Despite Objections, Motocross Track Proponents Keep Moving Forward

Caroline Griffith, EcoNews Journalist

An unheeded sign on the Samoa Dunes; Caroline Griffith

Adjacent to the dragstrip on the Samoa Peninsula sits a roughly five-acre parcel of land, a former dumping ground for dredging spoils, that Ken Goldie thinks is the perfect spot for a motocross track. Dunes advocates and neighbors disagree with him.

At a packed Eureka City Council meeting in October of 2018, Goldie secured a lease from the City of Eureka for the site, which sits within the County’s jurisdiction. The land was leased to Goldie with the caveat that he and other motocross proponents would need to secure all of the necessary permits to use the land for that purpose.

Currently, under the Humboldt County Beach and Dunes Management Plan, all vehicle use is prohibited in that area, meaning that at the very least, a zoning change would be necessary to allow for a motocross track. And, since the area in question is in the Coastal Zone, the Coastal Commission would need to approve said zoning change. At a recent meeting about the proposal, residents of Fairhaven and Humboldt Baykeeper stated their intention to keep this from happening.

Among the concerns of residents and environmental advocates is a fear that opening this area up to off-highway vehicles (OHVs) could lead to increased vehicle use on neighboring properties and conservation areas, which are home to sensitive plant and bird species. Goldie claims that fencing and gating the proposed area, which already sees a large amount of illegal OHV use, will help to cut down on unsanctioned use and the resulting environmental degradation. Opponents aren’t buying that logic. They point out that the existing fences and signs have not kept people from illegally riding in the dunes. The only thing that will stop it, they say, is if there is a regular OHV patrol and actual enforcement of the laws.

Other concerns include noise pollution, increased emissions, and the impact of having 14 motocross events per year with, potentially, up to 600 participants and spectators at each. There are no plans to build any other facilities on the site, rather to just use the existing dragstrip facilities. There is also no Tsunami Evacuation Plan.

And what about the fact that the site is a former dumping ground for dredging spoils which are known to be contaminated with dioxins and pentachlorophenol? When one Fairhaven resident asked Goldie if he was concerned about stirring up contaminants, he replied that this was already happening with the current illegal usage, which his track would cut down on.

Now, the hurdle for the motocross track is to get Coastal Commission approval for a zoning change, which appears unlikely to happen. Supervisor Virginia Bass pointed out that the County had been trying for four years to get Coastal Commission approval for some No Parking signs along the highway on the peninsula, with no results. So, no matter what, this project has an uphill battle.