45, 9 August 1979

    Light will reappear at collapsed tunnel’s end
    Text –
    Correct this text

    Light will reappear at collapsed tunnel’s end

    WASHINGTON – Light will soon be visible at the end of the tunnel The Island Mountain Tunnel in the Eel River Canyon, that is. It collapsed nearly a year ago, cutting off rail service to Humboldt County and the rest of the Redwood Empire. Some 1.700 feet of the 4.323 foot tunnel were blocked by the cave-in caused by fire The logging industry was particularly hard hit since it had relied almost entirely on the railroad to deliver its products to market Northwestern Pacific Railroad began repairing the tunnel, but after two months abandoned the task, judging that it would be more costly than anticipated The railroad announced it would close the line. Whereupon several legislators. Eureka Chamber

    of Commerce representatives. elected officials and community leaders toured the cave-in site to demonstrate the importance of the railroad line to the Redwood Empire Northwestern Pacific decided to continue repairs Congressman Don Clausen’s office announced last week that the tunnel would be completed and nor mal train service would be resumed in October “I’m delighted to hear this good news.” Clausen said “We have all been concerned about the future of the line The Northwestern Pacific is to be commended for its decision to repair and reopen the line During my visit to the Island Mountain Tunnel, I was impressed by the enormity of the task and the professional manner in which it was being accomplished ’

  • I agree with Ernie taking out the rails is in my opinion a very bad idea, I think that scenic train rides could benefit far more people than the few that would ever hike the trail. If you are going to spend our tax dollars do it to benefit the most constituents not just a minority. I have nothing against trails except they appear to be against rails. Why don’t we keep the rails and just add trails that way many people are served by the money spent. The railroad was for many years a connection to the bay area for freight and passengers. The train would make a good alternative to sitting at SFO waiting for the plane that you just got bumped off of and you must now rent a car or get a hotel and wait. Just my take, why get rid of what is already there lets support putting it back in operation. Rails with trails just makes more sense.

    • Mike and Ernie, yes, good point, except no one, state, federal or private is going to finance the 200 million + cost of opening the Eel canyon to rail, just for a tourist train with a max. speed of 5-15mph. There is interest on the southern half for commuter trains, but since the rails run through Petaluma without over/underpasses, they are on the record of suing to prevent freight traffic running through

  • A Trailhead at Dos Rios? Let’s see, park along 162 in a wide spot. Leave your rig there overnight. If you can even recognize it in the morning, it won’t be driveable… And that is just one of the many non-thought- out details of this fiasco.

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