Friday, December 12, 2014

We are In!

12 December 2014

The twelve minute documentary I co-produced with Terra Nyssa has been accepted into the 2015 SYRCL Wild and Scenic Film Festival.  The World Premier will be Saturday afternoon, January 17, in the OddFellows Hall in downtown Nevada City.

"A Creek Runs Through It" tells the story of the Wolf Creek Parkway.  Come check it out if you get the chance.

After the film festival it will be "Forward Paddle" for the 2015 public awareness campaign. 


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Stewards Log 12 July 2014

A fine time it is for a summer update.  Here’s the unfolding story of the Parkway campaign so far.

Public Awareness:  The WCCA was the featured non-profit of the month at the Center for the Arts.  Our table featured a wonderful short video by Don and Jane Pelton.  We have also produced a new 4”x9” rack card for distribution at other upcoming events going forward.

If you’ve seen that piece you might recognize Tatiana Makovkin’s beautiful creek rendering as the same template used for the Chalk Art Project at the Holiday Inn Express in May.  That event was wildly successful and the good folks at Grass Valley Charter School hope to make it an annual event.

The Chalk Art was done in conjunction with the WCCA ribbon cutting as we joined the Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce.  A key aspect of that move is that Co-CEO Keith Davies spoke in favor of the Parkway while being interviewed for our film, “A Creek Runs Through It.”

In cooperation with Terra Nyssa Films, I am helping to produce a short (8 to 10 min) documentary.  The film will “tell the story” of the Parkway, provide a tour of the creek and proposed routes, hear directly from several key players in a series of interviews, and include information on successful urban creek restoration projects.  We have a good working draft of a script and hope to finish in August.

The finished product will be used in a broad public awareness campaign as I take it on the road to various groups around town over the next year or so.  These groups will hopefully include the Chamber of Commerce, the ERC, the Downtown Business Association, schools, service groups, the County Board of Supervisors, and of course the Grass Valley City Council.  We also hope to enter it into the 2015 Wild and Scenic Film Festival.

Short Term/Connect the Dots:  Recognizing the actual Parkway itself is still a few years away, the WCCA board envisions a practical short term “realistic” plan to get the ball rolling.  We call it the “Connect the Dots” project.  Essentially the idea is to paint a series of blue/green dots along city streets and sidewalks the length of the proposed Parkway, with a few signs here and there to let people know they are walking on the Wolf Creek Parkway.

I pitched the idea to City Manager Bob Richardson, Community Development Director Tom Last, and Public Works Director Tim Kiser.  This by the way is the third meeting with Tom and Tim, and the first with Bob Richardson.

Even though the idea sounds simple enough, nothing ever is.  They liked the idea and are willing to pitch it to the City Council once we all agree on the parameters.  Here’s the catch.  Legally this will be considered a trail and require adherence to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Thus we will need sidewalks wide enough for wheelchairs (not all are), slopes no higher than the maximum allowed (some are) along with ramps and truncated domes at intersections.  Bob Richardson, being new to the city, is unfamiliar with the whole concept and proposed routes.  I of course volunteered to be his guide.  So one day soon Bob and I, and others who wish, will take a hike.

Long Term:  In previous meetings with Tom Last and Tim Kiser, a basic outline of our way forward is becoming clear.

Formal production of a Preliminary Design by a bonafide planning or architectural entity.
Preliminary Engineering Study.
Public Meetings and Necessary Permits.
Any subsequent revision to the Design or Engineering requirements
NEPA and CEQA reports and acceptance.
Implementation (meaning the actual work!), most likely in phases.

Meantime:  In the meantime they urge us to do whatever is possible on privately held property when and if we get the chance.  Essentially this involves a door to door canvassing of all parcels in each Reach to find out which property owners are supportive, which might be interested in an easement, and which are just plain opposed.  We have only just barely begun this endeavor.  I hope to entice a few high school students to help with this in the fall.

Key Property:  The corner lot at Idaho-Maryland and Sutton (proposed upstream trailhead) is privately held and for sale.  Mary Coleman-Hunt from the Bear Yuba Land Trust is actively negotiating with the owner and realtor to purchase this amazingly important piece.

The Old Warnke Mill site is also for sale, in conjunction with the former Idaho-Maryland Mine property behind it.  I am having ongoing discussions with the realtor concerning this property as well.

There are also several pieces of property along Mill Street that abut the creek that are for sale.  Anyone wanna buy one and make a creekside park out of it?

