The Southern Humboldt Community Park’s primary goal is to administer careful utilization of park resources for the greatest community benefit. We recognize the importance of protecting current park resources for their own sake as well as to provide for future community needs.
That statement from the Park’s website reflects the Park board’s intended role as stewards of the land it holds in trust for community benefit. Stewardship includes the erosion control projects which have dramatically reduced and reversed the deepening of the drainage gullies which scarred the landscape when the Park took possession of the property, the restoration forestry projects which have reduced fire hazards and promote forest health on the slopes along the south portion of the park, and the creation of the 2.2 mile loop trail which makes the Park accessible to walkers, as well as the improvements we’ve seen at the Tooby Park playground.
On the other hand, creation and maintenance of infrastructure for new activities is beyond the usual scope of the Park’s stewardship mission. The Southern Humboldt Community Park’s stewardship mission is to further the social, recreational, civic, and educational well-being of our entire community through appropriate use of the Park. The Board’s focus is limited to the purchase and overall management of the Park and also to oversee the projects and activities that take place there. The Board provides the place and the community is responsible for developing the projects. This is where Park Use Advocates are encouraged to step in and make their dreams come true.
While this Park stewardship model bodes well for responsible and responsive development and management of future Park attractions, it has caused some confusion during the current Park rezoning process. Asked by the Planning Department to provide its most expansive vision of how the Park might be used over future decades, the Park was then placed in the unenviable position of trying to bring into clear focus concepts that are not their own and that may never come to fruition, leading some community members to feel frustrated that the impacts of these possible future projects by others have not been quantified.
Building and maintaining a vibrant Community Park is a monumental task, and SHCP is still in its formative stages. To be successful, it will require the efforts of diverse groups of people, now and forward to future generations. Some projects, like a permaculture demonstration garden, a community potato patch or prune plum orchard, could be developed as soon as a group comes forward with a viable plan. Many other project ideas, like a visitor center, a summer recreation program for area youth, an outdoor venue for weddings, family reunions, and memorial services, or a more permanent skateboard park to name a few, could be county-permitted and developed once rezoning is complete. Higher-impact projects like sports fields and elder housing will require thorough county review and may require extensive on- and off-site infrastructure improvements as a condition of permitting.
Development of the Park will be a longterm process. As a comparison, look at the timeline of Fortuna’s 55-acre Rohner Park, begun in 1907 and developed over decades with far less restrictive government oversight. Beginning with plantings of maple, locust and pine and the construction of picnic tables, the park was further improved 14 years after its inception when baseball enthusiasts developed a baseball diamond. Twelve years later the Firemen’s Association built a pavilion. It wasn’t until 31 years later that the city completed additional landscaping, field lights, the rodeo grounds, and a children’s play area. Relocation of the Railroad Depot occurred 35 years after that. Now over 100 years old, Rohner Park continues to serve the varying and changing needs of its community.
This development model is similar to the way Golden Gate Park is administered. As the community identifies its needs over time — and develops capacities to fill those needs — the Park will make acreage available for appropriate projects. These projects can be as small in long-term impact as the leasing of farm ground, the existing Frisbee golf course and the plywood skateboard ramp. In these cases, project advocates are responsible for the creation, maintenance and supervision of the facilities, as well as appropriate insurance coverage.
Future projects may also be as large as the sports fields’ vision just now being brought forward by a group of youth sports officials and other interested community members. Though defining the relationship between the Park and the sports field group is just beginning, this effort is somewhat analogous to the College of the Redwoods’ relationship with the Humboldt Botanical Gardens Foundation. Determining that HBGF’s goals would further CR’s educational mission, and further determining that HBGF demonstrated the capacity to successfully oversee a project of this scope, CR has granted a long-term lease at a nominal fee to HBGF for the Garden’s 40+ acre site.
Determining the appropriate relationship between SHCP and a project advocacy group will be specific to each project, just as CR is now working to develop an agreement between CR and a yet-to-be-determined SoHum performing arts group that will enable that group to oversee renovation and use of the old Redwood Playhouse on CR’s new SoHum campus, formerly SHUSD’s administrative offices.
Our Southern Humboldt Community Park began as a dream little more than a decade ago, and this wonderful property is now poised to embark on the long journey of becoming the Community Park we in Southern Humboldt want it to be.
Dennis Huber on behalf of the
Southern Humboldt Community Park