I feel so sad, bereft. Like the Winters I knew has slipped from underneath my feet and I am falling into a cold chasm of constant growth, technocracy, cyberspace and fewer human relationships.
I have to write an article – the last I will ever send to Debra DeAngelo, Editor. She has mentored me for more than the past five years – the past 20 plus. I’ve dedicated my chapbook collections of columns to her because she saved my writerly behind numerous times with her editing. She asked me to write a regular column in the first place. Then she hired me to write for the paper.
Winters as I’ve known it is no more.
The accretion of changes has reached the tipping point and now it is impossible to do anything but stumble down the road that has opened up, because the forces that had us cohere as a town are loosening.
Change was probably inevitable and has been happening over a long period of time. It is these same forces of change that have allowed Winters to survive economically and prosper (at least when all the revenues come tumbling in).
The decision by the City Council to maintain the downtown historic area – more than 30 years ago – necessitated a reliance on quaintness and businesses that catered to leisure pursuits, not box stores, thank heavens!
The Chamber of Commerce marketing plan was, according to Howard Hupe at the time, to make Winters “the Carmel of the North.”
We didn’t quite get the emphasis on art that Carmel has but food and local wine and beer have helped Winters become the destination place it is, anchored by John and Melanie’s Buckhorn Steak House and Putah Creek Café. People come, eat, spend money for a special occasion and go sleep elsewhere.
Then The Palms Playhouse arrived and with it, the first busload of tourists coming for a specific concert. Spending money and then going home.
The next wave of transients arrived from the 505 Interstate at the eastern edge of town with Burger King, Arco, Taco Bell and Starbucks businesses established there. Gas up, fast-food up, caffeine up, spend money, get in your car and leave.
One more wave of transients has come with the PG&E Gas Academy – bringing up to 300 training employees per week. Study, eat, spend money and go home.
Another transient invasion is on the near horizon when the downtown hotel is finished – three extra tall stories, 72 rooms, a restaurant. And, as every current resident of Winters will voluntarily tell you – No Parking. This hotel will take the overflow from Park Winters, Cache Creek Casino, PG&E Academy and UCD conferences, it is said. Come here, eat, spend money, sleep overnight and go home.
What is about to massively change all of Winters permanently, not transiently, is the housing being built on the northwest side of town, now called the Stone’s Throw subdivision. Not only will over 400 houses go in, but Winters will have new streets, a way out of town to the north without going down Grant Avenue.
At a total of roughly 500 new houses (including the already built homes adjacent to the Public Safety Building) there will be a massive permanent population addition to the town population from the build-out of this property up to Moody Slough Road.
At a conservative estimate of 2.76 people per house, 500 homes will put 1,380 new residents of Winters in place.
That is a 20 percent increase in the permanent population in the coming years.
Winters will definitely not be the same place it is now, just as it is now not the same place it was when The Main Man and I arrived over 30 years ago.
The changes at The Winters Express feel like a massive bellwether of that change.
No longer is Newt Wallace keeping an eye on the door and on the history of the town, 50, 65, 80 and 115 years ago. Where is the cohesion that lets new residents know about how Winters got here?
No longer is the office a hodge-podge of Winters history; or an open air forum for anyone who has anything to inquire, to say, to complain or just hang out. People actually talked there, with their mouths, not their thumbs.
Charlie is no longer standing by the pool table, pontificating. Who is going to be ready for any kind of live discussion, not a Tweet, a Twitter, a Like, an Instagram?
Where’s the keg?
Where’s Debra, ready to chop your head off every Tuesday afternoon?
Bob Dylan sang, “The times they are a changing” but that good old Greek Heraclitus got there first: “The only constant is change.” 535 – 475 B.C.E.