Masters Thesis

Community involvement in watershed-based land use planning : sustaining the rural character of Fieldbrook, California

Rural communities across the country are coping with how to preserve the values and elements of their community when or before considerable development occurs. At the center of the approximate 12,000-acre Lindsay Creek watershed is the rural community of Fieldbrook, located in Humboldt County, California. It is imperative for the community of Fieldbrook to incorporate watershed values and community involvement in current land use planning in order to make long-term sustainability of the watershed a success. For this research, the objectives of secondary analysis of interview and survey data were to assess attitudes of Lindsay Creek watershed residents regarding: 1) community values and the Lindsay Creek watershed, and 2) the perceived threats and significant issues regarding the health of the Lindsay Creek watershed. I also wanted to see if there would be any differences in environmental attitudes between four groups: 1) old-timers vs. newcomers, 2) homeowners vs. renters, 3) college degree vs. no college degree, and 4) younger vs. older. I compared each group’s responses concerning: 1) reasons for living in the Lindsay Creek watershed, 2) the value they place on items related to the watershed, 3) their opinions on the sources of water quality problems in the watershed, and 4) attitudes regarding growth boundaries in Humboldt County. Surveys were administered, and 96 of the 123 surveys were completed, resulting in a 78 percent response rate. Twenty percent of the residents have lived in Fieldbrook for thirty or more years. When respondents were asked the top three reasons why they live in the Lindsay Creek watershed, 63 percent said because of warmer weather than the coast, 58 percent replied because of open space and low density housing, and 41 percent said because of the forested hillsides and open spaces. When Fieldbrook residents were asked how much residential growth they would like to occur, sixty-nine percent of respondents would like to see small to moderate growth in the next twenty years, whereas 31 percent would like to see no new growth. A summary of the results from my group comparisons are as follows: old- timers indicated they live in the watershed because of the cost of real estate when they purchased their property. Newcomers indicated they value the ‘beauty of the forested hillsides and open spaces’. Homeowners and younger respondents (18-49) both agreed they live in the watershed because of the ‘warmer weather than the coast’ that Fieldbrook has to offer. Renters listed the ‘beauty of forested hillsides and open spaces,’ and older respondents (50+) indicated ‘open space and low housing density’ as the top reason for living in the watershed. By and large, what was important to those without a college degree was also important to those with a college degree regarding reasons why they live in the Lindsay Creek watershed. Regarding the value that groups place on items related to the watershed, all four groups gave ‘clean water’ the highest value. Newcomers, homeowners, both education levels, and younger respondents identified ‘timber harvesting’ as the most significant issue causing water quality problems in the watershed. Renters and older respondents indicated ‘an increase in home development,’ and old-timers indicated ‘failing septic systems’ as the leading cause of water quality problems. Lastly, all groups thought that Humboldt County should develop growth boundaries except for newcomers, who were unsure about growth boundary development in the County. My results reveal that the community of Fieldbrook wishes to preserve their existing ‘quality of life’, maintain Fieldbrook’s rural ‘sense of place’, have natural resource, open space and environmental protection, and the continuation of minimal growth.