Serving the communities of Valley Springs, Burson and Wallace
A gaggle of geese took advantage of a break in the weather last Thursday morning to bathe in the seasonal pools between Castle Rock and Highway 12 at Lower Lime Creek Road. Recent results of the San Joaquin Audubon Society Wallace-Bellota Bird Count indicate the bird population in the area is down.
Audubon group: Number of winged-critters down locally
Results of the San Joaquin Audubon Society Wallace-Bellota Bird
Count of 2007-08 have been released and the numbers are down in
comparison to the prior year.
The count was taken Dec. 29 by 34 counters in a circle located
roughly northeast of Linden and southwest of Valley Springs.
According to count compiler Steve Stocking of San Andreas, the
group located 130 different species and 30,695 individual birds. At the
same time the prior year, they located 135 species and 35,351 individual
With so many variables it’s difficult to say why the count was down, but parts of the count circle area continue to build-up every year, he said, especially the eastern part of the circle, which includes greater Valley Springs, Burson, Jenny Lind and Wallace.
One of the latest count’s surprises included the sighting of a
Peregrine Falcon, which has been seen only a few times in the past.
One of the few species found in record number was the
double-crested Cormorant, which at 921 topped the previous high of
412 in 1996 and there was one more Osprey than last year's five, which
was the previous high.
A very unusual red-throated loon was observed again and
there were 24 Downy Woodpeckers, which tied the previous high for
Yellow-billed magpies were at 199 this count compared to 137 in
the prior survey, but way below the high number of 504 the year
before. Crows and ravens are also down from their historic highs as
are the various blackbird species and meadowlarks.
House finches and house sparrows continue to show low
numbers and many "corvids" - members of the crow family - were still
down showing the effects of West Nile Virus.
One of the most spectacular drops, Stocking reported, is seen in
the 17 California Quail, which were at a high of 272 in 1993.
Quite possibly this has resulted from the removal of brush in the
rapidly developing urban areas and the increase in cats in those
same areas, he said.
At the same time the number of wild turkey continues to be
high. In the early days of the count no turkeys were seen.
“We recorded 10 bald eagles,” Stocking said. “The high
of 14 was recorded in 2004.”
The San Joaquin Audubon Society, a chapter of the National
Audubon Society, has been doing the Wallace-Bellota Bird Count since
1971. The national society has been conducting the counts for more than
100 years to help record trends of bird species all over North America.
Wes Evans of Mayo Construction removes old asphalt at the new Taco Bell site in the Valley Oaks Center in Valley Springs.
Taco Bell franchise coming to Valley Springs
The list of fast-food establishments will increase by one in
approximately three months with the addition of a Taco Bell under
construction off Highway 12 at the Valley Oaks Center.
Earthwork began in mid-January at the Taco Bell site situated across from Burger King at Valley Oaks’ Highway 12 entrance.
American Building Concepts of Valley Springs is constructing the
ABC Superintendent Dave Redfern said if all goes well
weather-wise, it is anticipated the new Taco Bell will be open and
serving food within 90 days.
It’s also nice to be working so close to home, Redfern said, as
American Building Concepts has done similar projects throughout the
Taco Bell Corp. is based in Irvine, California, and is the
nation's leading Mexican-style quick service restaurant chain.
Taco Bell serves tacos, burritos, signature quesadillas, Grilled
Stuft Burritos, nachos, and other specialty items such as Crunchwrap
Supreme, in addition to a wide variety of Big Bell Value Menu items.
The Valley Springs Taco Bell will be the latest of the chain’s
nearly 5,600 restaurants in the U.S.
Glen Bell built his first Taco Bell in 1962 in Downey and sold
his first franchise in 1964. In 1978 the business was sold to PepsiCo
Taco Bell now serves more than 36.8 million consumers each
week in the U.S.
"Italians of the Gold Country" by Carolyn Fregulia goes on sale Jan. 28.
New book explores Gold Country's Italian heritage
In a state known for its diversity, most people do not think of California's "gold country" as being flooded with Italians. Interestingly enough, it is. Much of its history was influenced by immigrants from Italy's northern provinces. But why did Italians come to the gold country, otherwise known as the "Mother Lode?"
In more than 200 vintage images, local historian Carolyn Fregulia
answers this thought-provoking question and more. See the lives of the
early Italian settlers and their descendents, the roles they played in
their community and their innumerable contributions.
Fregulia, herself a descendent of Italian pioneers whose family
has inhabited the gold country for generations, has captured the essence
of the Italian experience in these pages.
Highlights of Italians of the Gold Country:
never before seen vintage photographs
a history of local families as well as prominent individuals in the
the amazing women who overcame adverse conditions and succeeded at
rearing their children as widowed immigrants and boardinghouse keepers
the role that Italians played in the gold industry as miners and
The book goes on sale Jan. 28 and will be available at area
bookstores, independent retailers, and online retailers, or through
Arcadia Publishing at (888)-313-2665 or www.arcadiapublishing.com.
Arcadia Publishing is the leading publisher of local and regional
history in the United States.
