Editor’s note: The Modesto Bee invites interested members of the community to join our editorial board for three-month periods each year. Below are the monthly editorial comments from our current visiting editors. Becoming a visiting editor requires a commitment of three months and availability each Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. To learn more about the the visiting editor program, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call
Tuolumne makes us special
What makes a world-class city? San Francisco has the bay, Paris has the Seine, Modesto has the Tuolumne River?
As a visiting editor, who is truly visiting Modesto once a week from my home in the foothills, I have been privileged to meet and hear from some of this area’s finest minds. The common theme in their presentations and conversations with the editors is the future of Modesto – what direction should it take, what are its priorities. Predictably, the hot topics are water, land use, education, economics, crime and health.
This brings to mind a possible community goal that may address all these issues. Preserve and enhance Modesto’s secret treasure – the Tuolumne River.
From satellite views and a quick drive along River Road from Highway 99, it appears this gem has been swept into a concrete corner and forgotten. With viable access from downtown, public parks and a municipal golf course, this priceless asset could be turned into a world-class educational, recreational and transformational attraction. Building on what is already available, Modesto could and should become associated with this living natural corridor as a place to learn, hike, bike, paddle or simply reconnect with a healthy lifestyle.
Local businesses could benefit by offering outdoor equipment rentals (especially helmets and life vests!), and having food and refreshments available – perhaps following the model of the world-famous food trucks in Portland, Ore. As we all cycle through this drought, let us not lose sight of the vital importance of free-flowing rivers, our planet’s arteries of life. They can offer so much more than a place to imprison water.
Growth overtakes Wood Colony
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s only a matter of time before Wood Colony becomes a mere footnote in our local history.
At best, the residents might delay the inevitable, but sooner rather than later the good of the many will outweigh the needs of the few. You might ask why I can say this with such certainty – it is simply a matter of looking back at what we, as a community, have done in the past.
Property owners in the path of the north county corridor and the Oakdale bypass, to name two, both mounted impressive campaigns to stop what they referred to as “unnecessary land grabs.” It was to no avail. The liberal use of eminent domain has ensured that local government has more than enough tools to guarantee its agenda will prevail.
The residents of Wood Colony have two things working against them that I believe will eventually lead to commercial development.
First, Wood Colony is close to Highway 99. Look at projected growth models in the Central Valley and it becomes apparent that anything within 2 miles of Interstate 5 and Highway 99 will eventually be developed.
Second, and probably more important, there are landowners within Wood Colony who want to see this happen. Once the city includes Wood Colony in its general plan, a zoning change from agricultural to industrial would make buckets of money for anyone who sells.
Finally, much is made of the possible loss of prime ag land, but but not much is mentioned about the fact that we have made substantial additions to ag land with the new orchards on the east side of the county.
Want to win? Play as a team
Championship teams share a winning formula. They unite behind a common goal, work together as a team to manage any weaknesses, build on their strengths and leave individual egos behind so they can focus on the goals. Leadership is critical, as motivation, inspiration and forward thinking are invaluable in the quest to be the best.
We’ve seen champions arise from our part of the valley – Central Catholic’s football team and Oakdale High’s 13-time Academic Decathlon team.
We need a different kind of champion now. To confront this devastating drought requires that we respond with the qualities of champions.
Historically, water has created a tug-of-war in an every-man-for-himself battle, but must it always be that way? Last month, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District answered this question by deciding instead to help Tuolumne County residents with the transfer of much-needed water.
Last week saw the first meeting of the newly formed Stanislaus County Groundwater Advisory Board. Every resident will be challenged to come together as a team with a common goal: to ensure an ample water supply for the needs of our region. Working with available resources, planning for future demands, creating additional water storage, employing conservation strategies and striving to meet the critical needs of our neighbors will assist in achieving this goal and effecting solutions for generations to come.
There’s a common mantra proclaimed by many successful teams: “There is no ‘I’ in team.” If agencies from irrigation districts to local, state and federal government groups maintain a cooperative effort in managing our water supply, we will be able to celebrate another hard-earned victory.
It’s time to champion a much-needed spirit of cooperation. In the end, we’ll all be winners!