Diamond in the Rough

Stories and Photo by Jacqueline Fox  |  2017-03-16

Doug Ose, manager of Gibson Ranch County Park is pushing for a long-term renewal of his contract to manage the 325-acre park.

The County board of supervisors is preparing to weigh the options presented by developer Doug Ose to frame a renewed contract for his continued private-level management of Gibson Ranch County Park.

On Monday, Sacramento County Supervisor Sue Frost toured Gibson Ranch for the first time since Ose assumed management of the 325-acre nature reserve and events center in 2011. Due to steep financial losses, the county was on the brink of closing the park. After her tour, Frost said she supports a fast-track to renewing a contract with Ose before his current agreement expires April 30th.  From her perspective, no one wants to see Gibson Ranch close.

“It’s a beautiful space and we want to do everything we can to continue to let the community have access to this wonderful space,” Frost said. She stopped short of discussing specifics in either Ose’s proposal or those the Sacramento County Dept. of Regional Parks have put on the table. “I am not sure what the board will ultimately approve or not approve, but we are set to discuss all of the items and ideas and make a decision very soon.”

For Ose, the clock is ticking. “As of right now, I’ll be out of here on April 30th unless we can agree on something better,” said Ose.

Ose said he’s asked the county to consider a 20-year contract that would likely include increasing the park’s entry fee from $5 to $8, adding as many as 50 full hook-up RV camp sites, and the designation of the park as an official graduation space for local high schools.

“The ground rules have changed, and now we are at a point where I think we all want to see Gibson Ranch continue to remain open, but I need to stop the bleeding,” said Ose, who asserts that, although he saw a $22,000 profit in 2015, monthly losses in 2016 mounted to roughly $20,000 a month, largely due to increases in labor costs.

Visitation to the park however, is substantial.  According to Ose, roughly 100,000 visitors came through the gates of Gibson Ranch in 2016. There are currently 90 special events on the books for 2017, including 43 weddings. Nonetheless, Ose, who is also a former congressman, said the costs of maintaining the facility are outpacing revenues.

“I have to pay 14,000 hours a year to run the place,” Ose said. “Somebody’s got to paint, trim trees, take care of the livestock, answer phones and book events. But with the costs of labor, insurance and electricity going up since we took over, the deal we have with the county is simply no longer working,”

That deal involves payment by Ose of $1 a year for rent and half of his profits to the county.  In turn, the county agreed to pay Ose $500,000 over the current life of the contract for deferred maintenance, a much lower amount, Ose says, than it would have had to pay if the county managed the park on its own, considering the labor-intensive work involved.

“The primary difference between the government’s history of running the park and our tenure is that we can work seven days a week because we are not bound by government labor laws,” Ose said, adding that the county was losing roughly $5 million annually prior to his contract.  “We’ve proven the theory that the county doesn’t have to lose $5 million a year. In fact now they are about $2.5 million ahead.

Regional Parks Director Jeff Leatherman did not return calls for comment.  Ose said he’s not sure what Regional Parks wants for Gibson Ranch, but hopes they will see the value in the details of his renewal proposal.

The RV park idea, for example, claims Ose, could be one of the most viable options for ramping up revenue without significant changes to the park’s natural setting, something Regional Parks has had concerns about in the past.  Ose said he’s had an engineer come out to evaluate the space available for the RV sites and, if approved, he thinks that piece alone could generate as much as $12,000 a month.  Combined with event revenue and a hike in the entry fee, Ose says, things could easily turn around.

At the core of Ose’s proposal, however, is the request to lengthen his contract. A 20-year lease, as opposed to another five-year lease, he claims, would give him the time to implement significant revenue-generating programs and amenities.

“I have asked the county to consider a 20-year contract, something long enough to really put this private corporation to work,” Ose said. “We’ll see what happens, what the other ideas are, and hope for the best.”
 


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Church Members Serve in Nicaragua

Submitted by Richard Cable All photos courtesy Eventide Community   |  2017-03-16

Providing solar ovens in Las Huertas.

A delegation of 18 members of the Sacramento Presbytery, ages 14 to over 70, spent spring break volunteering in Nicaragua. The team is a part of an ongoing partnership with CEPAD, an Ecumenical, Not for Profit serving the people of Nicaragua by building schools and supporting sustainability in its villages.

