Giant of the Redwoods

Susie Van Kirk is a true giant among those protecting the historic Redwoods of Humboldt County. As an active member of the community and strong advocate for those less fortunate, Susie Van Kirk treated the surrounding forests with the same respect and care as she did the community that has so long depended on that natural resource. While a key point to local economy, Susie recognized the inherent worth of the Redwoods beyond simple monetary means.

Susie Van Kirk

With the "Mother of the Redwoods" Lucille Vinyard, Susie Van Kirk helped to establish the Redwood National Parks in 1968, which was expanded by 48,000 acres by President Carter 10 years later. Abandoning her graduate work at Humboldt State University after earning an MA in Biology in 1969, Susie Van kirk became involved with the Sierra Club as well as local students to halt the expansion of the four lane Highway 101 into a six lane freeway. The construction would require the removal of 200 homes, exacerbating already tenuous housing availability in Arcata.

While working with environmentalists Lucille Vinyard and Dr. Rudi Becking, Van Kirk would help impact both local and national restrictions on logging with sustainable yield and environmental impact requirements by 1976. Much of her professional work would be in historical site surveys, environmental impact reports, and local historian.

Susie Van Kirk scrapbooking at the grange.

Susie Van Kirk became renowned for helping start up numerous programs to support homeless, working as a historical and cultural surveyor, and becoming an authority on local architecture. Susie worked with a simple goal in mind: to feed and shelter people. Her work for the community includes six years of volunteer service for Emergency Shelters in Eureka as well as numerous other shelters and the veterans association over the years.

Van Kirk’s work as a historian leaves a long paper trail that has paved the path toward a brighter future for the Redwoods, but her social work and passion for the community leaves an indelible imprint upon Humboldt County.

Below images from Susie Van Kirk Collection, Humboldt State University Library Special Collections