After more than 20 years of demanding accountability for and clean-up of the North Coast Railroad Authority’s (NCRA) failed rail line, Friends of the Eel River is thrilled to announce that a resolution to the saga is near. Sen. Mike McGuire’s Senate Bill 1029, previously titled “The Great Redwood Trail Act,” has passed the state legislature and is on its way to the Governor’s desk. He has until September 30th to sign it.
The final bill is titled “The NCRA Closure and Transition to Trails Act.” It creates a firm, two-year timeline to wrap up the NCRA’s business, resolve its liabilities, railbank the right-of-way, and start planning for the Great Redwood Trail. The NCRA’s responsibilities for rail are stripped away, with the Sonoma Marin Rapid Transit agency taking on the minimal freight operations on the southern portion of the line. The California Transportation and Natural Resources agencies will be providing oversight throughout this process.
This is a huge win for Eel River conservationists, one we should celebrate with vigor. But it’s not the end of the story. It is the beginning of a new chapter. We will need not only to monitor the NCRA’s shutdown but also to work with the legislature to ensure that legacy pollution is dealt with and the trail is responsibly implemented.
It is also a partial victory. The original bill had a bolder vision of a hiking and biking trail all the way from the San Francisco Bay Area to Humboldt Bay. The Governor’s office insisted on scaling it back, but they still teed it up to achieve the big picture. We can, and we will, get there.
Senator McGuire has demonstrated courage and leadership in ensuring that the Great Redwood Trail gets the state support it needs. We’re looking forward to partnering with him, and the growing community of trail advocates, to implement the vision.
Friends of the Eel River’s members played an important role in making this victory possible. When the Governor put the brakes on, you stepped up and called and wrote and called again to let him know that this was something he needed to get behind. Thanks in large part to our community’s engagement, his office worked with Senator McGuire to craft something they could all support. All we need now is his final signature on the bill. Thank you.
You can read the press release from Senator McGuire’s office HERE.