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Gina Cuclis
Springs Eternal
Gina Cuclis

Seeking Old Photos of the Springs and a History Lesson

Boyes Hot Springs resident Michael Acker is seeking old photographs and family snapshots for a book he’s writing about the history of the Springs. The book, titled “Picturing the Springs,” will be published by Arcadia Books as part of its “Images of America” series. Acker said he was surprised when Arcadia Books contacted him asking if he would write about Sonoma Valley’s four resort towns -- El Verano, Boyes Hot Springs, Fetters Hot Springs and Agua Caliente. He said the book will begin with the early years, the 1840s through the 1880s, and will conclude with a chapter about the present. There’ll be chapters devoted to the Sonoma Mission Inn and to the beloved Boyes Bath House that burned down in 1969. The book will also chronicle how the transition from railroad transportation to cars changed the Springs. Acker has been a long-time, self-taught student of Springs history. He is past president of the Sonoma Valley Grange and active with the Springs Community Alliance. He designed the mural on the front of the Grange Hall that depicts Springs’ history. Acker said the point of his book is to show that the Springs is “still vital, still here, and history is not over.” His editor is historian Lynn Downey, whose published works include “A Short History of Sonoma.” Downey was also the official historian of the Levi Strauss Company for 25 years. Acker is seeking hard copy photographs, no digital files, of buildings and of noteworthy individuals doing something interesting. He’s looking for photos that tell a story. He particularly needs photos of smaller, lesser known resorts, buildings that no longer exist, and old houses before they were altered. If you think you have what he’s looking for contact him at 707-939-6488 or [email protected] Highway 12 Sidewalk History As long as I’m discussing Springs’ history, let me explain how long the effort to get sidewalks has taken and who the county supervisor was who started it. The need to construct sidewalks on Highway 12 from Verano Boulevard to Agua Caliente Boulevard was identified in the original Springs redevelopment area plan created in the mid-1980s. The idea sat on the shelf for several years until a community group called the Verano Springs Association was founded in 1992. We held a series of town hall meetings in 1993 where residents discussed what we wanted for our community. Sidewalks with lighting on Highway 12 to create a pedestrian oriented community rose to the top of our list. Meanwhile, the Springs’ business community, via the Sonoma Valley Chamber of Commerce, had a group called the Valley Improvement Project. It too wanted sidewalks. We collaborated to lobby the redevelopment agency and then Supervisor Mike Cale to make installing sidewalks the Springs’ number one redevelopment priority. One of our early challenges was getting Cal Trans to agree that sidewalks were needed. Mike Thompson was our state senator then. His local staffer, Cheryl Diehm, arranged for Cal Trans officials to walk Highway 12 with Supervisor Cale and members of the community so we could show them the need. The total project has actually been in three phases. What was called Phase One, in reality, was the second segment constructed. The first segment, running from Verano Boulevard to south of Happy Dog including the monument, was called the Pilot Project. It was installed around 1997/1998. Supervisor Cale held community meetings seeking design input which included selecting a light fixture. When Supervisor Cale resigned his office in 2002 due to health reasons, Phase One plans were a work in progress. It was 2008 by the time construction on Phase One began. The project was slow to move forward, because it was not always a priority of the county public works department and working with Cal Trans was difficult. County Tobacco Retail Licensing Update Last month I reported on a proposed county ordinance that would stop the proliferation of smoke shops in the Springs and would eventually reduce the number of stores selling tobacco products and e-cigarettes. The County Health Services Department’s presentation of the ordinance to the Board of Supervisors was rescheduled to April 7. The Springs is considered overly saturated with tobacco retailers. This is harmful to our youth, as it makes for easy access and sends the wrong message about smoking. You still have time to contact the supervisors to ask them to pass the Tobacco Retail Licensing ordinance. For more information, read last month’s “Springs Eternal” at Gina Cuclis has been a resident and community activist in Boyes Hot Springs since 1990. She also represents Sonoma Valley on the Sonoma County Board of Education. Reach her at [email protected]
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