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Since We're Neighbors...

Response to logging problems in this county seems to swing from abject apathy to tree-hugging hysteria. But it appears there is now the most unusual of reactions--a well-organized group with a common-sense approach. And if even half of what spokesperson Kristen Forde is predicting materializes, the big-boy timber interests had better hold on to their hats.

Forde and her neighbors up in Boulder Creek were getting a bit nervous about the increased logging around their neck of the woods. And when they went down to check the timber harvesting plans filed with Felton's California Department of Forestry, they discovered that an uncomfortable number of those logging interests were from out of the county. So, they called a little meeting of San Lorenzo Valley-ites and came up with the following plan: While one member volunteered to create a Web site on the Internet, another will be taking digital photos of the timber harvest plans to upload for that site. Forde will be creating maps of past, present and proposed timber plans, which also will be uploaded.

Yet another volunteer gave a brief outline of how to monitor the often complex (and misleading) world of logging. For example, explains Forde, some parcel maps down at Santa Cruz County Planning have sections on them called Timber Preserve Zones. Prospective homebuyers may look at that and assume that nearby land marked as such will be preserved, right? Wrong. It actually means the timber is being preserved for harvest.

"We want to create a visual idea of what is happening with these logging plans," says Forde. For those still living low-tech, she adds, "We want the information in each library--in the [San Lorenzo] Valley and the downtown library--and we'll update it monthly."

"As a group," adds the neighborhood organizer, "I would hope we would be inclusive of all voices, including local loggers. They have a vested interest in seeing that logging is done right."

Cryin' Shame End for Highway 17 Web Site

If there was one guy who should have been stuck in last week's Highway 17 super-snarl, it was Emil Gallant. But he wasn't.

Gallant, 28, is the irreverent webmeister who created one the of the world's most popular Web sites, the Highway 17 Page of Shame, featuring almost-daily photos of rude motorists and Caltrans gaffes on the infamous San Jose­Santa Cruz thoroughfare. Gallant took digital photos of rogue roadhogs while commuting with buddy Curtis Feigel to his job at Apple Computer in Silicon Valley. Once at work, Gallant added his own "charming and inventive" invectives to put the suicide-prone in their place.

But a recent glance at the site revealed a jerque du jour photo from over a month ago. That's because Gallant quit his job at Apple in March and hitched his wagon to Starfish Software in Scotts Valley, 10 miles from his home in Santa Cruz. So Gallant missed the spectacular five-mile-per-hour 17 parade last week--and the Web site that scratched a miserable itch for pissed commuters as far away as Australia and Japan will see its farewell post this week.

Gallant received visits from roughly 50 countries a day, many from media outlets. His page attracted--and still attracts--a stunning flurry of international media attention. Apparently the big media isn't totally clued in to recent developments. The San Francisco Chronicle ran an article on Mother's Day celebrating Gallant and his Web site well after jerque entries had dwindled from 18 in January to two in April and none in May. That feature story was picked up from the Dallas Morning News. The San Jose Mercury News and the Santa Cruz County Sentinel, Gallant says, have both been well behind the times. "They picked up the story after all the foreign papers had called," he notes. "And the story in the Sentinel was inaccurate. They had the wrong URL. All they had to do was dial 411 and ask me themselves." Recent articles in the Sentinel and the Merc also failed to notice the site's curious stagnation.

"Right around March, the commentary stopped being in the first person and I started writing about funny road situations instead," Gallant admits. In April, settling in as webmaster for Starfish, Gallant had friends of his take pictures for him on their own treacherous commutes, and then added off-site sarcasm.

Despite attempts to pass on the Page-of-Shame torch, Gallant says he's been unable to find the proper rebel with a rancorous attitude to take over. So, Gallant says this is it--for real. He will post a eulogy by the end of the week and put the brakes on his charade. With a 10-minute commute by motorcycle to his job site in Scotts Valley through Santa Cruz redwoods and four stop signs, "I feel funny talking about traffic problems," he says.

Over the Page of Shame's seven-month lifespan, Gallant received over 310,000 hits--as well as advertising queries from an offshore gambling outfit and a 900-number dating service.

Ever the rebel, Gallant turned advertisers down. "Most of the stuff had no relation to the page," he say. "And I'd have had to kowtow to whoever was paying the bills." Now, the Page of Shame will become an archival site with possible, rare updates by Gallant and hyperlinks to new, more somber Highway 17 pages.

For Gallant, though, the Highway 17 commute became almost delightful when he started his Web site last November. "I didn't really mind if someone cut in front of me, cause I'd have my day," he laughs. "I was kind of excited to get to work and get the latest issue out." Gallant--who is notorious, and hated, for bashing BMW, Volvo and VW bus drivers--drives a maroon 1991 Nissan NX2000--but you won't see it any more on your morning commute.

Although his daily Page of Shame fulminations made his formerly frustrating commute more fun, Gallant says he won't miss the highway or his elevated position on the information superhighway. He has these parting words to continuing Highway 17 commuters: "Suck it up."

He's only partly kidding.

When in Trouble, Who Ya Gonna Call? City Council Boxbusters!

Not only is the Santa Cruz City Council not scrapping West Cliff Drive's emergency call boxes, the councilmembers were, at press time, leaning towards replacing them with a new $30,000 system containing two more phone/life ring units than before.

Included is a maintenance plan so the devices stay in ship shape.

Nuz loves hot tips--call 457-9000 or email us.

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From the May 30-June 5, 1996 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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