Just the Point: 

The missing fountain in Downtown Winters

An example of how a sidewalk fountain might look in the spot by the Pocket Park in Downtown Winters. 
(Courtesy photo)

Support Local Journalism

A Winters Express opinion column

By Richard Kleeberg
Special to the Express

Here is the story of the missing Main Street sidewalk fountain, which many of us expected would have been a central feature of our downtown redevelopment and resurgence years ago.

The missing fountain was supposed to be installed right near the edge of the Pocket Park, in the brick sidewalk area between the Pocket Park and the crosswalk in the middle of the first block of Main Street.

(In my previous column, I described the demise of the Pocket Park — the small undeveloped parcel of land on the first block of Main, between Ace Hardware and Yolo Pharmacy.)

I heard about the proposed fountain on Main Street when I moved to Winters 17 years ago. I worked with several local groups, elected City Officials and staff to plan for a fountain right in the middle of the sidewalk, between Main Street and the Pocket Park. 

There was strong agreement that a fountain would be a lovely jewel to add to the ambiance of downtown, and that it would compliment the shade trees, flowering plants, artwork, and the simple winding pathway — which was then all part of the plan for the Pocket Park.

Have you ever wondered why the brick sidewalk between the Pocket Park and the Main Street crosswalk is so wide? It was designed that way to specifically include a sufficiently wide area for a fountain to be safely and artistically placed within the brick sidewalk. There is plenty of room for a fountain to be installed there, and still, leave more than enough space on all sides for people to easily and safely use the sidewalk.

In all the meetings I attended where we discussed the type of fountain to install, there was no clear-cut design agreement. We looked at various styles, materials and artistic concepts. Some people favored the old-fashioned look. Some spoke in favor of something modern. Some wanted the primary material to be stone or concrete, while others suggested steel or bronze.

Obviously, there are thousands of designs that could be used for our missing fountain. If the City ever says yes to the fountain, we will need a Fountain Design Committee to narrow down the choices. It might take quite a few committee meetings to reach a decision, but what an exciting committee to work on. (Yes, I am volunteering to sit on the Missing Fountain Design Committee.)

So whatever happened to the fountain? Why did it not get installed? It would appear that the City got cold feet.

During the past several years, city staff has told me that a fountain cannot be allowed because there would not be a wide enough walkway on each side for people to use. Well, that seems to be absolutely bogus. The brick sidewalk is more than 20 feet wide between the crosswalk and the Pocket Park. Twenty feet! If the City installed a five-foot diameter circular fountain, near the center of the large brick sidewalk, you’d still have nearly eight feet of clear sidewalk in every direction from the perimeter of the fountain.

Is eight feet enough space for people to walk safely by the fountain? It certainly appears to be. Just take a few steps toward Ace Hardware, and you will find three places where the sidewalk is far less than eight feet wide. 

Just up the street, there is a sidewalk tree that limits the width of the available sidewalk to about six feet. And since Ace Hardware for years has kept a row of wheelbarrows parked along their exterior wall, the actual width of the sidewalk there is less than five feet. A few steps away, a permanent City garbage can on the sidewalk leaves only about six feet of walking space, which is, again, reduced to less than five feet because of those wheelbarrows.

And the City has also installed a permanent steel bench against the Ace Hardware building wall, directly across from another permanent City sidewalk garbage can. The bench and the garbage can allow only five feet of walking space between them.

When you walk down Main Street in the other direction toward Yolo Pharmacy and Berryessa Gap, you’ll find three more places where sidewalk trees, garbage cans and steel benches all restrict the walking space to less than five feet.

I would suggest that since the City allows that sidewalk to be less than five feet wide in at least six nearby places, it stands to reason that a fountain with eight feet of clearance would likely satisfy its requirements.

City staff and a couple of former Councilmembers have also tried to convince me that the City cannot afford the bill for the electricity and water that a small fountain would use. That seems absurd, too. Modern fountain pumps use only a tiny trickle of electricity, and almost all the water used for the fountain is recycled and used again, with only a small part lost to evaporation and spillage.

It is time to choose a fountain design, install a fountain on Main Street in a location that was specifically designed to accommodate one, and enjoy the sparkling sound and sight of a water fountain in downtown Winters.

Read more from Richard Kleeberg at JustThePoint.com – contact him at Starbase27@gmail.com.

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