Wolf Creek is there; it’s time to see it
I was suspicious when my neighbor first told me that Grass Valley had a creek right downtown, Wolf Creek. I started watching out for it while running my errands: There! (as I dropped a letter by the post office). Oh yes! (turning toward Gold ‘n Green). In those trees (waiting to turn from Idaho-Maryland onto Brunswick). And I guess under here somewhere … (parking my car at Safeway).
Since then, I’ve bushwacked along much of its length and been amazed at its diverse character, from its bouncing headwaters, to its boulder-carving, deep-pooled, confluence with Bear River.
Then my neighbor planted an idea: “What if more people knew … What if there were trails …”
The answer was immediate and profound. I saw joggers, I saw visitors strolling downhill from Mill Street, I saw bicyclists pedaling from Starbucks to the Del Oro, I saw people walking to work in the morning. Why, I could run my errands by bike!
The more I thought about Wolf Creek, the more I understood how it could change the very nature of Grass Valley. Then I met others with similar ideas. Wolf Creek Community Alliance (www.WolfCreekAlliance.org) has been meeting monthly, exchanging ideas and information.
I heard about plans to build creekside trails into the Loma Rica Ranch (upstream) and the North Star Mine development (downstream). Even the city’s general plan states the intent to build a trail system that includes downtown segments, but this plan was a stale, 37-year-old concept that didn’t seem imminent.
The alliance meetings are informal. They feel like grassroots troubleshooting at its best. Our inexperienced but well-intentioned participants stepped forward with energy and ideas, and by golly we won ourselves a small but important grant to monitor water quality.
I learned that establishing a baseline for the creek’s health is the first step toward any restoration effort. A recent meeting hosted urban creek restoration experts from the California Department of Water Resources and was attended by close to 50 people. Many stayed well past my bedtime, swapping ideas and concerns.
We learned that money has already been set aside by state and local agencies and organizations to assist in creek restoration and trail construction. We need just develop a well-informed plan with stakeholders and local government.
Then came the big news: The Grass Valley City Council was due to make the routine cut-of-funding for a Wolf Creek master plan at their upcoming meeting. The word went out to the alliance and its partner organizations. About 500 e-mails were sent within 24 hours of the news. The very next night, supporters turned out at the City Council meeting with letters and statements.
The City Council responded to the citizens, and the would-be cut was transformed into unanimous support: We took the first step toward making the creek part of our community, toward building an alliance between Wolf Creek and Grass Valley.
What an exciting victory! A flurry of self-congratulatory e-mails hit the Internet discussion group. Why, we even made The Union’s front page! It was a moment of fulfillment, a step toward a new dream.
But then the questions from alliance participants re-entered my mind: Will the reopening of the Idaho-Maryland Mine contaminate the creek? Is it really possible to daylight the creek downtown? What about the levels of contaminants already found in the creek? Is the creek safe to fish in, like it once was? Is it safe for our kids to swim in? Perhaps the creek will now receive a master plan that will address these issues.
So, for the moment my lamenting cry for Wolf Creek has turned into a jubilant, rallying cry for a new awareness and appreciation of our city’s God-granted gift.
Rick Sanger is a resident of Grass Valley.
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