Tag Archives: San Luis Obispo County

Trading Day In Paso Robles

As we head into June and the summer months, the arts and craft shows at the Downtown Park in Paso Robles are heating up. Check it out.

Trading Day - Paso Robles

UPDATED

This is a quick note that Saturday, June 20th will mark the first weekend of summer as well as Trading Day at the Park in Downtown Paso Robles. What’s even more important …

Trading Day In Paso Robles.

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Cuesta Grade – North South Divide

Anyone who lives in California finds out fairly quickly that there’s a north and a south – and the two regions are different in many ways. The primary reasons for the differences has to do with weather, cultural and geography. The latter is significant, what with mountain and deserts along with a large valley making the divide muddled at best. Geographically speaking, the southern part of the state is drawn by 35° 47′ 28″ north latitude. However, this isn’t necessarily how it works in reality.

Central California is used to designate areas in the middle of the state to differentiate between the two giants to the north and south – the Bay Area and Greater Los Angeles. However, it’s generally regarded that the state is of two parts: north and south. Here on the Central Coast, the line is partly drawn through the center of San Luis Obispo County with the Cuesta Grade. First used as part of the El Camino Real (The King’s Highway) to connect all the Spanish missions, it is a sliver of a crevice that was used by the railroads and eventually became an opening for a major north south highway (101).

Dividing line

This seemingly arbitrary ridge – part of the Santa Lucia Range – is the physical dividing line between what is called the ‘North County’ and the southern portion of San Luis Obispo County. It also could be a cultural divide as well.

The southern part of the county tends to be from a laid back typical California attitude that includes mild weather and beaches – not unlike SoCal. North is a different way of life. Much of this land north of the Cuesta Grade is wine country and the deep diurnals with definitive seasons are some of the differences that break these two regions up.

SanFranciscoGiants-trophy_tour-Paso

And sports. Boy, did I learn quickly. When I first moved here from 250 miles away in SoCal, I soon learned that this was San Francisco country, and to some extent, a Bay Area sports enclave, especially in Paso Robles. I knew that the schools in the locale mostly played Southern California programs in sports – I played a football game some 40 years ago at War Memorial Stadium here in Paso. However, that’s where the commonality ends.  I even contacted the local sports guy on TV – you can do that here – and he said what I had noticed: the Cuesta Grade divided the region.

North to San Francisco

Walk into a barbershop, real estate office or even a grocery store in Paso Robles and there are San Francisco Giants’ pennants, signs et all wherever you look. As a lifelong and true-blue Dodger fan, this made me a little ill. And they’ve been making championship trophy tour appearances around here of late … well, ugh is all I can say. No matter, it is a way of life and tells you a lot about the mentality of the region.

The El Camino Real is a trail that connected the Spanish missions in California. The site pictured is on the Cuesta Grade dividing Northern and Southern California.

The wine culture is big in Paso and although the area thinks of itself as much different than Napa, there’s no denying the similarity in the influence of vino in the North County. And politically there’s a variance as well. The city of San Luis Obispo has a long-standing tilt to the left, while North County is a bastion of conservatives.

The Cuesta Grade pass maybe only 1,500 feet in elevation, but it might as well be the Himalayas. The grade divides the state on the Central Coast and the county as a whole is united when it comes to helping out each other, such as commerce, tourism platforms and the same local television station. Still, much is divergent in regards to the culture of the Central Coast as the Cuesta Grade indeed divides the Golden State into the a north and south.

Additional sources: El Camino Real & The Route of the Daylight

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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http://pasowinebarrels.com/

Trading Day In Paso Robles

UPDATED

This is a quick note that Saturday, June 20th will mark the first weekend of summer as well as Trading Day at the Park in Downtown Paso Robles. What’s even more important is that Paso Wine Barrels will be there with all their barrels.Trading Day - Paso Robles

To find us, well, it’s easy.  Go to the Downtown City Park and the corner of 12th and Spring. There we’ll be with Decorative Wine Barrels, Staves, Planter Barrels, Hose Holders and more.  Now’s your chance to see these beauties in person.

Trading Day is a gathering that to describe it, is the biggest yard sale in San Luis Obispo County.  Furniture, memorabilia, arts and crafts will be exhibited, plus it’s free to the public. Also, there will be a Kids’ Flea Market, plus a Bike Rodeo, which is put on by the Recreation Enhances Community Foundation (REC Foundation). The REC Foundation is a non-profit fundraising corporation committed to creating enhanced programs, places, and open spaces for quality recreational experiences in Paso Robles.

