The Delta Protection Commission Brings Community Action Planning Workshops To the Delta

C.A. Giacoma
Staff Writer
November 11, 2015


The Delta Protection Commission, partnering with Sacramento County and local agencies has formed a team of community development experts on behalf of the communities of the Delta to hold community action planning workshops with the citizens in each town. The goal is to work with the citizens to enhance the quality of life in these communities while revitalizing and preserving the values and character of the historic Delta towns.

This past week the first two pilot community meetings were held in Walnut Grove and Courtland. At these meetings members of the public in each town and the surrounding area were encouraged to take an active role by identifying where each community is going, what the key issues in their community are and offering solutions that address the key issues. In the future the commission plans to include more Delta towns, hoping to begin workshops in Clarksburg soon.

Blake Roberts, with the Delta Protection Commission, opened the meeting in Courtland, giving an overview of the project explaining the purpose and the commitment of the Delta Protection Commission to the people and the towns across the Delta. Also attending the first meeting in Courtland were Amanda Bohl from the Delta Conservancy, an agency which focuses on habitat restoration and economic development in the Delta, and Michael Winter, Sacramento County Planning and Environmental Review Division. Blake explained that the action plans can address something simple or something a lot more complicated adding, “Whatever it takes, we want to be able to help you with that, that’s what we’re here for, to provide assistance.”He also mentioned that a general repeated suggestion has been the need for a regular interface with the County like a scheduled, reoccurring meeting in the Delta.

Blake Roberts introduced Caelan McGee, who has vast community experience, from the Sacramento State Center For Collaborative Policy. Blake described Caelan as a very capable, effective planner who has worked with a number of these action planning workshops. Caelan spoke about the differences between each river community, and how individual each town is and that the individuality of each community is important. He looks forward to working with the residents of each town, focusing on a range of things to do to protect and enhance the quality of life there and identify a priority of things that can be accomplished within a year or two that will make a difference. Caelan added that the Delta Protection Commission is here to act as a liaison to pull together the appropriate agencies such as the Delta Conservancy, Sacramento County, law enforcement and Caltrans.

McGee explained that he and his colleagues have communicated with many individuals and community groups within and outside of the Delta. During his talk he shared his observations leading up to the formation of the action planning workshops. He learned that people love the natural and scenic beauty of the Delta, the “feel of this place” and they enjoy the sense of community. He stated,  “We don’t want to lose these aspects”. Caelan pointed out that some of the larger issues that also always come up, like invasive species and “the tunnels project” are outside the scope of the workshop.

When people talk about making the most of these communities, some of the ideas are that they’d like to attract more visitors and make it a nicer place for current residents, such as building on rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings. They’d also like to enhance tourism in relation to nature, culture, agriculture and more historic interpretation such as historic paths, festivals and fairs to build on recreation based tourism as a way to draw in more visitors and make nicer facilities for residents like converting railroad corridors into bike paths, creating better walkability where there is a real need for sidewalks and traffic control.

They’ve also suggested boat ramps for non-motorized boating like kayaks, canoes and other low impact recreation opportunities. In order to attract revenue, they have identified the need for more lodging opportunities, more electronic infrastructure for locals and visitors and connectivity for businesses that would like to operate from the Delta.

Traffic issues are identified as a frequent concern with the increased traffic through the communities on the state highway from Sacramento to the Bay Area. The considerable wear-and-tear on the aging two lane roads is a big concern. Traffic control support and appropriate signage is also needed. The need to attract and recruit medical professionals and long-term medical services to the area as well as short-term and periodic, “pop-up clinics” was also addressed. Citizens would also like to have support for “cleaning up messes” such as abandoned boats, dumping of trash.

Another very important focus expressed is that of winter bird habitat and the need for expansion and protection of habitat.

Emergency response presence, both the Sheriff and Fire Department, is too thin and response times are too long.

People spoke a lot about how things get done down here and that is important for this action planning process. Delta residents value their autonomy and it is important to them to preserve their community’s feel and character. They would like assistance from the County and from agencies and aren’t excited to be an incorporated body within the counties because they value their autonomy. Generally things get done by local people banding together to bring about improvements to their community. There is a real need for clear venues, community meeting places, where organizations and members can come together to discuss the communities and the Delta. Public restrooms are a problem for multiple towns due to the need for maintenance and protection from vandals. The problem has resulted in them becoming locked and inaccessible.

The Delta Community Area Plan was written in 1983 so it is time for an update.

Courtland citizens, specifically, talked about developing a dock and a boardwalk and increasing the walkability of the town to draw people down off of the levee and into town. They spoke of water systems, wells, sewage and the state and cost of these types of infrastructure and the need for housing for long-term residents and for laborers.

Another need for Courtland is working to obtain specific property with potential for use as public space. Courtland is also concerned with how to preserve key elements of cultural history, including Courtland’s Chinatown. Another need in Courtland is recruiting and keeping high quality teachers, especially those who are Spanish speaking.

The foregoing are some of the many issues in the Delta communities that residents would like help to resolve and there are many agencies to engage for assistance to work toward their resolution. This is an exciting opportunity for these communities to revitalize and begin to thrive. All that is needed is community involvement. If you care about the historic communities here, whether or not you live within one, join the action planning workshops to bring about positive change in the Delta.

The next meetings will occur in early December so mark your calendars, everyone is welcome:

Thursday, Dec 3        5:30-7:30 pm
Courtland Auditorium,  146 Primasing, Courtland

Tuesday, Dec 1        5:30-7:30 pm
Jean Harvie Community Center, 14273 River Road, Walnut Grove

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