Valley Springs Area Business Association officers, directors and advisory board members for 2008 are, front row from left, L.J. Joliff, Vicky Henkle, Chairman George Nelson, Sharon Floyd, Candace Keesey, Dave Evans; back row from left, Elaine Alves, Cindy Judson, Susan Marrone, Liz Weaver, Danielle Scaparro-Palm, Vip Hale and Norma Snyder.
board selects Nelson as chairman
Realtor George Nelson is the new chairman of the Valley Springs
Area Business Association.
The ABA board elected officers on Friday and joining Nelson as
association officers are Vice Chairperson Vicky Henkle, Treasurer Norma
Snyder and Secretary Susan Marrone.
The remaining members on the 2008 ABA board are Elaine Alves,
Dave Evans, Sharon Floyd, L.J. Joliff, Cindy Judson and Candace Keesey.
Immediate Past Chairperson Vip Hale is on the ABA’s Advisory
Board along with Danielle Scaparro-Palm, Liz Weaver and Michael Wietrick.
Valley Springs man elected chair of Democratic committee
Ron Platt of Valley Springs is the new chair of the Calaveras
County Democratic Central Committee.
The committee nominated and elected new officers at the end of
2007. In addition to Platt, the new officers are Vice Chair Patricia
Guttman of Mokelumne Hill, Treasurer Sharon Romano of San Andreas and
Secretary Dave Self of Murphys.
Central Committee members were also elected and sworn in. These
members are Romano and Tillman Sherman of District 1; Robert Dean,
Patricia and Henry Guttman of District 2; Mary Boblet, William Paulsen
and Marilyn Pinnow of District 3; Self, Tami Chesnut and Mary Salegui of
District 4; Platt and Caryn Brumit of District 5.
The Democratic Central Committee is the official representative
body of the California Democratic Party in Calaveras County. The newly
formed leadership is actively working on three initiatives during this
2008 election year:
To encourage and promote public
interest and participation in political activity
To use every possible means to
assure public understanding of the principles and issues involved
in national, state and local elections
To support the California
Democratic Party and Democratic candidates for local, state and federal
The Committee and Democratic Clubs will kickoff the 2008 election
year with a series of free screenings of the acclaimed health care
crisis documentary “SiCKO” by Michael Moore. A facilitated forum
will follow each screening, giving participants opportunity to voice
their opinions on challenges and solutions affecting the level of health
care service and delivery in Calaveras County.
The governor's health care proposal to help all Californians will
also be highlighted, including the "Healthy Action
Incentives/Rewards" program to encourage the adoption of healthy
behaviors. Everyone is welcome.
The first screening will take place at 1 p.m. Saturday in Murphys
at The Diggins Mobile Home Park Clubhouse, 216 Tom Bell Road.
A second screening is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 11 at Oak Shadows
Mobile Home Park Clubhouse, 1330 Calaveritas Road, San Andreas.
The series will continue with screenings in Railroad Flat,
Arnold, Copperopolis and Valley Springs. Dates and times will
be announced shortly.
Donations are welcome and popcorn and beverages will be served.
Proceeds will benefit the M.A.C.T Health Board, operating multiple
health care facilities in the four counties of Mariposa, Amador,
Calaveras and Tuolumne.
The Calaveras County Democratic Central Committee meets monthly,
on the second Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m., in the Calaveras County
Board of Supervisors Chambers, Government Center, San Andreas. More
information is available by visiting www.calaverasdemocrats.org.
Cate Culver displays her watercolor of the Valley Springs Train Depot. Postcard reproductions by Culver and two other local artists will be sold at Train Times in April.
Full steam ahead for first-ever Valley Springs Train Times
Plans for the first-ever Valley Springs Train Times are coming
together, according to Sal Manna of the Society for the Preservation of
West Calaveras History.
The event, to be centered at the revitalized Historic Valley
Springs Train Depot, is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April
26. Manna reports the event will feature music and other entertainment,
historical presentations, an ice cream social, craft and other vendors,
and many surprises. Railroad and history buffs from throughout the
region are expected to join the community-wide festival. Admission is
“Something like this has never been celebrated here before,”
Created by the nonprofit Society for the Preservation of West
Calaveras History in conjunction with the Historic Valley Springs Train
Depot and the Valley Springs Area Business Association, Valley Springs
Train Times is the first-ever celebration of the area’s railroad
Manna suggested that local businesses could join in the
celebration by decorating their locations with patriotic bunting the
society has available for sale or painting their windows with a train
“We want to connect the downtown businesses with this event,”
he said. He also suggested that businesses could capitalize on the
festival with sales and specials on Train Times day.
“Train Times will be history oriented, but it is going to be
fun,” he said.
The narrow gauge San Joaquin & Sierra Nevada Railroad ran
from Brack’s Landing west of Lodi and reached Valley Springs on April
25, 1885. The line was soon purchased by the Southern Pacific, went
standard gauge in 1904 and, while regular passenger service ended in
1932, freight was still being hauled into 1983. While no trains or
tracks remain, the 123-year-old Valley Springs depot is the only
original station of the SJ&SNRR still standing. The building will be
re-dedicated at Valley Springs Train Times.
