Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

The Del Norte County Board of Supervisors joined other local agencies Tuesday to support construction of a foot trail from Hiouchi to Jedediah Smith State Park.

The vote to support was 4-0 with one supervisor abstaining.

A letter, addressed to Parks Superintendents Steve Mietz, Brett Silver and Victor Bjelajac, said the county supports the construction of a trail between Hiouchi and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park to provide pedestrians with a safe alternative to walking along U.S. 199. The letter noted the county is aware of other such letters from the Del Norte Transportation Authority, the Chamber of Commerce and local tribes, among others.

“We also recognize there are challenging alignment issues that need to be balanced,” the letter said, referring to sensitive resources and adjacent land owners.

“Looking forward, the county is keenly interested in participating in future planning projects for the Hiouchi Flat area as we recognize this area serves as a gateway to our community,” the letter reads.

Information included in the staff report says the trail would be about .7 miles (4,300 feet) long, and feature an arched pedestrian bridge, 170-foot long steep trail, trail signs and be made with packed gravel. It would run along the south side of U.S. 199 from the Hiouchi Volunteer Fire Department to Jedediah Smith State Park. It would offer Hiouchi residents and RV park guests access to the park and provide an established trail that facilitates plant and land management.

According to Smith River Alliance Executive Director Grant Werschkul, the trail has a history, starting in 2015 when the transportation commission designated the trail as a priority.

“It is about safety,” Werschkul said, noting that currently people walk from Hiouchi to the park along the highway.

“It’s Redwood National Park land. Our chamber of commerce has endorsed the trail,” he said. “Our two tribes, there are a lot of cultural resources there. They have examined the alignment and they support it. Of course, businesses in the community of Hiouchi are very supportive.”

District 3 Supervisor Chris Howard said work and discussions have been ongoing for years to establish a trail network that would be “a large win for the community of Hiouchi to move pedestrians back and forth ... to utilize those businesses and services.” Howard noted some controversy has occurred over the project and said sensitivity to some issues has slowed the project over the years.

“It shouldn’t be a surprise to the board if we are approached at a later date. With our support of this, there could be some folks from the other side of this discussion that could bring to our attention their dissatisfaction with the board’s proposed letter of support,” he said. “The letter shows sensitivity to these needs and more importantly, addresses some mitigation that might be necessary in order to mitigate potential impacts to the neighborhood being suggested.”

District 4 Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen recused himself from voting on the matter, citing a conflict of interest.