The volunteer team began their service at a CEPAD School in the colonial city of León. The team painted three classrooms but the highlight was presenting the school with 18 laptop computers generously donated by members of Davis Community Church.

“When the computers were first presented, there was a lot of confused chatter,” stated Rev. Jeanie Shaw, pastor of Eventide Community − a sister church to Grace Presbyterian in Sacramento − and mission trip leader, “the students had never seen a laptop before. After a student yelled out, 'Computadora,' [computers!] the whole assembly erupted in gleeful pandemonium.”

“Nicaragua is the second poorest country in our hemisphere,” said Dr. Grace Chou of Tahoe Donner and a mission volunteer, “and to empower these students with technology was the gift of a lifetime.” Dr. Chou also took the task of installing the computers for the school.

The team then visited the District of San Fransico Libre, a high desert region that ranks the poorest in the Nicaraguan. They visited the small village of Las Huertas where the entire village gathered at the home of their community leader and welcomed us.

“The village is comprised of only 29 families,” Pastor Shaw describes. “Their one and two room houses are handmade of adobe or cement blocks. Cooking is done over firewood in outdoor clay ovens. Floors are just packed earth.”

The village has no refrigeration or running water. Electricity was only introduced last year. And domestic animals roam freely everywhere; cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs, and dogs. Cattle are driven down the road twice a day led by men on horseback. Oxcarts take loads of firewood to sell into other nearby villages. But everything is clean in Las Huertas, dirt yards swept every day at dawn.

The leaders of the village had chosen water collection as the primary project this year and the Truckee team provided 8 families with large cisterns, tubing for gutters on the houses and plastic sheeting for a large catch pond for collecting water during the rainy season. The team also provided tools for the village and together with the villagers, dug out the collecting ponds.

As a pilot project, the team also brought five solar ovens and demonstrated how they worked to the villagers.

“There was real excitement when they learned that their rice would never burn again,” Shaw said.

“Nicaragua is a culture with beautiful formality,” Dr. Chou observed. “We were presented with beautiful, yet formal, welcome speeches and prayers.”

Spencer Edmundson and Jack and Tiege Wright of Truckee gave the Nicaraguan youth enough baseball equipment for the whole village and a game immediately got underway. Baseball is their national past time and the boys were quickly led to a sugar cane field where the villagers, wielding machetes, cut down the cane to make a baseball diamond. Ash from fire pits were spread to mark the lines and they yelled, “¡Jugar a la pelota!” [Play Ball!] Teams were chosen, and our youth pitched and their youth batted the balls skyward (almost lost in the sugarcane). Afterward, the laughter and high fives between teams needed no translation.

“We come from two different countries,” Shaw said in a formal thank you, “but we are all Americans − North Americans and South Americans. And most importantly, we are all one in Christ.”

The Mission Team shared their reflections of their experience on Sunday, March 12th at Eventide Community within the Fellowship Hall of the Arden Christian Church in Sacramento.


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A Real Person Behind the Relay

By Shelly Lembke  |  2017-03-16

Hundreds of participants celebrate at Relay for Life events. Relays are open to all: the public, cancer survivors, caregivers and anyone whose life or heart has been touched by this disease.

Each year members of local communities gather together to participate in the Relay for Life, sponsored by the American Cancer Society. Each event has a local coordinator. The American River Relay for Life is coordinated by Tamika Stove. Stove first became involved with Relay for Life as a volunteer, but found it so rewarding that she stayed with it and now works year-round to promote the event.

Describing herself as “easy going and caffeinated,” Stove puts in long days working for the American Cancer Society, but finds time to be part of Rotary Club and the Citrus Heights Chamber of Commerce, where she has served both as a Chamber ambassador and as a board member. Her passion for community service is simply part of who she is. Being involved is the way she lives her life. “I feel like I’m part of the world around me,” she said of her work. “It makes me feel good. That’s a powerful thing.”

Relay for Life began in 1985 when Tacoma, Washington doctor Gordon Klatt walked and ran over 80 miles around a track in a single 24-hour period. Today’s relays last between six and 24 hours. Dr. Klatt’s desire was to raise money to aid the American Cancer Society (ACS) in their quest for a cure.

Following Dr. Klatt’s example, the ACS continues to utilize monies raised by the event to fund cancer research, services for the public and cancer patients, speakers and more, all as part of their mission to find a cure and increase awareness about this disease that touches so many around the world.

