As I stood last Saturday night and looked over a very enthusiastic SOLD OUT Roundhouse Rendezvous (RR) event I reflected on how Timber Heritage Association has changed over the years while remaining true to its goals: developing a timber heritage history museum and providing a Humboldt Bay rail experience. The Samoa speeder runs continue successful with thousands of riders each season, and a hugely popular (556 riders packed the speeder cars in one day) Eureka Slough Bridge route has been added between Eureka and the Redwood Company mill site. A big THANK YOU to the THA volunteers, as well as Cal Fire, Caltrans, the city of Eureka (Community Development and Eureka Police Department), Humboldt County, and North Coast Rail Authority (NCRA) for helping make the runs possible. At the same time, an equally big THANK YOU to all the attendees, donors, and volunteers that made RR 2019 another successful event. Auction items were well received, Sequoia Conference Center was obliging, Uniquely Yours Catering provided a great meal, and auctioneer Rex Bohn did his usual good job of working the crowd.
As you know, NCRA (an unfunded government agency) is going to be phased out within a few years and a new trail agency, yet to be determined, is going to replace it. In the interim, THA continues to expand. Additionally, this summer a railcycling experience is going to be added. While not connected to THA, railcycling is extremely popular from coast to coast as a bike on rail experience. THA plus railcycles results in tourists and residents alike having more options to glide along beautiful Humboldt Bay. Local news agencies and social media are excited about the trail prospect and THA along with its stakeholders is also excited about the trail WITH rail. Out of town visitors exploring Humboldt County result in local job development, more Humboldt Made products being sold, and added nights spent in local accommodations. Need I mention the trail is down the line, while THA and railcycles are here now?
Thus, it always surprises me when yet another article (“NCRA, enviros reach settlement,” Times-Standard, April 12, Page A1) is printed touting the Great Redwood Trail and fails to mention THA and its existing fiscal impact. Perhaps this is because state and some local elected officials have never, to the best of my knowledge, visited the THA Samoa Shops complex or ridden on the speeder? While THA has previously made the offer, let me make it again via an invitation to elected California politicians, including Gov. Newsom, to visit Eureka on April 27 for Salt and Fog. Not only will there be speeder rides, but the tall ships will be in port, the Madaket will be running, and Humboldt Made (along with other vendors) will be marketing their products. While the Samoa Shops will not be open that day, one can contact a THA volunteer, and a tour can be arranged. Simply look at the THA website (timberheritage.org) and call one of the individuals listed. Also, in case anyone misses this “My Word,” a copy is being sent to elected officials far and wide.
So, the question remains, why are more elected officials not touring the shops and supporting the growing THA Humboldt Bay presence? Perhaps it is because they do not realize how popular THA has become or what has been done to the Vance/Hammond Lumber Company. Eleven years ago, when THA took over the Samoa Shops they were in poor condition with leaking roofs, sagging walls, and peeling or nonexistent paint. Since then, THA has conducted an often-exhausting campaign to change those conditions and is now on pace to be listed on the National Register. At 126 years old, the wooden roundhouse is the oldest on the West Coast; the boiler shop is full of authentic mill equipment; several historic steam locomotives and railcars are on display; and preparations are being made to host an open to the public archival research room. In fact, finishing the archival room was the Moment of Giving theme at Saturday’s RR. And this brings me back to the beginning of this “My Word”: how thrilling it was to attend this year’s Roundhouse Rendezvous. Hopefully I will see you there in April 2020. P.S.: Be sure to purchase your tickets early as this year’s event was sold out, thus some people were unable to attend.
Bruce L. Seivertson, Ph.D., is a Timber Heritage Association board member. He resides in Eureka.