Mill Creek plan disappoints county

July 10, 2002 12:00 am

By Fred Obee

Triplicate editor

A draft of an interim management plan for 25,000 acres of newly designated state park land isn't winning many raves from Del Norte County's leadership.

"This is a management plan that calls for restricting roads, restricting access," said county Supervisor David Finigan. "That is a poor focal point for a management plan."

The interim plan was created by the Save-the-Redwoods League to guide use of what is known as the Mill Creek property. The giant tract, acquired by Save the Redwoods for $60 million, abuts the southern boundary of Jedediah Smith State Park and the eastern boundary of Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park. The land was donated to the California State Parks system immediately after it was purchased earlier this year.

Now the supervisors are worried that a short time-frame for comments on the plan and other discrepancies will contribute to shortchanging Del Norte County interests.

Supervisor Chuck Blackburn said he was particularly disturbed to see the plan did not mention accommodating an alternative route for Highway 101.

He said county officials, Kate Anderton of Save the Redwoods and state Public Works officials met May 6 and agreed to accommodate easements for a possible rerouting of Highway 101 away from dangerous slide areas.

Blackburn said he didn't know why such an important aspect of the property's management wasn't included in the plan.

"We want to make sure what was agreed upon is actually followed through on," Blackburn said.

Road management within the former logged area also was a concern for Finigan. He said it seems the emphasis is on eliminating roads first, and then evaluating how the property will be used.

"They've got the cart before the horse," Finigan said.

Supervisor Martha McClure said she agreed with the other members of the board. She said she believed the current network of roads on the property should be maintained until the management plan is complete and plans are firm.

Also drawing some ire from the supervisors was a July 15 date for comment on the plan. It was received by the county July 3.

The supervisors agreed to send several letters indicating their displeasure with aspects of the plan and to ask for more time to properly evaluate the plan's contents.

The supervisors, at least for the moment, decided not to press for details on the possible transfer of the property from the state to federal park ownership.

Community Development Director Ernie Perry said he believes eventually the transfer will happen, but that parks officials will wait so as not to trigger evaluation under federal environmental guidelines.

Save-the-Redwoods League, in a letter to the Board of Supervisors, said it wants to release the plan to the public for comment in Crescent City, in late July or early August, after it hears comments back from members of working groups involved in the plan's development.

"We look forward to working closely with the county, its citizens and state parks," wrote Ruskin Hartley, a conservation planner with Save-the-Redwoods League.