Jeff Ackerman: Western Nevada County: a community that will always feel like home |

Jeff Ackerman: Western Nevada County: a community that will always feel like home

Jeff Ackerman

More than 68 years since I was pushed into this world in beautiful downtown Burbank, I finally crossed into Canada.

It seems my life has been a slow-moving north-bound glacier that took me from Southern California to Northern California, to Southern Oregon, Northern Oregon and Central Washington, with an eight-year gambling stop in Nevada.

They say there is a magnetic pull as we rotate through the universe, so it could be that my Canadian crossing is more about science, than deliberation, or planning. I was pulled, not pushed, north and there I sat, smack in the middle of Osoyoos, British Columbia, wearing bike shorts and admiring the Canadian currency, which is … by the way … a lot prettier than ours.

I am a Left Coast guy, through and through. I know there is a whole other part of the U.S. on the east side of the Rockies, but it’s mostly sweaty and filled with tornadoes, hurricanes and giant insects. I spent time in North Dakota and Texas and Florida and New York, but none of those places could compare to my Left Coast, so I came back.

Except for the beer, Nevada County really hasn’t changed much since I left for Oregon seven years ago.

And this week I came back to Nevada County.

My daughter and grandkids still live here and if I want to be any kind of grandpa, I need to come visit more often. At my age, home is where your grandkids are.

Except for the beer, Nevada County really hasn’t changed much since I left for Oregon seven years ago.

There is a lot more beer than I remember. In fact, there is a brewery where The Union printing press once stood. As I sat inside the 1849 Brewing Co. sipping an IPA, I felt a tinge of sadness, remembering how much I loved the sound and smell of fresh paper and ink as it rolled off that giant and beautiful piece of German engineering.

By the time I finished my beer that nostalgia had disappeared. If you are going to shut down a press, I can’t think of a better replacement than a brewery. Ink for beer … straight across. I’ll make that trade all day. I just wish I would have thought of it 20 years ago. I can’t tell you how many days I sat in my office thirsting for a cold beer.

The newspaper business will do that to you.

I also stopped by the Grass Valley Brewing Company, where I bumped into Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller. The issues in Nevada County today don’t seem dissimilar to what I have found in most rural communities up and down the Left Coast. Housing prices continue to creep beyond the reach of most young people. Homelessness and hopelessness continue to grow, as City Fathers and City Mothers look for solutions.

The not-so-big issues also look familiar. I see where Nevada City wants to raise the parking meter rates from a quarter to a dollar an hour and that a committee has been assigned to help mitigate objections. I remember when the meters were installed and the city said the money would be used to help fund a foot patrolman downtown.

Not sure where the money goes these days, but I hope it’s earmarked to help keep the storefronts clear for commerce. Nevada County still relies heavily on tourism and it’s tough enough to run a small business without people using your entrance as a urinal.

Parking aside, Nevada City is as beautiful as ever. I’m a tourist myself now and I love strolling up and down Broad Street, window shopping and reminiscing.

Same goes for Grass Valley’s Main and Mill streets. The Labor Day weekend filled the shops, bars and restaurants on a warm and spectacular evening.

People like Howard Levine and Lisa Swarthout in Grass Valley and Duane Strawser and Cathy Whittlesey in Nevada City have dedicated a good chunk of their lives to those historic Gold Country municipalities and their efforts have obviously paid off.

I also found the new pickleball courts at Memorial Park. I picked up the sport a couple of years ago and fell in love. I probably play three or four times a week and … no matter where I go … can always find a game. The four courts were filled over the weekend and they have brought new life to that end of the park.

I live in Eugene these days. I bought a couple of condos four years ago, hoping to give my autistic son Luke a chance to live independently and he is thriving. I am just five floors above him, close enough to take an elevator, but far enough to give him some space.

My weekend trip to see my grandkids reminded me that I need to stay better connected. To them and to the community that will always feel like home.

Jeff Ackerman is former publisher of The Union. He may be reached at

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