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Settlement with conditions reached regarding Tsurai Study Area

TRINIDAD- The City of Trinidad is expected to maintain and preserve an area of cultural significance in the city now that a settlement, which is pending certain conditions, has been reached.

In 1978, the City of Trinidad signed a deed through the California State Coastal Sonservancy for the approximately 12-acre Tsurai Study Area, which overlooks Trinidad Bay.  The deed mandated the city must maintain and preserve the land’s cultural resources.  The Tsurai Community has lived on this land for thousands of years.

"The city agreed as far back as 1978 to do what we think they should have been doing all along and haven't been doing," said Zach Zwerdling, the attorney representing the Tsurai Ancestral Society.

"There's years and years of grave robbing on the property.  It's been going on for a long, long time."

In 2010, the Tsurai Ancestral Society filed a lawsuit against a Trinidad Planning Commissioner at the time, Sam Pennisi, and his wife, for allegedly hiring workers to cut down trees on the land to improve the view.  A lawsuit was also filed against the city for failing to protect this property.

“Nothing was done to protect the property.  No signs were put up. There was no vegetation management," Zwerdling said.
This month, a settlement, which is pending certain conditions was reached.  The landowners paid the Tsurai Ancestral Society an undisclosed amount of money and the City of Trinidad agreed to finalize a plan in the next year to manage and protect the property moving forward using a previously allocated $20,000 and give the land back to the Tsurai Ancestral Society and Yurok Tribe.

“It's the Tsurai Village and it's time for us to take the next step of making arrangements for that land to go back to the Tsurai," said Julie Fulkerson, the Mayor of Trinidad.

"We're glad that something finally has happened but we think this should of happened, this commitment to protect the property was made many, many, many years ago and should have been honored at that time," said Zwerdling.

Another lawsuit was filed against a different property owner for cutting vegetation in this area in 2012, but that case will be dismissed if the City of Trinidad follows the conditions put forward.

"It's going to be a challenge in the future to protect the land. We're going to have to rely on peoples' integrity and trust and respect for this land," Fulkerson said.

I think everybody should do more to be respectful and understand that actions like cutting on a sacred site has repercussions," Zwerdling said.

A special Council Meting will be held on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Trinidad School Multi-Purpose Room.  There, the Council and the public will discuss the management plan for the Tsurai Study Area.