Monument Matters: Protesters work to stop Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse relocation

Trinidad, Ca., (KIEM)-  Five people were on top of the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse for hours today. Why? It’s a matter of memory. Geologists have made it clear that the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse will soon quite literally fall victim to coastal erosion. In response the City of Trinidad issued an emergency relocation permit to the Trinidad Civic Club to save the structure. The permit allows construction crews to lift the 1949 cement building, and move it 20 feet East. The new location will be much culture to a Native American Heritage site.

Protesters stand on Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse

For the Yurok people whose ancestors once occupied the Tsurai village near the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse, the idea of destabilizing sacred ground is unacceptable. “This is where we come from, this is our home.” One of the protesters Laucas Garcia says, “We’ve been here since the beginning of time.”

“We’re trying to make a statement that this village does matter, it matters to the people like myself who are from there. I have relatives over that hill that are buried there.” Axel Lindgren III explains. His family has maintained the grave sites on the bluff where the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse will be moved if construction proceeds for generations.

The city and Trinidad Civic Club say, the Tsurai village is in more danger now than it will be after the lighthouse is moved.

Protesters ask for construction to stop, to prevent damage to Tsurai Village 12/27/17

“We issued a permit to prevent the eminent threat of that lighthouse sliding down the hill and on top of the village site and desecrating it.” Mayor Susan Rotwein says, “During the coarse of construction there has been a certified cultural monitor on site for the entire time who is a local Yurok person. There has been no disturbance of cultural resources.”

Groups are also in a hurry to to see the maritime memorial moved. It’s a monument to those lost at sea. According to city officials the window for relocation is small. “The geologist that the city hired has been really clear with us and with the civic club that the lighthouse is in real danger and needs to be moved before the next rainy season.” City manager Dan Berman explains.

With the help of engineers the Trinidad Civic club picked the most stable spot on their property to move the lighthouse. With not much time for relocation, it made sense to stay on the 45 x 50 parcel, at least temporarily.

“We all recognize that that site is probably not stable in any real long term sense… no geologist is going to say its going to be good in 50 years.” Burman says. “As an emergency response this avoids the danger of the lighthouse literally falling down the hill. Which could really damage cultural resources and natural resources below. But the city’s take is, as an emergency response this is a reasonable, legally allowable measure.”

However, protesters say the club could have pursued other options. “We wouldn’t be here if there was care being taken.” Sarah Lindgren-Akana, with the Tsurai Ancestral Society explains. “To maintain the lighthouse on the current site? That destabilizes the bluff even  further, and it won’t be moved until that bluff starts to fail. Effecting our graves.”

Attempt to stop the relocation of the lighthouse

“We’re not here to tear it down permanently. Everyone that was lost at sea, that has their names on the memorial, they’re just as important as the people that are down there.” Garcia says, “We’re just trying to find a more permanent location. It’s common sense.”

For now, the project is moving forward. “The city scheduled a meeting with the Tsurai Ancestral Society, the Yurok Tribe, California Coastal Conservancy… but that’s after construction is already completed.”

The Trinidad Civic club also maintains they want an open conversation and are willing to engage with all interested parties. “We long for respect and consideration for everyone.” the Memorial Lighthouse Preservation Committee chair, Patricia Fleschner says.