The NEC at 50: A Half Century of Defending the Planet

By Wesley Chesbro

     On April 22, 1970, the first Earth Day was celebrated in Humboldt County with an Earth Fair held in Eureka. Concerned citizens of all ages and backgrounds came together as the local manifestation of an awakening across the country and the planet.

     That awakening was to humankind’s interdependence with the natural environment, an awareness that remains strong and growing today, locally and across the planet.

The original Northcoast Environmental Center office on Tenth Street in Arcata including some original staff and volunteers_ left tor right, Wesley Chesbro, Ann (Folker) Wieland and Michael Matthews.

      Out of that awakening, the following year, local and regional advocacy and outdoor groups, including the local chapters of Audubon, Sierra Club and the Native Plant Society came together with student groups like the Boot n’ Blister and Friends of the Earth to form the Northcoast Environmental Center as a clearing house for environmental action.

     A local outdoor equipment retailer, then known as the Arcata Transit Authority, donated space on Tenth Street to house the NEC, and the fenced yard next door as the home of one of California’s first recycling centers.

     As we face a future of climate change and declining biodiversity, let’s celebrate the Northcoast Environmental Center on it’s fiftieth birthday as our regional beacon of hope for the restoration and renewal of our beloved Northcoast as well as for the planet as a whole.

(Wesley Chesbro served as the NECs first Executive Director and went on to a forty year career in City, County and state elected offices, culminating in serving as the northcoast’s Assemblymember and State Senator.)