Springs to celebrate Highway 12 project

In the past year, residents of the Springs region of Sonoma has put up with a lot – torn-up streets, new sidewalk construction and long-overdue remodeling, a major housing development, controversial paint jobs and a ginormous chicken.

What better occasion to throw a party? What’s being touted as “the inaugural Springs Festival” will take place on Saturday, Sept. 10, to celebrate the completion of many of the many safety and beautification improvements along Highway 12. The idea was hatched (there’s that chicken again) in Supervisor Susan Gorin’s office, following the SV Connect meeting held last March on the county’s support services for housing.

Though that meeting was useful for those who attended, attendance was disappointing. Gorin and her team considered ways to increase community involvement and receptivity to county programs, and about a month ago hit upon the obvious idea: Why not a party?

“The Springs Festival is an opportunity to recognize the progress we have made together,” said Supervisor Susan Gorin. “We will celebrate everything from new sidewalks to the Larson Park Master Plan Update, as well as collaborative community and economic development in the Springs.”

The completion of the Highway 12 project marks the culmination of years if not decades of cooperation and drive by area residents and county offices. Gorin said they have invited her predecessor, former supervisor Valerie Brown to the ceremony. “We should certainly recognize and celebrate her achievements,” said the current supervisor, though she also noted that other former supervisors including Janet Nicholas, who resigned in 1991, deserve some credit.

“But Michael Cale is the one who really pushed it through, especially the first phase of it, and Valerie Brown was the warrior for the second phase. I was sort of the clean-up act,” said Gorin. Cale was appointed to replace Nicholas and served for 10 years, resigning himself in 2001 and being replaced by Brown.

The Saturday, Sept. 10 celebration harkens back to the “Spring in the Springs” celebrations that were held in the 1990s at the Fiesta Plaza, according to Gina Cuclis, now president of the Sonoma County Board of Education. “Let’s celebrate what the community has accomplished after three decades of trying to make this happen,” said Cuclis.

“There are a number of folks who are cosponsoring this event, and certainly can take credit for the completion of the Highway 12 project,” emphasized Gorin. She specifically mentioned the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition, Sonoma County Regional Parks, Sonoma County Economic Development Board, Springs Community Alliance, La Luz Center, Sonoma Valley Community Health Center, Sonoma Valley Hospital, Nuestra Voz and ArtEscape.

The county agencies operate under the umbrella of Sonoma Valley Connect, which is working to bridge the gap between community members who need services or who are looking for opportunities to get involved, with the nonprofit and government service providers who are looking for opportunities to engage members of the community.

The day will kick off with a ribbon cutting at noon at Boyes Plaza Center, at the site of the former Church Mouse Thrift Shop and the ad hoc parking area for area workers. With the sidewalk closure of the Sonoma Highway side, the lot is no longer a short-cut but a natural “community hub” for the Boyes area.

Celebrants are encouraged to walk or ride bikes to the Boyes Plaza for the ribbon-cutting, in part because emphasis has been put throughout the project in creating a bike- and pedestrian-friendly community.

Following the ribbon-cutting, particpants are therefore encouraged to bike or ride the half-mile up Highway 12 to the Flowery School, and through the newly paved parking lot to Larson Park, where the remainer of the day’s events will be held, from 1 to about 5 p.m.

Some anticipated highlights of the event include a number of food trucks and vendors, a Bike Safety Skills Rodeo with 175 free helmets, watermelon-eating contests, potato sack race, a tree giveaway and a youth soccer clinic.

The highlight however is sure to be the “Dunk Tank,” a feature familiar to carnival-goers with a large tank of water over which a volunteer is suspended while sitting on a collapsing seat. A ball is thrown by at a target attached to the tank which, if hit, causes the seat to collapse, spilling the person into the tank. The tank will be provided by Sonoma Splash, with funds going to Larson Park.

The list of volunteer “dunkees” is lengthy and memorable, including many well-known members of the greater Sonoma community. These include Bret Sackett, Sonoma’s chief of police; Tennis Wick, director of the county Permit and Resource Management Department; Jason Walsh, editor of the Index-Tribune; Rachel Hundley of the Sonoma City Council; Marcello DeFrietas, board president of La Luz; Sal Chavez, president the Sonoma Valley Unified School District and others.

People are expected to come and go throughout the afternoon. The event is free and family-friendly, though again attendees are encouraged to bike or ride to the park. If attendees must drive, parking is available at Flowery School. Parking is not allowed in the DeChene neighborhood or at Larson Park.

Said Gorin, “It’s going to be a great event, and I’m looking forward to sharing the afternoon and a lot of fun with members of the Springs community.”