Our Current Needs or What You Can Help us With:

  • Historic pics of Wolf Creek prior to the freeway and/or the downtown Safeway
  • Acquisition of key lots 
  • Volunteer to work with staff at the Land Trust to create a professional multi-layered map of the Parkway
  • Volunteer to produce the Preliminary Design
  • Or do so at a discount
  • Or volunteer to find funding to do so
  • Volunteer(s) to do some of the door to door canvassing of private parcels

Let Us Know what you may know or want to do!

And coming in October, date and venue to be determined - our annual public meeting which will feature a showing of “A Creek Runs Through It”

Bruce Herring

Friday, March 7, 2014

Stewards Log        7 March 2014

The following story was written by Rick Sanger.  Rick is a former board chair of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance and long time Sierra back country ranger.  Rick read this story at the close of the State of the Creek Community meeting in October 2013.   He and his wife Suzanne are ever so close to becoming parents for the first time.

Once upon a time, a creek was born.  And along its shores plants found sustenance and animals, a way of life.  It grew a rich web of life that surrounded and enveloped it, which in turn, created magic – the kind of magic that only pristine environments have.  That magic drew people, who camped along its shores and enjoyed the bounty that its waters brought.  The stream was the vital heart of the great body of the watershed.
More people came.  But They came not for the creek, but for the gold.  And the people who sought gold built a town. The creek still flowed along the town’s edges, and behind its back, but for the most part, it was forgotten and it kept to itself.  Sometimes it spoke out, and ran through the town and through peoples homes jumping and celebrating a spring rebirth.  The people didn’t like its celebrations, and spent the summers trying to silence it.  They bound it.  They buried it. But the stream still flowed.  It’s whisper could be heard if one only listened close enough.
A gentle man and a clever teacher, listened to the whisper - and had a vision. They decided to help settle the differences that the creek and the town were having.  They volunteered to translate, to facilitate, to mediate.  They formed an alliance
The teacher had been teaching the creek’s lessons to children, and thought there was something there for adults to learn.
A realtor joined them - who had built his home at the creek’s birthplace to be nurtured by it’s spirit.  In exchange, he wanted to heal the creek’s wounds.
They were joined by a farmer – a man who knew the value of water, for he had chosen his home where the creek could feed his crops.
A father enjoyed one afternoon watching his daughter play in the creek’s waters, then learned later that thousands of gallons of raw sewage had been dumped upstream.  He joined for the sake of his children.
A photographer found the flowing water an interesting subject.
A recent college graduate joined the alliance to help out, get some experience, and see a new part of the country. She often insisted she was an alien.
A 47-year old with a well-developed beer belly came to an alliance meeting.  His wife made him come because she couldn’t drive after her eye exam.  Not wanting to wait in the car,  he came inside.   Later that year, rather than just pave over his entire patio area, he used some mulch and dug a little swale.
Others joined in to help.  Some had persistence, some expertise, some dedication,  some a sense of duty, some a sense of fun.  Some had gentle hearts, and some had strong arms.  Some had more patience than others.  But an alliance with all these qualities was a strong alliance, indeed.
Most came only with passion, but the passion led to knowledge, and even expertise.  They taught themselves and each other about macro-invertebrates and zero run off and creek setbacks and ā nád ro mous fish.  They learned about arsenic and yellow boy and mercury and mining.  And they struggled with power point and grant writing and nonprofit regulations.
They learned about dissolved oxygen and turbidity and data collection and databases and, worst of all – public speaking.
They went to city hall . And went again… and again and again. And sometimes were even able to change city policy.  They envisioned a parkway that would re-acquaint the community with the stream and its gifts.
But it wasn’t always easy, they learned about compromise, and underhanded politics, and property rights and gold.  They disagreed with each other, and others disagreed with them.  People were scared of flooding.  People were scared of vagrants. People were just scared.  And so, the alliance learned about people, too.
I am part of that alliance.  And you are part of that alliance. And there are many more – including the birds and myriads of critters that we choose to represent here.  And although we work to protect those critters and the creek, ultimately it’s those critters and that creek that are keeping us alive.

