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Our County by Efren Carrillo - December 2014

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Our County by Efren Carrillo - December 2014

by Efren Carrillo

On a crisp, overcast November Friday, 80 people gathered as we broke ground for a new water education facility near Wohler Bridge. This new facility will be the result of a partnership and support of the cities and water districts which receive water from the Russian River through the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA).

Every year for the past two decades, 5000 Sonoma County students have taken part in direct instruction through the Water Agency’s water education program – learning about the source of their drinking water, testing methods for water quality and turbidity, the life cycle of salmonids, and the value of this commodity along with the importance of protecting the River as well as conservation values. Our current drought highlights the value of educating our young people to have a lifelong conservation attitude; however, the mission is critical to our community’s long term sustainability every year.

This program is part of the 5th grade curriculum in many schools in the Agency’s service area. Fifth Graders spend the day in an aging double wide trailer conducting studies, working with microscopes and then head out to the river for some hands on field work. The new facility will replace that aging facility with a state of the art building. The new site, a former quarry across the river, will be a beautiful learning environment. Students will be able to safely walk downstream to the agency’s new fish ladder and viewing gallery, where they can observe the Chinook salmon migration from within the waterway. Other age groups, from third grade to high school also will use the facility and the access to the water transmission facilities to learn age appropriate instruction at the ed center.

The Water Education Program is a critical component of our strategy to change water consumption behavior. Students return home from their field trip or in-class lesson and remind their family of the importance of checking for leaks, taking shorter showers, and removing lawns. When people use less water, suppliers can reduce expensive expansions to our system and ensure a reliable water supply.  

The Water Education building will blend in with the hillside behind it, and will include native drought tolerant landscaping and boulders – both beautiful and educational by design. Maxwell Grove, redwoods which were planted as part of a 1930s WPA project adjacent to the property and managed by Regional Parks, will serve as a starting point for classroom hikes to SCWA facilities and salmon migration observation gallery at the fish ladder. While hiking, students learn to appreciate and value both the water that they drink every day and the riparian habitat that supports our fisheries.

This building and wonderful educational program will add to the learning environment experienced by our kids, ensuring a positive impact on our community for generations to come.

On the evening of November 12th, over 300 artists, arts organization leaders, and creative professionals gathered at Wells Fargo Center for the Arts for an update on the newly launched Creative Sonoma Arts effort. Ben Stone, Executive Director of the Economic Development Board (EDB), introduced the community to interim Creative Sonoma ED, Nancy Glaze.  Nancy has decades of experience in Arts leadership, most recently with Arts Council Silicon Valley. She guided that organization through developing its strategic plan and assisted in forming the cultural framework of Silicon Valley. Her deep expertise and solid background in nonprofit administration and philanthropy will help guide our efforts to support the Sonoma County Arts community.

The evening featured Alan Brown, WolfBrown, a leading researcher and management consultant in the nonprofit arts industry. His talk focused on the intrinsic value and impacts of arts to communities, with an emphasis on the value of exposing youth to a variety of arts. Jeff Trabuco, Director of Artsopolis, followed with a presentation on a potential framework for a Creative Sonoma Cultural Calendar and Website.

This is a pivotal time for our arts community. Following the efforts of the Community Foundation to explore the needs of our creative community needs, the EDB undertook an outreach and assessment effort with the Cultural Planning Group, an arts focused consulting agency. Interviews with stakeholders, meetings with artists, non-profits, and for profit creative sector businesses resulted in a robust overview and a set of recommendations intended to improve communication, marketing, and promotion of Sonoma County’s creative sector. The Creative Sonoma Arts Action Plan was presented to the Board of Supervisors in June, and resulted in funding for putting the plan into action.

Our best wishes, from the Fifth District office, for you and yours during this holiday season.