Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Arkley makes grab at second dunes property

by John Driscoll
Eureka Reporter

The Friends of the Dunes has lost its bid for a hummocky piece of dune forest on the Samoa Peninsula after local philanthropist and developer Rob Arkley apparently offered the landowners a better deal.

The future of the well-trodden trails through the tangled forest and wetland is unknown, as Arkley has recently indicated he’d fence off an adjacent property he bought from Simpson Investment Co. Friends of the Dunes, however, hopes to work with Arkley on a restoration plan for the area it had eyed with California Coastal Conservancy funds.

”Quite honestly, I don’t blame the landowners,” said friends President Bill Weaver. Though, “We’re certainly disappointed.”

Weaver said Arkley has agreed to a meeting, which has yet to be scheduled.

The Friends secured $505,000 early this year to buy 112 acres on the west side of State Route 255 at the west end of the Samoa bridges. The property is owned by several landowners, who are also selling about 35 acres on the east side of the road.

Weaver said the landowners appear to be more satisfied selling off all the properties at once. Local attorney James Poovey, who owns some of the land and represents the other property owners, returned a call but could not be reached for comment by deadline.

The property is next to the 101-acre Manila Dunes Recreation Area to the north.

Arkley recently bought about 200 acres called the Dog Ranch, a property the Friends of the Dunes, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District and the Coastal Conservancy were working toward buying. That property, which was owned by Simpson, is next to the dunes forest property to the south.

Arkley unseated their plans.

”They got in second place!” Arkley told the North Coast Journal in April. “And it’ll never, ever, ever, ever, ever be sold to them. I’m not going to give it to the government agencies. I believe there’s far too much government land.”

He told the Journal that he intended to fence off that property and prohibit public use.

Calls to Arkley representatives were not returned.

Coastal Conservancy spokesman Dick Wayman said it’s not unusual for a public agency to be outbid by a private buyer for land. The state is limited to buying property at appraised value, which is being reviewed in this case, Wayman said.

”There are many properties that we have lost because someone thought they were worth more than our appraiser thought they were worth,” Wayman said.

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