If you live on the Central Coast or are visiting, this is no brainer – come on out.  It runs from 9:00 am until 3:00 pm and note that they have a special section in the middle of the park for kids to sell their wares.  You can call the Main Street Association at 805-238-4103 or email info@pasoroblesdowntown.org for more information.

Last year’s Trading Day.

And what’s best of all? Paso Wine Barrels will have a one-day special with reduced prices on some products.  Yes, we’re crazy and you will be crazy too if you don’t get out to the Park in Downtown Paso Robles on the first day of Summer!

As the Main Street Association asks:

‘Are you searching for that unique antique furniture piece or vintage memorabilia?’

Well, are you?

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

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http://pasowinebarrels.com/

Salinas River – The Upside Down River

As someone who lived most of his life in the megalopolis of Los Angeles, you aren’t knowledgeable about real rivers.  I lived for a time next to the Los Angeles River and it was just a giant concrete slab of an artificial canal that most of the time was/is used for movie and television shoots.  I traveled to the Colorado River many a time for skiing and partying but it was more like a lake than a river.

Salinas River

The Salinas River may appear small most of the time but there lies a big river underneath.

When I moved to Paso Robles, there for the first time was a river – and it ran essentially right through the town along the El Camino Real and 101 freeway.  The California Central Coast river was not a very effusive-looking river, but a river nonetheless.

The mighty Salinas goes up and down?

Nicknamed the ‘Upside Down River’, the Salinas River headwaters are in the Los Padres National Forest just south of the town of Pozo.  Most rivers travel north to south but the Salinas River starts in southeastern San Luis Obispo County. The nearly 200-mile river heads northwest first dumping into Santa Margarita Lake before dispatching itself up to the North County area of San Luis Obispo County.  Bearing north out of Paso Robles, it sets sail through the supple farming areas of the Salinas Valley in Monterey County before ending up in the Monterey Bay and Pacific Ocean.  Note: technically the river has sand dunes that stop it just shy of the bay due to the great 1906 San Francisco earthquake – canals connect the river to the Pacific Ocean.

The oddity of flowing from south to north isn’t exclusive to the shallow running Salinas River but the nickname of Upside Down River isn’t just due to its directional course.  Rivers sometime have what they call subsurface flow and though the Salinas can almost hide itself from view and appear little more than a creek during the drier half of the year, below the surface runs a giant river.  In fact, the Salinas helps create the Paso Robles Groundwater Basin, which is the largest natural aquifer west of the Rockies.  So at times you may not be able to see the river above the surface, yet it is huge underground.

Eden

Salinas Valley farms

The great novelist John Steinbeck wrote often about the wonderful farming region that the Salinas Valley was … and is.

The Salinas River and region were first made known to the rest of the world with the famous writer John Steinbeck books including Of Mice and Men and many years later East of Eden.  The river has produced a very fertile land that helped create the worlds number one wine region in Paso Robles and shaped what Steinbeck wrote often about: the Salinas Valley.  You might have heard it before but the valley is sometimes referred to as the ‘Salad Bowl of the World’.

The weather is heavily influenced by a strong marine layer from the Monterey Bay.  With this relatively cool to mild temperature range, the roughly 150 mile long and 10 mile wide Salinas Valley is one of the most prolific farming regions on earth and is often called the ‘Salad Capitol of the World.  The valley runs though much of Monterey County from its southern border with San Luis Obispo County in the neighborhood of San Miguel all the way past the city of Salinas into the Monterey Bay near the town of Marina.

Wine

As mentioned before, not only does the river help produce abundant food crops in the Salinas Valley, the fertile land in the south is home to the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area, which was recently named the number one wine region in the world.  Well known for its heritage varietal Zinfandel, the balance of temperatures differs drastically in this area with a huge diurnal, but this combination produces incredible wines now known around the world.

The Salinas River is also fed by such tributary Salinas_River_Maprivers like the Estrella and Arroyo Seco along with two lakes, Nacimiento and San Antonio, not to mention many creeks, which makes this river region one of the largest watersheds in California.

Life along the Salinas the last couple years has been quiet but if hit by a set of storms during winter, it can quickly become a raging menace.  Otherwise, it appears as a small looking river, not unlike the artificial one I remember in Los Angeles … but there’s a huge difference as the upside down Salinas River remains a big river underneath.

Sources: San Luis Obispo County, Monterey County

Check our these resources for more information on the river, valley and surrounding area:

The Salinas : Upside Down River

The Salinas Valley: An Illustrated History

Salinas Valley (CA) (Images of America)

Mahalo,

Daryle Hier

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http://pasowinebarrels.com/

Is There A Water Shortage In Paso Robles?

