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1998-09-12
Eureka, CA. Wal-Mart By the Bay.

You can just imagine the tourist appeal this holds: "Come to Old Town Eureka, California, and be sure to visit our unique Wal-Mart by the Bay." What better use of a port facility than a 150,000 s.f. windowless retailer of cheap underwear? The land Wal-Mart wants is called the "balloon tract" because of the shape of the railroad tracks that once encircled the lot. The parcel was a railroad yard once owned by Union Pacific. Hundreds of sprawl-busters in Eureka turned out in force on Sept. 9 to a public hearing of the California Coastal Commission to protest the use of harbor land for an out of scale Wal-Mart. Talk of national chain stores coming to Eureka has been the buzz for more than a year. Back in December of 1997 the Times-Standard newspaper did a Sunday close-up story about "Big Box Business" coming to Eureka.The issue has stirred up passions in this city of 25,000 people. Downtown Eureka has been hard hit by the loss of fishing and lumber industries, which have been replaced in part by low-wage retail jobs. The city that prides itself as a "Victorian Seaport" now has a Costco -- with Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Target all reported eyeing the community. Eureka has the Old Town historic district, which is part of the National Main St Program. The Director of Eureka's Main St. program has calculated that the Bayshore Mall that is already in the city caused 27 downtown businesses to fold. But the Chamber of Commerce rushed in to Wal-Mart's rescue: "I get the sense that people who live up here have felt deprived because they don't have a Wal-Mart...It's almost like the badge of a community." The city's General Plan warns against further development of "outlying strip development" and points towards infilling the downtown core commercial area. A 150,000 Wal-Mart superstore will do a nice job of aerating out the downtown. The Army Corps of Engineers is reportedly spending millions of federal, state and local tax dollars to deepen Humbolt Bay for a new Port facility, all to the benefit of Wal-Mart, which probably could afford to dig out Humbolt Bay at its own expense. If Wal-Mart is permitted to build a superstore just 400 feet from the waters of Humbolt Bay, the downtown core of the community will be forever altered, and the tourist dollars to the community impacted negatively. In many other parts of the country, from Lake Placid, NY to Fredericksburg, VA, Wal-Mart has tried to place itself in the middle of a tourist trade economy to siphon off the retail trade. As Eureka hardware store owner Bill Pierson has said, big box retailers will not expand the pie: "People only have so much money."

What you can do: To help stop the Wal-Mart By the Bay, contact Perry Bradford-Wilson at perrybw@tidepool.com.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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