A no-brainer for the Old Mill Valley site | TheUnion.com

A no-brainer for the Old Mill Valley site

One of the most difficult things I deal with as a biologist in western Nevada County is what I call the “shattering of the myth of western Nevada County” with my clients, many of who have moved here from places that offered community assets that, to them, were just common sense; things like open space and parks, bike paths, sidewalks, etc.

It’s painful to watch the rose petals fall off their eyes as they learn that “all the beautiful open space” is on private land, some protected with owner-installed cameras; vicious, threatening signage; electric gates and other “welcoming” emblems. In other words, we have no publicly supporting county parks and open space programs here, but you are welcome to toss a Frisbee with your kid in the middle of the roads! They’re public!

And riding your bike in western Nevada County along our roads? “Why are there no bike paths? Sidewalks? The roads are dangerous!” There goes another stack of rose petals off their eyes.

Why are these things nearly nonexistent? Because this county specializes in squandering its greatest asset — promoting ecotourism. And unlike the businesses that open and close here constantly, ecotourism generates income forever. Want to see it in action? Go to downtown Folsom on a Saturday and note the hundreds of bike riders that use the bike path system to ride into Folsom and buy things once they get there! They eat breakfast, shop and feel great because they exercised to get there. These are happy people. Then, they get on their bikes and ride home.

Could Nevada County create this economic model? Yes. Why doesn’t it? Because the history of this county is to ignore obvious economic drivers for things that continually fail. Western Nevada County does this better than any place I have ever lived. To me, it is as if western Nevada County has been given a prized painting in terms of its natural beauty, but like the well-intended octogenarian in Borjas, Spain, who ruined a 19th Century Spanish fresco called the Ecce Homo by “restoring it,” in fact, the county is ruining it and with this, incredible long-term economic potential for our community.

Many people have badgered me to write this column (I’m flattered; thank you) regarding a (common sense?) vision I have — that of combining the Bear Valley Mill site with a bike path from Alta Sierra.

Despite local and county leadership laziness, lack of vision or utter failure, we have an excellent General Plan that includes an element that creates open space parks and alternative transportation corridors in the form of bike paths along existing roads/corridors. This element could be implemented with a bike path that extends from the Alta Sierra subdivision, via Alta Sierra Drive, along Dog Bar Road that leads to the Bear River Mill property — one that has been thoughtfully developed to encourage community interaction. The bike path could lead to this area that now has protected open space, a pond or even two ponds where families who rode their bikes to it along the new bike path could sit and enjoy their pastry from the local bakeries and shops at the site. The bike path serves thousands of residents from Alta Sierra. The local shops thrive because the spokes of the economic wheel will always turn, courtesy of tying the mill site to the bike path, to a subdivision with thousands of residents, not to mention that it is right off Highway 49. To everyone I have spoken to, this is not even particularly visionary — it is common sense!

But no, let’s ignore the obvious assets here and slam an industrial park in with a stinking biomass plant, which will be vacant in a few years.

Western Nevada County has got to stop squandering its greatest asset — its natural beauty. Ecotourism never goes out of business. People from Roseville do not drive up here so they can visit a place that looks exactly like Roseville! Over and over my clients say to me, “We moved here because it is so pretty. Now where are the open-space parks and bike paths?”

Ninety-nine percent of the people I talk to get this already. Why doesn’t western Nevada County and Grass Valley?

Biologist Virginia Moran lives in Grass Valley. For more information, visit http:// http://www.ecooutreachvsm.com.

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