Saturday, 04 February 2023

Gura: A few acres

During my years in Clearlake, I have driven the small stretch known as Dam Road Extension hundreds of times. It leads to Yuba College, Oak Hill Middle School, and Southlake Court.

Passing through there, I paid little or no attention to the small patch of undeveloped land that lay alongside me. A thin stretch of a few acres, it runs from Dam Road proper down to the parking lot at the Grange Hall and was covered with thick brush and some large native oaks.

So far as I know, the land had survived in its natural state since the beginning of time. Chances are, native peoples set up a fishing camp there on that plateau overlooking the lake before the first pioneers began moving in.

The blue oaks there appeared to have sprouted sometime in the very early 1900s. What is now Old Highway 53 was probably a dirt trail back then and the newer version of the highway would not come to exist for many years.

Even as Wal-Mart and other corporate merchants sprung up on all sides, and the lower corner of that wooded hill became the city’s busiest intersection, the tiny island of untouched land remained a refuge of habitat for quail, vultures, rabbits and the occasional deer or coyote that lost its way.

Bald eagles and red-tailed hawks could still perch atop the huge old oaks and scope out the hunting possibilities down in Anderson Marsh. For humans, it was a buffer between the highway and the less-traveled roads above.

So it was sad for me to see the bulldozers and chainsaws converge on that place and destroy every living thing growing there.

The manzanita and toyon brush went first, pushed into a lifeless and tangled pile and hauled off. Next came the huge oak trees, cut into chunks and unceremoniously removed. Finally the dozers made a final pass and scraped the land down to bare and barren red earth. When it was all done, a sign went up promising more fast food and opportunities for additional strip mall enterprise.

It is to be expected as our town grows that we will see patches of nature paved over. But there is a way to develop land without sterilizing it and starting from scratch.

A conscious developer could have left some native plants and ancient trees and planned a tasteful commercial plaza around them. A city government can place some common sense restrictions on the destruction of trees that are older and larger than any other living thing in this city.

It will be up to those of us who live and work and do business in this town to speak up about the kind of city we envision. The formation of the City of Clearlake Vision Task Force was a bold and positive step in this direction. But the task force is just a small group of dedicated citizens who can’t slow the onslaught of the Provensalias, super Wal-Marts, and Starbucks on their own.

The rest of us will have to pay close attention and make our feelings known as project after project gets proposed. Otherwise we will see Clearlake become just one more stretch of generic corporate strip malls instead of the unique and beautiful lakeside village we love.

Herb Gura works in Clearlake and lives in Clearlake Oaks. He also is a member of the Konocti Unified School District Board of Trustees.


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