A long time has passed since those days, and many more people have come to that beautiful town by the creek.  But now, like in ancient times, many have come for the creek and the parkway that gently follows along it.  The  trees that were planted have mostly matured.  Under one is a shaded bench - the favorite spot for an elderly lady that you can see there most days.  She loves to watch the squirrels leaping between the trees, and she feeds them a little, even though she knows she’s not supposed to.
 A 33 year old redhead uses the parkway to bike everyday from the co-housing area to her work in Brunswick basin without having to risk her life in traffic.  Each day she passes the spot where she was taken as a school girl to sample the water and learn about the creek.
A teenager with long hair thinks the fishing is best up near Sutton Way.
A newlywed couple just moved to town.  The wife happened to see a group of folks down in the trees picking up trash and went to talk with them.  She told her husband about the group – called Wolf Creek Community Alliance and she thinks she’ll adopt a section of the parkway to help keep it clean and to meet some new people. She tells him, “They’re even trying to extend the parkway all the way to Auburn!”
A young business woman started an espresso stand along the parkway under the large oak near downtown – the same tree, she thinks, that she once drew on a big school mural.  A jogger likes to end his morning jog there – to sip his coffee, feel the early morning sun and listen to the water.  He watches a group of 3 mothers pushing baby carriages – they pass by nearly every day.  He takes in their gossip when they pass, smiling -  it’s a good contrast to the newspaper.
A father likes to bring his young sons downtown to a place the locals call “the beach.”  He stops to read an interpretive sign to his oldest.  It tells of stream biology, and of how the area looked before the parkway was built.  But the son can’t imagine how it could be that the beach  was once a parking lot, or why anyone would want to put a creek in a tunnel.  He asks his dad, “but what did the frogs do? Did they live in the tunnel too?”
The creek is once again part of the community.  People listen to it and help it when they can.  They understand that it’s worth the effort because the creek helps the town in return.  It cools it, provides for recreation and harbors gentle places to relax.  The creek is a route for safe transportation and a tool for education.  It’s habitat supports an entire network of life and this makes life better for people, as well.  Everyone understands that in protecting the creek,  they are helping to protect the entire world.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Steward’s Log 5 March 2014

Much ado lately in local press and other spheres concerning the future of Grass Valley.  Citizens, elected officials, print journalists, bloggers, and other characters have bandied about a variety of notions.  At issue:  What is, what has, and what will really revitalize Grass Valley?  It has been suggested the new Dorsey interchange is the true “silver bullet.”  It has been suggested a new “Lifestyle Mall” at the interchange is the key to our future, complete with a big or at least a medium box.  “Its what the people want.”

Not long ago the buzz was the re-opening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine.  Before that it was Loma Rica, other annexations, the shopping malls, and heck even the freeway itself.  Brilliant idea that freeway, and convenient.  Of course great swaths of private and commercial property were condemned, Nevada City lost the old gazebo, and Wolf Creek sentenced to run underground through tunnels and culverts for much of its downtown reach.  A bit further back are the mines themselves, the mills, Lake Olympia, the Narrow Gauge Railroad, and …

Except for a portion of the original Loma Rica plan, these ideas and “improvements” - while visionary to varying degrees - are all based on quite conventional nineteenth or twentieth century thought.  All have brought, or will bring some gain.  All have tradeoffs.  Everything does.

Several recent comments aim to push the conversation toward a 21st century framework.  Mr. Pelline suggests we are leaving history out of the equation.  He and the current Union Editorial Board call for a comprehensive outlook instead of the usual piece-meal strategy.  Jeff Frisch of the Sierra Business Council goes one step further to suggest folks today “Want to live, work, shop and be entertained in the place they live; they want to walk and ride bikes; they want access to trails and open space; they want affordable starter housing for working people because young people can’t afford the single family residential American dream anymore; people crave authenticity and a sense of place."

Two things.  One, the City of Grass Valley has secured a grant to pursue a Comprehensive Economic Development Plan.  I am told by high level city staffers that a multi-year series of public meetings will commence sometime later this year to do just that.  Fabulous.

Two.  Yes, a comprehensive outlook with a broad perspective is indeed a welcome idea.  But the discourse must also include the age-old concept of the Commons.  To be sure Grass Valley and Western Nevada County need to continue moving forward economically.  But as Mr. Frisch suggests, we should do so authentically and with a renewed sense of “place.”

The common thread through Grass Valley is Wolf Creek.  Like most “commons” it has been virtually invisible, neglected, used, and abused since the get-go in the 1850s.  Commons in general are taken for granted and not valued in the complex accounting of GDP and “economic growth.”  And yet in their wisdom the Grass Valley City Council unanimously approved a Conceptual Plan for a Wolf Creek Parkway in 2006.  A Wolf Creek Trail is mentioned in city documents as early as 1999 and is included in the Downtown Strategic Plan.

