Shirl Mendonca: Love of nature defines personality |

Shirl Mendonca: Love of nature defines personality

Enveloped in her cozy living room with a view of the lake and surrounded by gardens, flowers and numerous birds fluttering around her deck, you immediately get that Diane Marten has a passionate and enduring love of nature and birds. A Nevada County and Lake Wildwood resident for the past eight years, Diane is in her second year as president of the South Yuba Park Association.

When Diane moved to the area in 1998, she knew that she wanted to hike and to be near the river. With her passion for the outdoors, love of the bridge and newfound interest in the history of Bridgeport, she immediately took the docent training and has been actively involved at Bridgeport ever since. She has served on the Board of Directors since 2002 and became president in 2005.

Diane is proud and excited about all that is going on at Bridgeport and credits a very active, enthusiastic, and motivated board of directors working as a cohesive team for several consecutive years alongside many committed volunteers. It is difficult to take notes fast enough as Diane enthusiastically recounts how Bridgeport has blossomed in a relatively short timeframe.

She tells me about the public bathrooms finally built in 2002 due to the untiring vision of Penn Valley resident Judy Nichols and the Holloway’s of LWW. The next major improvement was the addition of three murals in the Visitor’s Center created by Nevada City artist Phil Brown. These fine arts renditions capture the river and historical depiction’s of the road leading up to the bridge.

Diane encourages me to tell readers to take their kids to see the museum quality birds and mammal specimens that have recently been added to the collection, which includes a golden eagle, a gray fox, a bobcat and her kitten, a very large Kodiak bear and many more. As she talked about the animals and about the children learning to love and appreciate nature, it brought back memories of the hours I spent with my own son at the Lindsay Museum, a fabulous hands-on interpretive museum in Walnut Creek; so why wasn’t I surprised when Diane said that she had been a docent there also?

The next improvement at Bridgeport was enhancing the gift shop and adding to the quality of souvenirs and mementos for sale including note cards unique to Bridgeport and California done by Lake Wildwood artists Betty Kelly and Carolyn Capello. The profits from these items help to support Bridgeport.

If I thought she was enthusiastic before, it was nothing compared to her excitement as Diane told me about what is happening at the barn. Bridgeport was a vital transportation link and the shortest link to the Sierra mines and the Nevada Territory. The 1860 barn served farm needs for animals and cover for equipment and hay storage. It now houses nine historic vehicles and a hay press.

With local donations and some grant funds to turn the barn into a historic interpretive center, they were able to remove the chain link fence from around the barn, clean the barn, and replace the doors to historical standards. With help from Donna Jones, a Penn Valley resident and top state expert on historic horse drawn vehicles, and the vision and energy of Barnstormer Committee Chair Don Denton, a park docent and relative newcomer to the area and LWW, a group of committed individuals are realizing their dream of taking an out-of-shape, dirty, history-filled treasure and making it into a showcase for Bridgeport.

The South Yuba River State Park and the Penn Valley Chamber of Commerce are co-sponsoring a big barn raising celebration to mark the opening of this historic barn on Oct. 29. The music starts at 11 a.m. (don’t forget daylight savings time ends that morning). At noon there will be the annual Ghosts of Bridgeport Pageant followed by the Barn Dedication.

What’s next for Diane? Her dream for the future is to help integrate the wonderful wildflower, gold panning and history programs at Bridgeport with the programs in the Nevada County schools. It is her dream that every child get a chance to explore, appreciate and love nature.


Got a tip about someone or something in Lake Wildwood? Contact Shirl Mendonca at 432-0177 or shirlmendonca@ via e-mail.

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