The Fifth District Supervisor reflects on the economy, recent fires and the spirit of volunteerism in the San Lorenzo Valley
This year we find ourselves in the middle of a major state and local budget crisis. Huge state budget slashes and raids by the state on county budgets have had depressing impacts on many local programs, including elder care services and many child welfare programs. Yet, with all of the bad news I am consistently impressed by the independence and resilience of the mountain communities of the San Lorenzo Valley. It may be a function of our greater geographic distance from the central county urban centers, but San Lorenzo Valley communities have cultivated a spirit of self-reliance and mutual assistance. In times of emergency and disaster we can easily be cut off from the rest of the county, and independent self-help is our only real option.
Funding resources may be drying up, but our long-established community volunteer organizations in the Valley, such as Valley Churches United Missions (VCUM) and Mountain Community Resources, have helped fill in some of the service deficits created by our economic problems.
Both VCUM and Mountain Community Resources are unique San Lorenzo Valley organizations born in response to the winter floods and mud slides that devastated the Valley in 1982. They have continued to provide local residents with counseling, relief, and family services while still engaging in disaster preparation and remaining alert for any emergency.
A dramatic recent example of our community response network was when the Brookdale Lodge fire displaced about 27 families employed and living at the lodge. Mountain Community Resources in Felton stepped in to assist the Red Cross in finding emergency food and shelter. VCUM in Ben Lomond was immediately accessible for emergency lodging, and also provided food and clothing vouchers to the displaced families.
The San Lorenzo Valley has four great volunteer fire departments located in Boulder Creek, Ben Lomond, Lompico/Zayante, and Felton. All four function as community centers and meeting places and rely on citizen involvement to provide excellent fire protection. The Valley had two recent serious fire emergencies this season in Bonny Doon and in Kings Creek, where our local response was immediate and decisive. The Lockheed fire in Bonny Doon was enormous, burning many acres of largely remote and inaccessible areas, but with little structure loss. The King’s Creek fire response was rapid and quickly contained, thanks to our local fire districts.
I am particularly proud of the community work of service organizations such as the Valley Women’s Club and the Friends of the Library in Boulder Creek and Felton that are working to keep our libraries open in spite of fiscal shortfalls. The Valley Women’s Club holds an important role in the community: raising environmental awareness and action. They have been responsible for an ongoing recycling program with sites in Felton, Boulder Creek, and at the Ben Lomond Transfer Station, as well as the annual road and river cleanup program.
Times are hard right now, but we cannot expect our community services to only rely on volunteer support for an indefinite period of time. As the Fifth District Supervisor, I will do whatever I can to work with our local state senators and assemblymembers to restore essential funding to our programs. Meanwhile, because of the fundamental community involvement, I am confident we in the San Lorenzo Valley will persevere and will be stronger communities due to our work and efforts.
I encourage local residents to become involved in the work of our local community organizations. Here is contact information for some of our active community groups:
• Valley Churches United Missions, 336-8258, www.vcum.
• Mountain Community Resources, 335-6600,
• Valley Women’s Club, 335-3130, www.vwcweb.org.
• Boulder Creek Fire Protection District, 338-7222, www.bcfd.com.
• Ben Lomond Fire District, 336-5495, www.benlomondfd.com.
• Zayante Fire Protection District, 335-5100, www.zayantefire.org.
• Felton Fire District, 335-4421, www.feltonfire.com.
• Felton Library Friends, 335-1135, www.feltonlibraryfriends.org.
• Boulder Creek Library Friends, 420-5319.
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