My family and I have enjoyed our six years of living in the enchanted forest of Rio Nido, but finally made the difficult decision to relocate closer to my husband's high-tech job in Silicon Valley. I've felt privileged to work with so many caring, competent, and talented neighbors towards creating positive change in our community, through the Rio Nido Task Force (now called Friends of Rio Nido). I also loved volunteering at Guerneville Elementary School, leading my daughter's Brownies/Daisies (now Juniors/Brownies) girl scout troop, teaching Sunday School at the Guerneville Community Church, helping launch the Rio Nido Community Garden, volunteering at the Monte Rio Preschool (now STARS), doing face painting for various fundraisers, and being a member of the Rio Nido Home Owners Association.
I'll also miss covering news and issues in this blog, my "West County Buzz" column for the (now defunct) Russian River Monthly, and the "Rockin' Rio Nido" column I co-wrote for the Sonoma County Gazette with my local BFF & partner in crime, Elena Chronis. She and Kim Link have taken over the Rio Nido column and are doing a fabulous job. I hope Elena will also take over my blog, but we're still trying to hash that out.
In the meantime, I'll leave you with the following random comments & observations:
- Go Rio Nido!: I'm excited & amazed by how much we've accomplished over the past couple of years! Our once neglected & overlooked little backwater River hamlet is finally getting some well-deserved attention & wherewithal to attain the potential this friendly, intimate, verdantly beautiful, redwood-shaded village deserves. The Rio Nido Task Force has evolved into Friends of Rio Nido (FRN)-- an organization with bylaws, an elected board, & strong direction -- which already operates informally as a positively influential force & which also seeks legal, non-profit status. FRN's Board members & various committees have already obtained $18K in RRROC funds for July's successful clean-up (thank you Jennifer Ostrom), plus lots of County help with street & directional signs (thank you Matt Malick). Kim Holliday from the Russian River Redevelopment Oversight Committee (RRROC) & John Uniack (retired RRROC member) have also worked behind the scenes to obtain funding for immensely helpful projects in the works, including the purchase of land for nearby public beach access.
- Go Rio Nido Roadhouse!: Against all odds, Brad Metzger has managed to maintain former owners, Dee & Midge's long-standing & beloved summer community traditions, while bringing it into the 21st century and serving the year-round community. The Roadhouse is now a successful year-round business, restaurant, bar, and music venue, and also informally functions as a community center with a pool, summer water aerobics, and site for local meetings and benefits. Thank you Brad, and Kim Link (the manager).
- Why does Justin Lacey from RRROC hate Rio Nido?: He consistently rants & votes against everything we -- and RRROC member Kim Holliday -- propose for Rio Nido at the RRROC meetings. I, and many others, have found this to be highly offensive. Lacey says he's mad because Holliday's facts & statistics (regarding redevelopment expenditures for towns in the redevelopment area) are inaccurate & that Rio Nido has had more than its share -- even though it definitely HASN'T. Lacey obviously can't stand working with Holliday, which others who've worked with her may understand ... BUT ... the reason why Holliday's agendas so frequently prevail is because she's smart & well-prepared; her facts are always impeccably presented & thorough; plus, her engineering background & technical consulting experience (formerly for Accenture, now as a freelancer for various companies) has enabled her to decipher arcane County processes & work with others towards getting things done. Go Kim!
I sure hope that Lacey has calmed down since the last time I spoke with him back in June. When I asked him about his hostile reaction to projects advocated by Rio Nido residents & stakeholders, he started frothing at the mouth & expressing resentment about how people from Rio Nido come to meetings as a bloc to "make demands." But wasn't RRROC established specifically in order to ensure that communities have a voice in the County's redevelopment processes? Rio Nido-ans have finally learned from other River communities -- most notably Monte Rio & Villa Grande -- & have become more organized. That's a good thing, & I hope more neighborhoods do the same.
Folks from Guerneville, Monte Rio, and Rio Nido need to work together -- not against each other -- if they want the business climate, economics, and quality of life on the River to improve. Nobody should be scorned for getting neighbors organized to seek funds and resources for their immediate communities. Instead, these communities should serve as inspiration to other neighborhoods on the River. Spiteful bickering has no place in an environment where services are being ruthlessly cut and so many folks have exhausted their unemployment benefits and still can't find work.
If Lacey's still ranting, somebody PLEASE tell him to get a GRIP!
- Summer business is booming -- keep it up!: I feel sad about all the recession casualties and will miss Vine Life, River Mist, Mosaic, and others. But I'm thrilled that 2011 finally brings a well-deserved prosperous summer for locals. Boon Spa & Restaurant, the Monte Rio Theater/Cafe, the Rio Nido Roadhouse, the Village Inn, the Guerneville 5 & 10, & others seem to be thriving now. I've also noticed some new restaurants and storefronts -- including Big Bottom Deli, Sharon's Emporium, Trio, etc. -- who seem to be kicking butt. I also visited Johnson's Beach this summer and was happy to see it bustling with activity. I'm also delighted that the new owners of the historic Guerneville Theater & also Monte Rio's Pink Elephant have made so much progress. Keep up the good work!
- Re-Launch FOGS, for pete's sake: I don't know what happened with the Friends of Guerneville School (FOGS). During my daughter's last year there, FOGS appeared to be moribund. Yet my fellow parents frequently approached me to ask when the next non-existent meeting was happening, and how they could get involved. Alas, I was similarly clueless concerning the status of FOGS. I hope someone can get FOGS going again, because the Guerneville School really needs the money. It's scary that the only recent fundraisers for enrichment activities have been conducted by the group of parents who organized two successive annual Spaghetti Cook-Offs at the Rio Nido Roadhouse -- with no support from FOGS -- & managed to raise over $7000.
The principal and teachers are doing a great job with the school-- last year, our students' test scores earned us a "California Distinguished School Award" -- but I don't know how long they can keep getting these great results with so little money. Guerneville Elementary/Middle School needs classroom volunteers, money for extracurricular programs, and also classroom supplies. Recent cuts in educational funding have been brutal, and too many parents are too impoverished to make up the difference. They may want to talk to the folks from Monte Rio Elementary/Middle School -- which seems to have a lot of parent involvement and funding. Their test scores aren't as high, but they're still decent, and they're gaining a strong reputation for their art, music, and performing arts programs.