Stove puts a year into planning each Relay for Life event. She does constant community outreach, happily taking time to answer questions, provide support and recruit volunteers. There are ample opportunities for involvement, she says, and no matter the size of the contribution, whether in the form of time or money, she is enthusiastic, grateful and gracious to have all the help she can get.

Relay for Life relies on all forms of help from the community. There are corporate sponsors of all sizes, from small businesses to large firms. Volunteers can form teams to walk during the event to show support or individuals can show up the day of the event and help with something simple, such as handing out bottled water or setting up the event’s famous luminarias.

Each Relay for Life is a public event and open to all, per Stove. Her ongoing challenges of recruiting volunteers, plus the planning and execution of each Relay, do not deter her in the least. She began her work with the Relay for Life as an ordinary volunteer, donating about an hour a week to making phone calls and distributing flyers.

Her deep commitment to community involvement was fostered early in life. Growing up as the daughter of a dad serving in the United States Air Force, Stove learned about dedication and working for the public good. As a “military brat,” she also became accustomed to moving and finding her place in her new communities. “It helped me value relationships,” she said. Stove works hard to foster those relationships each day in dealing with the public and spreading the word about Relay for Life and the mission of the ACS.

This year’s American River Relay for Life will be held April 22- 23, beginning at 9 a.m. and lasting 24 hours. The event will be hosted at San Juan High School at 7551 Greenback Lane in Citrus Heights and begin with Opening Ceremonies, followed by a Survivor Lap for anyone having been diagnosed, a Caregiver Lap and then by teams on the track. Each time keeps a member on the track always because, as the ACS says, “Cancer never sleeps.” When participants are not on the track there are games, entertainment and activities provided to promote awareness and education about the fight against cancer. Nightfall signals the lighting of the luminaria45s to commemorate the lives that have been lost and celebrate those who have survived cancer, as well as to provide a literal light in the darkness and remind people they are not alone when it comes to this disease. The Relay wraps up with recognizing the work of the volunteers themselves.

For more information on this year’s American Rive Relay for Life, contact Tamika Stove at tamika.stove@cancer.org or americanriverrelay@gmail.com or visit the American Cancer Society’s website at www.acsevents.org.


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Annual Roseville Gem Show Rolls On for 2017

Contributed by James Hutchings, Roseville Rock Rollers Show Chair  |  2017-03-15

Featured, a budding “rockhound” under supervision as she delicately sorts through a tray of semi-precious stones during the Gem Hunt event during the Gem Show. 
--Photo courtesy of Roseville Rock Rollers.

Roseville Rock Rollers 55th Annual Gem, Jewelry, Fossil, and Mineral Show will take place at the Placer County Fairgrounds in Roseville March 25-26. Hosted by the Roseville Rock Rollers, also known as the Roseville Gem and Mineral Society, this year’s show features gemstones, jewelry, fossils and minerals and has something for the whole family.

The group was established in 1960 as a group of local “rockhounds,” according to show chair James Hutchings. That group, deeply interested in the science and art of the earths' natural beauty in rocks and minerals, first met in homes and then as their numbers grew, expanded to the use of a local school room.

This year’s show has dozens of exhibits for attendees, such as jewelry, metal, wire and glass beading arts, fossils, crystals and minerals, but that’s not all. So that attendees aren’t rushed, the show also provides a cafeteria. “A very fine hot lunch is available at our own kitchen in Johnson Hall,” states Hutchings. The group has put together a menu of very reasonably priced food and beverages will also be available at the show’s cafeteria, featuring burgers, philly steak cheesesteaks, chicken salad, baked potatoes pies, cakes and more.

In addition to exhibits, classes and demonstrations, show goers can pan for gold, purchase equipment, buy raffle tickets, have rocks, gems and mineral identified by experts or make purchases at a silent auction.

Wishing to share the art and science of the mineral world, in the tradition of gem and mineral shows around the world, the Roseville Rock Rollers established their own gem and mineral show around 1962. The society grew, the show grew, and the show and the Society moved to the Placer County Fairgrounds where it continues today.

