From the July 21, 2010 edition. To read all of the articles in the McKinleyville Press, subscribe today or purchase a newspaper from a rack or retail location.
By Elaine Weinreb
Press Staff Writer
Tom Head, the owner of Coastal Tree Service, told the McKinleyville Press in an interview that landowner Sharon Pennisi was very clear in her instructions when she hired him to improve her ocean view by clearing trees and brush from a hillside below her Wagner Street residence.
The land she had hired him to clear was not her property, nor that of her husband, Trinidad Planning Commissioner Sam Pennisi, although Head insists that he did not know that.
The land belongs to the City of Trinidad, and is part of an archaeological preserve, jointly managed by the State Coastal Conservancy, the Yurok Tribe, the Tsurai Ancestral Society, and the city.
The hillside, which is just above the archaeological site of the ancient Tsurai Village, is already plagued with erosion problems, which will not be helped by the clearcut.
“She led me to believe that was her property,” Head said. “She said she had talked to the city, and it was ok, and she wanted me to start as soon as possible.”
Head apparently did not realize that Pennisi had already considered hiring a previous contractor, Professional Tree Service, but had changed her mind when that company’s owner inquired about the legal status of the property at Trinidad Town Hall.
Head said that Pennisi told him that she had talked to the City Clerk, and that he had said it was all right to use the vehicle-restricted trail to bring his equipment onto the site.
City Clerk Gabriel Adams emphatically denied this allegation.
“That is one thousand percent, absolutely incorrect,” he said.
“We don’t even allow a bicycle on that trail,” he said. “There is absolutely no way we would ever allow somebody to drive a truck and a chipper onto that trail. I told that to the previous guy, who asked about it.”
Adams observed that a prominent sign at the entrance to the trail, stating that vehicles were forbidden, had been illicitly removed.
“That sign wasn’t just bolted on; it was welded into place,” he said. “You would have needed machinery to remove it. But it wasn’t removed until after the cutting had taken place.”
Sharon Pennisi previously told the McKinleyville Press that she was not home when the cut occurred, and that it was all due to a misunderstanding.
“There was no misunderstanding,” Head stated. “She was home for part of the time during the second day we were there. I kept going back up the hill to her porch, to check in with her, and make sure we were doing what she wanted. I must have talked to her six or eight times during that day. She said that she was happy, and that we were her saviors.”
“She kept telling me to go further down the hillside. When I wouldn’t go down any further, she said, ‘Get the stuff up on the sides,’ Head said.
“She did not have any brush on her property other than what she told us to cut. For her to say it was a misunderstanding! You can look at their property, and you can see that there’s no brush on it,” Head said.
Head said that he had left the site to bring his crew some water, when City Manager Steve Albright appeared, and told the crew members to stop working. Head said that he was called, immediately returned to the site, and stopped the job at once.