This is just food for thought and by no means am I an expert on the water situation here on the California Central Coast … just someone who makes extremely unique wine barrels but now finds himself as a concerned citizen who would like to see all the information laid out on the table.

As almost any Californian can tell you, we are in a severe drought.  In a two-year period in Paso Robles, we’ve had about five inches of rain and over the last year, it’s less than two inches.  Heck, the way the news Drought-soiltalks about it nationally, I’d be surprised if not most of the country and even the world knows we have had a lack of rain in the Golden State for the past couple of years.

This is of a major concern for the folks in the North County area of San Luis Obispo County, sometimes generalized as Paso Robles.  Recently named the world’s ‘Wine Region of the Year‘, Paso Robles – or Paso for short – vineyards have become serious business here in wine country.  However, like any other farmed product, grapevines need water.

Unilateral emergency dictates

With a sudden sense of urgency, near the end of last summer, the San Luis Obispo County Supervisors voted autonomously for what was essentially a two-year emergency moratorium on new vines being planted, which some feel was warranted.  Technically, a grape-grower can plant new vines but there’s a ’1-to-1′ ruling that states a new vine can only be planted for every one that is taken out of the ground.

Now there’s good news in that the value of property will go up because if anyone wants to expand, they will have to buy someone else out.  I’m sure those who are in the real estate business are happy as well as those land owners who want out.  Still, it affects the industry negatively due to the fact nobody can expand, in-turn stifling business in what was the ever-growing Paso viticultural business.

Extra water?

All of this created by the lack of water – or at least the supposed lack of water.  See, the Paso Robles water basin is the largest natural underground aquifer west of the Rockies.  Yes, we are in a drought and we just came out of another drought just a handful of years ago.  The underground reserves are down which might be of some concern.  However, why is the county trying to set up a water district with an idea being that they would be a water bank for outside water agencies?

PRGroundWaterBasin

The Paso Robles Ground Water basin running essentially with the Salinas River is the largest underground aquifer in the West.

As a citizen who figures that sooner or later the city and county will be restricting our water usage to conserve water so that we don’t run out, will we be selling that same water to other districts desperate for water?  There is seemingly a detachment from logic that says if indeed San Luis Obispo County is in need of restricting citizens water usage so that we don’t run out, that we can’t turn around and sell what extra water we do have to some other place in the state.  Unless of course, Paso has more water than the political lords are willing to let on.

Again, I’m ready for conservation modes and in fact we already have certain restrictions on water use in the city of Paso Robles that says we can only water three times a week and other relatively common sense approaches to water usage like not letting a hose run without a shutoff nozzle.

The title question of the story: Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles? – Isn’t being directly answered.

Trampled rights?

Already the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors is undermining land rights by infringing on a property owners’ rights to his or her own water.  Further, the city of Paso Robles has stopped any new drilling for water within city limits, even though the land owners have a right to the water below them.  Some have fought back and you can go here for more on that (or an additional source: Cal Coast News).

Water gushing How this turns out, I don’t particularly know but at the very least, more information should be made public – yet that doesn’t appear to be the case.  Something else to consider is who’s to profit from selling our underground water if indeed it is sold to outsiders?  Are some of the power brokers in the county vying for a huge payoff at the expense of local citizens?  There are extremely desperate communities in need of water during this drought (see San Jose Mercury News) and they might go to any length to get it.

This doesn’t feel right.  In a day and age when there’s little or no transparency within federal, state and now local governments, just exactly what is our water situation?  I would hope more citizens start clamoring for additional information on just what is happening behind closed doors along with what subversive politicking might be going on.  Even then, we may not be getting the truth … but the truth is what we need to pursue.  Is there a water shortage in Paso Robles?

What do you think?

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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http://pasowinebarrels.com/

Paso Robles Water Problem … continued

This might be the Wine Region of the World, but even in a paradise like the Central Coast of California, there are tribulations that can threaten the livelihoods of its citizens.

It appears the water problems with Paso Robles are set to be managed.  According to the Paso Robles Agricultural Alliance for Groundwater Solutions (PRAAGS), they’ve proposed a special water district be formed to manage the ground water basin.  Elections would be required.  Go here for more on the latest from PRAAGS.DaouVineyard.adj

As was mentioned in the last post on this subject, a combination of a semi-arid region, drought, an escalation in the population along with huge growth in farming (wineries), has left the ground water levels dangerously low.  However, politics has tried to rear its ugly head and create a situation that could turn into a quagmire.  The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors instituted a temporary ordinance (initially 45 days, but now two years) that required any pumping of groundwater for new crops had to be offset by an equal amount of watering of other crops turned off – a ruling called the 1-1 ratio.