“As the Roseville Gem and Mineral Society has expanded to just under 300 members, the show expanded to support the costs associated with its programs, such as the Rookie Rock Rollers, juniors program, the Annual Scholarship program to Geology Students at Sacramento State Geology Department, and our year round Lapidary shop on the fairgrounds,” said Hutchings. “The lapidary shop on the Fair Grounds is the heart and soul of our Society, where we teach lapidary arts, jewelry fabrication, conduct mineral identification and mini tail gate rock sales.”

Hutchings developed his love for “rockhounding” at an early age. “Personally, I as most young people, was fascinated with rocks minerals and crystals. My parents encouraged me with my first Golden Book of Rocks and Minerals, a book still in current print, and my first rock pick.”

At the age of 38, he became seriously interested in rockhounding and gold mining, attending a mineral identification course at Sierra College, next pursuing an in depth understanding the chemistry and physics that form “these miracles in the earth.” He has put that knowledge to good use today providing what he refers to as a “mini lab” during the show to test rocks, minerals, and gems to provide guest an idea of materials they have in their possession.

While the Rock Rollers must generate funds to keep their programs operating, the primary purpose of any Gem and Mineral Show is to promote the Art and Science of the mineral world, according to Hutchings.

Like many of the group members, an early exposure to rockhounding and lapidary arts often provides a genesis of interest that often blossoms later in life, Hutchings said. “We really work hard, to attract the parents who want to expose their children to the natural world and foster that spark.”

There are presentations and activities for youngsters on identifying and handling specimens of all kinds. Students and Scouts can reinforce their California Rock Cycle curriculum and merit badge information. Scouts can have their mineral finds evaluated for rock type or mineral and validated for their required collection.

Other interesting stops are featured at this year’s show. The Education Station is the place for the "learners,” said Hutchings, “and we are all learners. There [are] demonstrators showing you the actual arts of lapidary, faceting, wire wrapping, and other jewelry arts.” The Fossils for Fun booth encourages fossil hunters to view and purchase or bid on fossils from vendors. NorCal Bats brings a live bat to show how fascinating these mammals (often found in caves along with gems, stones and crystals) are. This year "Rocklin Bach to Rock" students will perform on stage to provide entertainment for the public.

Hutchings suggests visitors come early and plan on spending the day at the show. “We take over the entire fairgrounds with exhibits, demonstrators, and vendors.”

Not to be missed are real treasures the group will have on display. “Folks tend to walk by the display cases,” he says. “These simple, well lighted boxes contain the best of the best of personal collections of minerals in variety or by theme. The displays are, ‘literally’ miniature museums showcasing specimens in the possession of individuals who have spent a lifetime collecting the best of the best of their favorite species of rock or mineral,” said Hutchings.

“We are looking for the general public who are looking for gem stones, set and unset, handmade, and fine art jewelry, and mineral specimens from every corner of the world! We find the single most striking comment from folks who, by accident, end up at our show is, ‘I had no idea such things existed in the world!’”

For more information, tickets and coupons, visit the group’s website at www.rockrollers.com


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Key Affordable Housing Measure Clears Second Hurdle in Senate

By Mike Roth, California Housing Consortium  |  2017-03-15

On March 15th, the approval of SB 2 (Atkins) by the Senate Governance and Finance Committee signified an important step to beginning to address California’s devastating housing shortage. The Senate Transportation and Housing committee approved the measure last month.

“SB 2 is an important measure to begin to right the ship in California after years of failing to invest in affordable homes. This measure will provide thousands of new affordable rental homes in California while protecting general funds and boosting our economy,” said California Housing Consortium Executive Director Ray Pearl. “We are experiencing a massive housing shortage in California and it is time for a commitment to policies that can affect real change. California’s families, children, seniors, veterans and vulnerable residents deserve nothing less than access to safe and affordable homes.”

California has seen a 69 percent overall decline in state and federal investment in production and preservation of affordable housing since the Great Recession in 2008. A new California Department of Housing and Community Development statewide housing assessment finds that California families are facing a harder time finding a place to live than at any point in our history and homeownership rates in California are at their lowest since the 1940s.

SB 2 (Atkins) would enable thousands of affordable rental homes to be built through a $75 fee on real estate transaction documents, capped at $225 per transaction. Sales of homes and commercial properties would be exempted.

CHC is also calling on lawmakers to approve AB 71 (Chiu), which would end a costly vacation home tax subsidy to provide affordable apartments and homes while protecting the mortgage interest deduction crucial for families to afford their first home. These common-sense measures do not dip into the General Fund and would generate additional federal, local and private investment.


