Thursday, May 04, 2006

All aboard? Not yet

John Driscoll The Times-Standard
Eureka Times Standard

Warranted or not, Marcus Brown is feeling pressure to move hundreds of tons of railroad equipment that's been accumulating at a Glendale site owned by Simpson Timber Co. over three decades.

Simpson -- which has allowed the equipment to be stored free for 30 years -- says there's no rush, but it's supporting Brown and the Timber Heritage Museum in finding another, better place for the stuff.

Brown is anxious for negotiations between the museum, the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, and the Blue Ox Millworks to move along more quickly.

Ideally, the museum and Blue Ox could share a Samoa plot being eyed by Clean Up Eureka IV, a limited liability corporation owned by developer Rob Arkley, who has offered to move Blue Ox from its Eureka site. That would put the Blue Ox and the museum right there with the Samoa Cookhouse and the new Humboldt Bay Maritime Museum -- potentially a major historic and cultural attraction.

But is there enough room for the whole railroad collection and everything else? That's at the heart of the issue, Brown says. He said the collection belongs to the community, and the community may have to step up and save it.

Harbor commissioners, Brown said, want the interested parties to work it out themselves. That may mean mediators need to be called back in to work out the details.

Dave McEntee, director of the environment for Simpson, said that the company wants to see what happens with the negotiations before deciding what to do with the property. Simpson is offloading many sites it no longer needs, but McEntee said the Glendale property isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things.

”We're supporting them in finding a permanent home,” he said.

Brown said it will be important to have lease terms or ownership of part of the property in order to secure grant funding to rehabilitate buildings.

But if Brown is anxious, there may not be any way to speed things along, or any details to work out, until the Samoa property changes hands.

Blue Ox -- owned by Eric Hollenbeck and his wife, Viviana -- says the outfit is excited about the possibilities of banding the groups together in one area. Hollenbeck said there's no use in restarting mediation until the deal goes through.

”At this point in time we can't commit to anything because we don't have anything,” Hollenbeck said.

One thing is for sure: If the two operations do move to the Samoa site, it will be a convergence of historic significance. Over the Samoa Bridges would come massive machines, a sawmill, two 2,400-ton Blue Belgian oxen and uncountable collections of Victorian era merchandise and equipment. From the other direction, from Glendale, would come rail cars, steam donkeys and other behemoths.

And that, no one would be able to rush.

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