Willow Creek Project Becomes Top Priority for Humboldt County
By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune
Steve Paine, District Manager for the Willow Creek Community Services District (WCCSD), told board members on Thursday, Jan. 24, Willow Creek’s wastewater treatment plan tops the list for capital improvement projects in the county.
“We have a shovel-ready project and that moved us to the top of the list,” Paine said.
WCCSD plans to build a wastewater treatment system facility because of health concerns and because overloaded septic systems, particularly in the downtown area, can’t handle business expansion.
Susan O’Gorman, of the Wastewater Advisory Committee, reported in October that the district’s property at Veteran’s Park was the preferred site for the facility.
“This is property that the district already owns and the soil there is okay.” O’Gorman said at the time.
The town’s septic tanks weren’t designed for the current volume of business, which limits expansion in the downtown area.
At Thursday’s board meeting, Director Tyler Holmes said the project “would benefit the community and help prosperity.”
Now that the project has been made a priority for the county, requesting grants and capital improvement funding to build the facility will be easier.
Not every issue facing Willow Creek is becoming easier, however.
Some community members are unhappy with groups of transients loitering, littering, defecating, and publically using drugs and alcohol in the downtown area from March through October.
Director Tom O’Gorman said, “My goal isn’t to push people out of town. I just want to do what we can to not create a magnet.”
One suggestion was moving the food bank and food distribution programs run by the Willow Creek Community Resource Center (WCCRC).
WCCRC and Food for People currently provide emergency food to about 220 individuals who live in the Willow Creek area. This includes monthly boxes of food to seniors over 60 years old, and weekly backpacks of food for over two dozen children in the community.
Coordinator Tamara Jenkinson said, “Because WCCRC is so centrally located, travelers and people who qualify for federal food assistance from other communities find us easily.”
“We are perceived as a magnet for the many people traveling through Willow Creek. They loiter in front of the Resource Center with their dogs, and guitars, smoking, and joking and generally irritating the local working poor, the elders and disabled from this community,” Jenkinson said.
Under pressure from a local ad-hoc citizens’ committee working on the downtown loitering issue, Jenkinson offered to move food distribution a few miles away from the downtown area to a WCCSD-owned garage near the book store.
Many Willow Creek residents living near the book store objected to the proposal.
Director Vonnie Gower held up a handful of letters and said, “I’m concerned about the letters of protest from people who live in that area.”
Several board members said that they weren’t sure if moving food distribution would actually solve the underlying issue of transients camping downtown.
Vice Chairperson Judy Gower said, “It’ll just make them have to walk further for food distribution.”
In the end, Chairman Bruce Nelson directed the WCCSD Manager to study the issue.
“What the Board would like you to do is to look more into this. You decide when to put it on the agenda,” Nelson said.