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Welcome Back Wounded Warriors

Source: Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team  |  2017-03-10

Cody Rice sends one toward the fences. 
--Photo courtesy WWAST

Amputee Softball Team Returns to Raley Field

The Sacramento River Cats are honored to welcome back the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (WWAST) to Raley Field this season.

This is the second time the WWAST will take the field here in West Sacramento after making their Raley Field debut in July of 2015. They’ll take on the Sacramento All-Stars, a team composed of local personalities and celebrities. In 2015, Sacramento icons such as former NFL player Adrian Ross and KCRA Sports Anchor Lisa Gonzales were a part of the squad.

The WWAST is made up of brave men and women, both veterans and active duty soldiers, from four of the five service branches, who have sustained injuries resulting in amputation. Through extensive rehabilitation, they have become competitive athletes again, playing against able-bodied teams in competitive, celebrity, and exhibition games across the country.

In addition to functioning as an outlet for veterans and active duty soldiers to compete athletically, the WWAST uses these cross-country games to raise funds for the WWAST Kids Camp, medical research, and rehabilitation equipment. Now in its fifth year, the WWAST Kids Camp seeks to empower young boys and girls with amputations. The camps are led by WWAST players who work as coaches and mentors, helping teach not just softball skills, but more importantly life skills as well.

The game is slated for Saturday, May 6. The WWAST will take on the Sacramento All-Stars at 3:30 p.m. in Game One of a Raley Field doubleheader. The River Cats will then host the division rival Reno Aces at 7:05 p.m. for Salute to Armed Forces.

Following the WWAST/Sacramento All-Stars game, the River Cats will host the Reno Aces in game one of a four-game set. First pitch for part two of the doubleheader is set for 7:05 p.m. with gates to open at 3:00 p.m.

Tickets for the doubleheader are available now and can be purchased by visiting rivercats.com/tickets or calling the River Cats ticket line at (916) 376-HITS (4487).

The mission of the Wounded Warrior Amputee Softball Team (a 501(c)(3) charitable organization) is to raise awareness, educate and inspire the public about the strength and resiliency of our wounded warriors, showing how a positive attitude, commitment, dedication and perseverance allow them to overcome any obstacles. See a few videos about their mission here: http://woundedwarrioramputeesoftballteam.org/media/videos/

The Sacramento River Cats are the Triple-A affiliate of the three-time World Champion San Francisco Giants. For more information about the River Cats, visit www.rivercats.com.


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Snowpack’s Water Content Far Above Average

Source: California Department of Water Resources  |  2017-03-10

The Sierra Nevada snowpack continues to build during one of the wettest winters in California’s recorded history. The manual snow survey by the Department of Water Resources (DWR) at Phillips Station in the Sierra Nevada found a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 43.4 inches. February’s Phillips survey found 28.0 inches of SWE, and January’s reading was 6.0 inches. The March 1 average at Phillips is 24.3 inches.

On average, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer.  More telling than a survey at a single location are DWR’s electronic readings from 98 stations scattered throughout the Sierra Nevada. Statewide, the snowpack today holds 45.5 inches of SWE, or 185 percent of the March 1 average (24.6 inches).

Measurements indicate the water content of the northern Sierra snowpack is 39.2 inches, 159 percent of the multi-decade March 1 average. The central and southern Sierra readings are 49.0 inches (191 percent of average) and 46.4 inches (201 percent of average) respectively.

State Climatologist Michael Anderson said the winter season has been “historic,” especially in the central and southern Sierra where elevations are higher and where snowfall has been near the 1983 record amount.

The Phillips snow course, near the intersection of Highway 50 and Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, is one of hundreds surveyed manually throughout the winter. Manual measurements augment the electronic readings from about 100 sensors in the state’s mountains that provide a current snapshot of the water content in the snowpack.

Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, conducted today’s survey at Phillips and said of his findings, “It’s not the record, the record being 56.4 (inches), but still a pretty phenomenal snowpack…. January and February came in with some really quite phenomenal atmospheric river storms, many of which were cold enough to really boost the snowpack.”

Gehrke said the central and southern regions in the Sierra Nevada are tracking close to 1983, which had the maximum recorded snowpack statewide.


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