“If Valley Springs is going to have an identity, the center of
that is our history and the train depot,” Manna said. “By restoring
the train depot, we’re making it the focus of our community and this
celebration will help reinforce that in the community.”
He said Mike and LeAnn Jurek, owners of the depot, have been very
supportive of the Train Times idea.
Items of memorabilia available at Train Times will include three
large postcards of watercolors of the depot painted by local artists
Cate Culver, Kathy Laughlin and Dave Gano. Manna said the postcard
reproductions of the paintings will sell for $5 individually or the set
of three for $12.
For more information, including vendor reservations, contact the
SPWCH at P.O. Box 714, Burson, CA 95225, call (209) 772-0336, or email email@example.com
Doug and Margie Silva of Wallace take advantage of free sand and sandbags prior to last week's big storm.
Wind, not rain, main culprit of storm damage
Contrary to predictions, damage from the first big storm of the
New Year to hit west Calaveras County was due to wind more than rain.
Jenny Lind Fire Chief Brian Chavez-Ochoa reported his
firefighters responded to four calls of the strong winds Friday blowing
trees into homes and several reports of sheds and barns being blown over
and one instance of an entire roof being ripped off from a building by
the strong gusts of wind.
In all, Jenny Lind Fire Protection District responded to a record
number of 22 calls on Friday and the bulk were storm-related, the chief
Nearby Foothill Fire Protection District fared somewhat better.
Fire Chief Mike Siligo reported his firefighters had 14 calls on the
The strong winds and rain played havoc on the area’s electric
system with a number of power outages, mainly attributed to trees
falling on power lines.
The Calaveras County Sheriff’s Department reported that
approximately 13 structures sustained damage as a result of the storm
and strong winds as of noontime Saturday. In preparation for the storm,
the new reverse 9-1-1 system was utilized to inform residents in Valley
Springs, Jenny Lind, Rancho Calaveras and San Andreas of the
availability of sandbags. In all, more than 6,000 households were
contacted by the system and targeted houses included those that were
located in low areas or areas with a history of flooding.
The sheriff’s department received 76 calls for service for
storm-related issues including wind, rain or falling tree damage.
Residents along flood-prone Cosgrove Creek “dodged a bullet,”
Chief Siligo said, as the heaviest rains of Friday subsided just as
water was beginning to reach some homes.
Storms are expected to continue throughout this week and Siligo
said his department would continue to monitor the situation and be
The public needs to watch the area’s storm drains and make sure
they are kept clear of debris, he said.
In addition, Siligo said District 1 Supervisor Bill Claudino was
instrumental in getting sand and sand bags delivered to the area in
anticipation of any flooding and he wanted to thank the supervisor for
“Without his help, I doubt we would have gotten them in place
when we did,” Siligo said.
The two fire departments worked well together, Chief Chavez-Ochoa
said, and in one instance, he had to call Foothill in to check his law
offices in downtown Valley Springs. After several intermittent power
outages, the law office began to smell of something burning and there
was some smoke in the air.
“It was a group effort,” Chavez-Ochoa said of Friday’s
efforts by the local volunteer fire departments. “Every call was
answered and every situation handled.”
La Contenta Golf Club is expected to undergo a facelift under new management.
La Contenta changes hands; improvements in the works
The new year ushers in a change of ownership at La Contenta Golf
Course and plans for improvements to the course and facilities.
Builder Ryan Voorhees has purchased a major portion of the partnership running the golf course and Rod Metzler is the managing partner, said Dave Tanner of Tanner Consulting Group, which is working on improvement plans that include clubhouse remodeling.
“We’ve already begun study sessions on clubhouse remodeling and have met with an architectural firm and a restaurant consultant,” Tanner said.
The clubhouse is projected to be modernized with an increase in banquet facility capacities.
In addition, they are talking with a company that does hotel marketing and feasibility analysis about the possibility of adding a hotel on-site, Tanner said.
“We have a lot of missed opportunities when it comes to weddings and large tournaments,” Tanner said, which the clubhouse improvements and an on-site hotel will address.
“That way people can celebrate and stay,” he said.
Work to improve the entrance to La Contenta is also being planned.
“We’re looking at a dramatic entrance with a turnabout and a large fountain,” Tanner said, similar to entrances at other country clubs.
Restaurant improvements are projected to include a covered, outdoor seating area. Tanner said they want to have an Applebee’s style family restaurant and keep a sports-like atmosphere.
Improvements to the playability of the golf course will include the addition of more ponds and water features, which is all a part of new agreement with the Calaveras County Water District to use more tertiary treated water on the course, he said.
CCWD and La Contenta hope to be able to create a bio-filter from the existing ponds through the golf course and eventually get a discharge permit that would allow the water to run into Cosgrove Creek, he added.
CCWD General Manager Dave Andres and staff have been great to work with, Tanner said, and the public-private sector partnership to dispose of the treated wastewater will save the district the expense of buying additional run-off fields.