Protect the Northern End of the NWP RR for Excursion Use! (Rails WITH Trails)
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Save the Rails Around Humboldt Bay and to the Redwoods!
We, concerned citizens of Humboldt County hope to protect the historic Northwestern Pacific Railroad from Samoa to Eureka, and possibly up to, but not beyond South Fork, for a tourist/excursion train. Protecting this section of railroad would allow for Rails WITH Trails from Samoa to South Fork. This would not impact or prevent the conversion of the Eel River block of the railroad into the proposed trail. Please sign if you support an excursion train from Samoa to Eureka, and in the future, possibly into the Redwoods.
The Great Redwood Trail Act (SB 1029) would convert the Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way In Humboldt County into a paved trail by permanently removing the rails. This effort has not yet secured funding. There is a clear concern that that SB 1029 will fall into the same conundrum as the 1989 NCRA bill, which became an unfunded state mandate. There is a local movement for the creation of a tourist train, known as the Humboldt Bay Scenic Railroad, and the benefits would be immense for our community. This would follow the current NCRA policy of Rails WITH Trails.
It is clear that railbanking (rail removal) for the sensitive and geologically unstable Middle Fork of the Eel River section of the railroad is the most reasonable option, as the line has been without maintenance since 1998. However, we are concerned that the highly visible/accessible section of the line from Samoa to Scotia will be destroyed permanently. This vital section is a prime venue for an excursion train, with a trail. However, no Humboldt County government officials were consulted concerning the fate of the rails. As this section is entirely within Humboldt, the best solution may be to transfer ownership to the county. Local voices must be heard!
From 1914 to 1998, the Northwestern Pacific Railroad was a vital part of our community. As railroad enthusiasts and historians, we hope to preserve, share and protect the heritage of our railroad, plus the timber industry which created it. Every town along the line would benefit from the increased visitors, outside attention and revenue. Let’s make the NWP a vital artery again. Not for the lumber industry, but for the education and enjoyment of generations to come. This family friendly experience could be a strategic corredor for the revitalization of our county as a destination, not just a quick stop on 101.
There must be an amendment of SB 1029 which will explicitly allow and facilitate Humboldt County to have both rails and trails. In most scenarios, once the rails are removed, due to railroad easement concerns, they never go back, much like the Arcata & Mad River Railroad between Blue Lake and Arcata. (We must stress yet again, we support rails WITH trails, and it is the official policy of the North Coast Railroad Authority.)
The Timber Heritage Association (THA) in Samoa (a 501-c3 non-profit historical organization) has a locomotive and passenger cars ready to start basic service, with goals of steam power and expanded service in the future. THA currently operates restored inspection cars, or “speeders” on much of the track in question, and the events are very popular. Many sell out due to lack of capacity. Thus, the goal is an excursion from the historic Samoa Shops to the Balloon Track area of Eureka, with the possibility of expanding service up to but not past South Fork. (The most reasonable option would be “Stone,” a former mill site north of the Scotia Bluffs.) No Excursion is planned into or near the Middle Fork of the Eel River Canyon, which we recognize would be too expensive to repair and maintain, just like the historic NWP route through that section.
While the primary goal is a route from Samoa to Eureka, we wish to protect the legal railroad right of way for possible expansion to South Fork, a former NWP site just north of the treacherous and expensive to maintain Eel River Canyon. (This would be in the future after establishing the bay route first.) It must be acknowledged that this extension would include the King Salmon sea wall, a total of three tunnels and many trestles, including the Scotia Bluffs. These infrastructures will be a challenge for both the potential trail, or excursion train. Therefore, the priority is Samoa to Eureka.
Over 5,000 more vehicles a day pass through Eureka during the summer months, most of these driven by vacationers. An attraction like a tourist/excursion train around the bay and/or to the Redwoods would provide the reason for more overnight stays in Humboldt County and more cruise ships to stop at Eureka. This would generate millions of dollars of increased revenue for businesses and increased employment opportunities. A great example is the Skunk Train between Willits and Fort Bragg which is a quintessential aspect of both communities. For locals, the trains could be rented out as venue spaces for events, if not for a family-friendly way to spend an afternoon. Other tourist railroads have dinner trains, wine-and-cheese trains, and holiday specials. Ultimately, this could significantly increase revenue for local businesses and cities.
We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens who urge our leaders to establish an official policy which will initiate action to allow a tourist/excursion train and trail on the former Northwestern Pacific Railroad right-of-way around Humboldt Bay.
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