Statewide Richardson Grove Campaign Gains Momentum

By
Friday, September 24th, 2010

HUMBOLDT, CA––The campaign to protect the famous redwood curtain in Richardson Grove State Park from the Caltrans’ highway-widening project at the south end of Humboldt County continues to grow and diversify. Among the achievements gained in the effort, a city council passed a resolution opposing the project, a renowned photographer was cited for taking a provocative image in Richardson Grove, and Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim, chair of the International 13 Indigenous Grandmothers Council joined the campaign as a public spokesperson.

In addition, news outlets like the San Francisco Chronicle, High Country News, National Public Radio, and the California Report have produced stories on the subject, exponentially increasing public awareness outside of the Northcoast region. Thousands have registered their opposition to the project by either doing an online action or signing a postcard demanding that the project be rescinded by the governor. The Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) has regular updates and opportunities for people to get involved in the Save Richardson Grove Campaign on their website at wildcalifornia.org.

The Lawsuit

In June, five individuals and three environmental organizations filed suit against Caltrans, citing fourteen points on why the Richardson Grove Highway Improvement Project should not go forward. The plaintiff group has excellent legal representation, including that of former US Congressman Pete McCloskey. EPIC’s long time staff attorney Sharon Duggan leads the team with expertise and passion.  The plaintiff group are now meeting with Caltrans representatives in the mandatory settlement process required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In addition, access has finally been granted for the parties to review the “administrative record.” The complex case was filed in San Francisco to address statewide concerns over the potential harm to public resources within a State Park.

“We are cautiously optimistic about our lawsuit, not only because of the merits of the case, but because of the exceptional representation we have,” said Kerul Dyer, EPIC’s Richardson Grove Campaign coordinator. “The priority for gaining support is to raise funds for Richardson Grove Legal Funds. CEQA lawsuits are pricey.”

Solidarity for the Grove

In addition to the lawsuit, campaign support has seen exponential growth across California and beyond. With activists now organizing across California, diverse and bold techniques have emerged in solidarity with the campaign to protect the grove. EPIC has sent brochures, tshirts, stickers and postcards to organizers in several places around all across California including the Bay Area, Los Angeles, Chico, Sacramento, Beverly Hills, many rural locations in Mendocino, Sonoma, Marin, Lake and Humboldt counties.

“We just keep sending out activist toolkits. People from all over are extremely concerned that the place that introduced their families’ to the redwoods–Richardson Grove State Park–could be harmed by Caltrans,” remarked Dyer about the campaign. “The depth and breadth of this growing campaign has only begun to unfold.”

Complementary to major actions, exciting examples of campaign support offer historic perspective and a diversity of voices dedicated to the cause. One such jewel includes the recent involvement of the entire Hartsook family, who prepared a group letter to Caltrans and Save the Redwoods supporting the campaign to Save Richardson Grove. In addition to their strong opposition to the project, the family has concerns that the project could harm Hartsook Inn or trees immediately surrounding the historic building. Another small but effective campaign element is the story of a dedicated mom in Chico, who plans to organize children to coordinate a kid-led campaign for the grove across the state.

The Bold Photo and the City Council Resolution

One widely publicized action for the grove took the form of a group photograph, facilitated by Jack Gescheidt of San Geronimo.  The second-generation photographer from New York brought the Tree Spirit Project to Humboldt when he coordinated a nude photograph illustrating the vulnerability of the trees within the project area. The black and white image will be included as part of a collection highlighting threatened places and has already been filmed by television news in San Francisco. The California Highway Patrol cited Gescheidt with two misdemeanors for taking the photo.

Jack unveiled the shot to a filled city council chambers in Albany, California, where the city council voted to approve a resolution opposing the Richardson Grove widening project. The presentation came as Jack testified in favor of a popular resolution in opposition to the Richardson Grove project.

“California’s State Parks are valuable to all residents,” said Councilman Robert Lieber, sponsor of the resolution. “I’ve been watching this issue, and since Humboldt area residents, despite their best efforts, have not been able to halt the project, it’s time for the Californians beyond the north coast to get involved. We hope that other cities follow Albany’s lead.”

The Resolution resulted in a letter sent from the City of Albany to Governor Schwarzenegger urging him to rescind the project. The letter reads,

“This is an issue of needing to slow it down. Not only is this project unnecessary, but it threatens the old growth redwoods in Richardson Grove State Park, the beloved gateway into Humboldt County from the south.”

Donations to the legal fund can be sent to EPIC: Richardson Grove Legal Fund, PO Box 543 Redway, CA 95560, or made online at EPIC’s website, wildcalifornia.org.