By Lauren Voigtlander
Standing on top of Strawberry Rock in Trinidad with nothing, but sun and chilled wind against naked skin, activists feel that there are few forms of protest that could be considered more peaceful. “It allows you to be present in the meditative sense of the word,” said Jack Gescheidt, 52-year-old photographer and founder of the Treespirit Project.
“It is really unifying,” said Natalynne Delapp, a 32-year-old employee of the Environmental Protection Information Center and friend of Gescheidt. “Once everybody takes off their clothes, they all become unified in their nudity.”
This was a stand that Friends of the Trinidad Forests, paired with the Treespirit Project, made on Saturday, April 27, to create awareness of the proposed clearcuts to the area. Friends of the Trinidad Forests hope to sway Green Diamond logging company to turn the area into a community forest similar to the Arcata Community Forest. Jack Nounnan, a founding member of Friends of the Trinidad Forests, explained that it is not only about saving the popular hiking spot, but saving vital resources.
“It is our offering of oxygen,” said Nounnan. “Our offering to the world.”
There has been much controversy on the proposed plan to clearcut the area. Green Diamond acquired the area in 1998, but only proposed their harvest plan in 2011. Since then there have been activists against it. Tree sitters have been perched in the old growth area of the forest for almost a year and groups, such as Friends of the Trinidad Forests, have been working on a compromise with Green Diamond.
“We are trying to get along with them,” said Nounnan. “We all live here.”
Nounnan’s group is not opposed to logging nor are they opposed to the Green Diamond company, but they are opposed to clearcuts. Green Diamond may agree not to cut the area that is closest to Strawberry Rock, but still plans to cut other areas around it. When speaking to the Times-Standard, Green Diamond argued that clearcuts are better for the area than selective cutting. Their spokesperson explained that selective cutting can be very abrasive to the forest floor and requires disruptive equipment. With their clearcutting practices, the company argues it can keep the forest floor relatively intact and the open space will allow the forest to grow back at a more rapid pace.
Friends of the Trinidad Forest feel differently about these issues and the protest on Strawberry Rock was one attempt of many to bring these issues to the public’s attention. Gescheidt has been working on projects that bring people and trees together for the past 10 years. The main goal Gescheidt suggested he would like to accomplish with this particular project is “to create an increased awareness of the Trinidad forest to the community and encourage Green Diamond to save it.”
Gescheidt started adding people to his photographs of nature to bring to scale the magnitude of trees like the redwoods. The idea behind capturing people nude in nature was to “remove the cultural cues that clothes bring.”
“People are more timeless,” said Gescheidt.
Of all the days in Humboldt County, this event fell on an impeccably clear and sunny day. Nounnan’s group hikes every other Saturday to Strawberry Rock, but this particular Saturday incorporated the nude protest photographed by Jack Gescheidt.
Around 70 individuals came out to participate in the event. All ranging from young college kids to long time members of the community. And all of them were buzzing about in excitement and more than willing to bare all for the cause.
“It is a once in a lifetime thing to be amongst this many people and connecting as one as well as with nature in a piece of art in a moment,” said Jennifer Be, a 25-year-old chef at the Northcoast Coop.
After the warm hike out, all 70 of the participants gathered onto the top of Strawberry Rock, each walking softly and squeezing together on the small space. The group had no reservations about exposing themselves in the crowd of strangers. Gescheidt gathered them all tightly on one side of the rock and then on the other side, and later on for a shot from a helicopter. When the time came for the photos a nice calm came over the group as they huddled together as if they were truly connecting with each other as well as with nature. And as soon as it was over there were nothing, but smiles and cheers.
“It’s about people being vulnerable,” said Delapp. “The forests are defenseless and when people are nude, they are as defenseless and vulnerable as the forest and surrounding area.”
Besides merely gathering to make a statement about logging practices and the future of the forest, the event also created a way for people to join together in nature in a way that does not occur often. The idea of turning the proposed section of Trinidad forest into a community forest is not only to protect it, but also to give it back to the community.
“I want people to first enjoy the opportunity to be out here together, because it is really community making,” said Nounnan. “We should enjoy one another in the presence of nature.”
At the end of the day each of these organizations know that there is still a lot of work to be done and compromises to be made. But the idea both the Friends of the Trinidad Forest and the Treespirit Project want to convey is that there is something about the Trinidad forest that people feel should be saved.
“People really do care and are willing to do something out of their comfort zone to make a statement,” said Carrie Macabee, 28-year-old student and intern at the Baykeeper.