Now is seems all sides are willing to come to the table to stabilize the water problems, but the sticking point may be simply: Who will be in charge?

Political body VS courts

That’s what Cindy Steinbeck of Protect Our Water Rights (POWR) has presented. Steinbeck representing a group of local farmers, sued the county to retain their water rights under California law – it’s more complicated than that – so that there can be an equitable and fair agreement for all concerned.  In its simplest form, POWR wants the courts to decide how the administrating of this new water district works rather than a political agency.  Go here for her latest on the management of a new district.

What does all this mean?  As I’ve said many times, I’m not someone who can come up with the proper answers, but I do know that using our water issues as a political football is wrong.

I would suggest other regions with similar situations arising due to their growth in the wine business, be aware and attentive of this kind of problem – especially in California or other areas with a semi-arid climate and limited water.

Agreements can be made by all sides but making politics out of this issue needs to be kept at bay … I hope.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

http://pasowinebarrels.com/

Paso Robles Water Problem

First, I have to say that this problem has bubbled or maybe more appropriately gushed to the surface and if you live here in this great paradise now known as the world’s top Wine Region of the Year, you’ve probably heard more about than you care to admit.  So have I.waterdrop

Still, there it sits staring you right in the face.  Paso Robles and the entire North County of San Luis Obispo have water issues that we can’t ignore.  However, the problem is what to do?

Being honest, I have to admit, I’m not the guy who will come up with an answer here.  What my concern is, the politics of this problem appear to be outweighing actual functional debate as to what we can do about the lack of water.  Outside influences such as national news organizations either have no clue to what is going on or slant their views politically to aid a certain bias.  Even local news outlets can’t always be trusted as they too have a political bent to their coverage of the problems.  You will hear there is dialogue but then new groups are created because they didn’t have a voice.  So just how much dialogue is there?

Desert

If you’re not from California, you must understand that a large part of this state is desert or desert-like (semi-arid).  I’m originally from Southern California so I know that the Greater Los Angeles Area is a mostly semi-arid region that acquires most of their water from the Owens Valley east of the Sierra Nevada and also the Colorado River.  In a much smaller sense, the situation is similar for Paso Robles and sources of water come from different areas.

Paso Robles sits on the backside of the California Coastal Range and by the time the storms work their way across these mountains, they’re wrung out and we end up receiving less rain than you would expect given our location just 20 miles from the Pacific Ocean.  This past year, we received four inches of rain – that’s right, just four inches.  The drought has hurt our ground water levels and ratcheted up the pressure to do something now before later.

Up until the last 40 years or so, drought wasn’t as big a problem as folks relied on ground water from wells to supply the needs of citizens whether in town or rural.  However, the city has grown exponentially since the ‘70s while the farming or more accurately winemaking has exploded.  That growth needs water but we are sorely lacking in its supply.  It should be noted that grapes take less water than other traditional crops – for whatever that’s worth.  And still, the ground water levels are dangerously low.

http://www.steinbeckwines.com/

Large farms like Steinbeck Vineyards & Winery, which have their own water, produce needed jobs and income for the region.

The county placed restrictions on water usage but farmers who supply their own water needs with wells are fighting for control of their water.  Yesterday, lawsuits were filed against San Luis Obispo County for that exact claim.  Many entities battling for restrictions were surprised by the lawsuits – so the question there is: Were they engaging in dialogue or weren’t they?

Fighting back

Said Cindy Steinbeck, who was among the plaintiffs of the lawsuits, and is part of Steinbeck Wines a seventh generation vineyard,

“I’m convinced that fighting for my rights is the right thing to do, and I believe that as our seven-generation family stands up for our rights we are fighting for all other landowners in the Paso Robles groundwater basin as well.”

Earth has shown over and over that it can fix itself when no one thinks it can.  However, we must be stewards and not wasteful, drought or no drought.  Supply and demand should be part of the regulator for what happens going forward.  If water is too expensive, people will do with less or pay a premium for it.

Farms in this region like Steinbeck Wines have somewhat insulated and steadied this town from the vagaries of a Great Recession.  Whether we like it or not, this is a company town in that how goes the wine industry, so goes our local economy.

Careful what you wish for - or as another saying goes:  You reap what you sow.

Careful what you wish for – or as another saying goes: You reap what you sow.

Yes, Paso Robles has a water problem, nevertheless are rash rulings the answer?  Again, I don’t have those answers but until a fair and equitable agreement can be reached by all parties, we endanger the reasons we all live in this little paradise on the Central Coast of California.  What’s fair?  That may be the $64 million question but regardless, we must be cognizant of and balance everyone’s needs.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier

http://pasowinebarrels.com/