Tuesday January 20th: ZZZZZ.....ZZZZZ Caltrans never showed. Maybe they were busy with another project or maybe they are wasting our tax dollars by advertising the proposed maintenance in two local papers as well as KIEM Channel 3, maybe to test direct action response to the threat. My reason being present during this "maintenance project" through Richardson Grove State Park was the possibility of Caltrans attempting to remove all or part of the 54 trees that happen to be in the way of what many non-locals and out of area transplants call "progress". (Learn more about the implications of this project to out local businesses and economy at saverichardsongrove.org). Most of us Humboldtians feel that Caltrans will try to sneak in and cut the trees before the project start date. I wanted to be there to document it if they tried.
Eventually around noon, a Caltrans employee did finally visit the One Log House to inform them that they would be shutting down traffic right in front of their business after lunch. This was overheard by a member of our observation crew who happened to be getting coffee(the best coffee in the area). We waited until dusk without any show from Caltrans at the One Log house or at the North end of the project area.
Wednesday January 21st: Late start and traffic control setup First off, I need to state that the Garberville Caltrans employees are very friendly, courteous and hard working. I don't blame them for the waste and destruction that is inherent in Caltrans' system of operation. I blame their superiors, because the shit rolls downhill, especially in this bureaucracy. Many made it a point to state "tongue in cheek" that they were against the project or at least neutral on the subject and did not want "us" to blame them for doing their job, especially regarding this simple maintenance project. They are hardworking State employees feeling the same cutbacks that all State agencies are experiencing. Furthermore, the Garberville Caltrans station employees will not be primarily working on or benefiting from the R.I.P.(Richardson Grove Improvement Project). The work will be contracted to Granite Construction. Or Mercer Fraser. Overseen by a Caltrans supervisor, presumably.
But after seeing what I witnessed, the R.I.P. not likely be supervised. I didn't see the Caltrans supes around much at all, including in the more sensitive work areas. Except once to tell us to get out of the controlled traffic zone while handing out info and once while hiking north to RGSP from the Hartsook area.
Caltrans did finally show today, around 10 am(instead of 8 am...yesterday...) in which they began the stated traffic control in front of the One Log House(just before the One Log House driveway to block patrons from entering) as well as North of the RGSP entrance. Caltrans then immediately began to grade the shoulders of the west side of highway 101 through RGSP starting from the RGSP entrance with a large grader. A crew of two manual laborers followed behind the grader and were busy clearing duff and dirt from the areas that the grader could not reach. However, that did not prevent damages to multiple ancient redwoods along the western side of highway 101 from the grader, along with some damage to the RGSP split redwood fence that separates the RGSP from the shoulder and highway. The manual laborers with shovels should have been doing the clearing work around the bases of these ancient trees, not the grader. I blame the supervisor for not managing his/her employees in such a sensitive area.
Will we be seeing this inefficiency and lack of regard for trees and State park property during the R.I.P? Is Caltrans even aware of the fact that gouging redwood tree bases only makes more work for them in the future? These gouges create burls, which further damage the road in some instances by causing the pavement to be lifted and cracked.
In my own opinion, the damage to the fence(not the trees)was not apparently the fault of the grader operator. Caltrans could have easily sent a single employee ahead of the grader to remove the large redwood branches before the branches got wedged between the grader blade and the fence to avoid damage to the RGSP fence. A bucket loader and a dump truck followed the grader and shovel crew scraping dirt and duff from the grader off the pavement, as well as one lucky employee cleaning road signs. Caltrans took lunch around 11:00. I didn't. Nothing else happened... Caltrans continued working after lunch and completed the entire west side stretch of highway 101 heading south all the way to Hartsook Inn. Caltrans left before 4 pm.
Thursday January 22nd: My late start and Caltrans in high gear So no one's perfect. But then again, I'm on vacation anyways. I slept in and missed traffic control set-up which happened at the same place but much more timely. The other observers did not sleep in like myself but had nothing unusual to report. A rumor was going around that PG and E would be removing a power pole in the area, further supported by the fact that power had been shut off to the area south of RGSP. I ran down to the south end of RGSP just in time to see the beginnings of work in the park around 10:30. Caltrans started at the south end this time near Hartsook Inn, but I missed part of it. I continued to film and monitor work in RGSP but the terrain of the shoulder on the East side of highway through RGSP required little or no grading.
In conclusion, Thursday had to be the worst example of wasted time and tax dollars. Unlike Wednesday, which was the worst example of how Caltrans mistreats our ancient trees by hitting them with a grader or how Catrans respects OUR Parks by knocking down OUR fences.
I came away from those three days with the realization that heavy equipment does not belong so close to our ancient redwoods along highway 101 through RGSP. As an operator myself, I applaud the operator(s) of the grader for being able to minimize the amount of damage that you would expect from operating such heavy equipment right up against the trees. Equipment that essentially blocks your view during operation of things such as fences, tree bases and roots. But the fact remains that even a simple Caltrans maintenance project harms tree bases, roots and State Park fences.
If Caltrans can't even conduct routine maintenance with gouging ancient trees and knocking down State Park fences, why should anyone believe that the ancient tree root work(up to 5' deep) around OUR ancient redwoods that make up the Redwood Curtain will be conducted any more carefully or with more consideration?
Yes, we will be vigilant!
You are being watched, Caltrans...