Little or nothing has happened in the last eight years to move the concept forward.  The time to do so is now.  The Wolf Creek Parkway can and should stand as the centerpiece of any Comprehensive Economic Development Plan.  Yes for the creek’s sake, but more importantly for OURS.  We need a healthy visible accessible creek to revitalize ourselves.  A place to walk, a place to bike, a place to just sit by moving water will provide a profound sense of place and connection to the natural world.  It will help each of us feel good about our town.  Citizens and visitors alike will benefit from the shared values derived from Wolf Creek, the “Real Gold in Grass Valley.”

Urban river and creek restoration has boosted property values and economic vitality in San Luis Obispo, Napa, Santa Rosa, and Tempe, AZ.  Plans are underway for a major rehabilitation of the Los Angeles River.  Freeway interchanges, bridges, and places to shop locally are indeed essential to our vitality, as would be high speed internet access.  But the Wolf Creek Parkway will make a statement and put Grass Valley “on the map.”  The Parkway epitomizes a bold move into 21st Century thinking.

Let the conversation continue.  For additional information please visit the website of the Wolf Creek Community Alliance.      

Bruce Herring
Parkway Steward
Wolf Creek Community Alliance

Friday, January 17, 2014

Steward’s Log 6 January 2014

On a rainy April night in 2006 the Grass Valley City Council unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Wolf Creek Parkway, thereby adopting the Parkway Alignment Study and Conceptual Master Plan.  This action came on the heels of an extensive series of public meetings that confirmed widespread community support for the project.  A “Wolf Creek Trail” is also mentioned in the 2020 General Plan adopted in 1999 and the Downtown Strategic Plan from 2003.

So what is it?  The plan calls for a multi-use trail along the creek from the corner of Idaho-Maryland and Sutton Roads, down through town to Glenn Jones Park at the North Star Mining Museum.  Connecting trails are planned both in the Loma Rica development at the upper end, and at the lower end thanks to the Bear Yuba Land Trust.

The Conceptual Plan divides the Parkway into six different sections, or “Reaches.”  Each Reach has its own particular set of choices to make and obstacles to overcome.  Folks in 2006 suggested it may be more feasible to obtain funding and approval for one or two Reaches first.  Obstacles include sections with very little room adjacent to roads and private property, some sticky engineering challenges, channelization of the creek in concrete furrows, and several lengthy sections where the creek travels under roads and parking lots.

The Parkway will provide

Increased public access to the creek
Outstanding alternative transit and recreational opportunities
Greater protection for the riparian habitat of the creek
Pocket parks to sit and relax
Art and Interpretive installations

Wolf Creek needs allies. Like most “commons,” it has been virtually invisible, neglected, used, and abused since the get-go in the 1850s.  Like most common wealth – air, waterways, oceans, sidewalks  – it is taken for granted and not valued in the complex accounting of GDP and “economic growth.”

The time has come to change that and move forward.  And not just for the creek’s sake – but for OURS!  A healthy visible accessible creek in the heart of Grass Valley will make us proud.  It will help us feel good about ourselves.  It will increase property values and the economic vitality of our home and our connection to it.  All citizens and visitors will benefit from the “shared values” derived from Wolf Creek – the “real gold in Grass Valley”.  Urban river and creek rehabilitation has given a boost to the downtown areas of San Luis Obispo, Arroyo Grande, Napa, Santa Rosa, and Tempe AZ.  Plans are underway for a major rehabilitation of the Los Angeles River!

There remain many issues to be sorted out.  Funding needs to be secured for design, engineering reports, environmental review, permits, and then contracts for implementation.  There are alternate routes and other connecting trails to consider.  The Parkway is a long-term project to be sure.  It will take years really.

But we are confident that intelligent, well-meaning folks of all stripes can find ample common ground here. Together we can sit down and make something happen.  In doing so we create a bridge between state and market, public and private, left and right, logos and mythos.  Cities and towns are the political entities making stuff happen these days.  Pragmatic and visionary mayors, city councils, business and social entrepreneurs, and citizens groups are not waiting for the political farce being played out in DC and so many statehouses.  Aren’t we all smarter than that?

The Wolf Creek Community Alliance and other Parkway supporters have begun a series of meetings with city personnel, property owners, civic groups, non-profits, schools, and individuals to spread the word and gather momentum.  We seek solutions to all concerns that can be worked out by all stakeholders and interested parties coming together.  Contact us if you want to help.  In the meantime, talk to people.  Walk along the creek.  Sit by it.  Listen to the concerns of those who live or work along the proposed Parkway.

And remember, we have tomorrow bright before us like a flame!

Bruce Herring
Parkway Steward
Wolf Creek Community Alliance