Build it and they will come ... or will they?

January 31, 2013 

It's perplexing why so much time, effort, and heaven knows how much cold hard cash have been dedicated to flattening yet another beautiful piece of land in our once majestic town -- this time on Highway 49 across from the new CHP office.

I remember in the eighties, watching as dirt movers and lumber jacks decimated one of the loveliest properties I had ever seen -- where Raley's is now. Onlookers teared up at the sight of those majestic giant oak branches thundering to the ground as they were amputated one by one. The earth beneath us tremoring as they mowed down those glorious specimens that stoically stood prominent long before my great grandparents arrived. They called it progress and put in a parking lot.

That land had been the crowning glory of Oakhurst, and if you were blessed enough to have seen it pre-development, you can share in the beautiful memory. For those that missed out, allow me a moment.

Imagine rounding the last corner on Deadwood, descending into Oakhurst. Ahead lies a stunning, unaltered, emerald carpet of lush pasture dotted with clusters of bright purple lupine, golden poppies, cheery butter yellow and snowy white wild flowers dancing in the breeze. A band of horses gallop across the low rolling hills -- a pair of hawks soaring among the towering stand of noble white oaks at the edge of the meadow.

One lone black and white cow -- his name was Spot and he was my cow -- chasing butterflies as they floated by. Today it is near impossible to believe such beauty ever existed. The harsh reality is Oakhurst's beauty is being obliterated into a hodge podge of ill placed structures lacking cohesiveness -- breaks my heart.

The horrendous scar the Midway Market fire left in the middle of town doesn't exactly make for an esthetically pleasing experience either. I was stopped on the street one day not long ago and asked where "downtown"" was located. The Australian couple stood dazed looking across at the abandon land beside the Chevron station, while I explained they were standing in it. Point taken?

Many other parcels have been mutilated as well, like the desolate land north of town on the west side of Highway 41, next to Golden Oak Auto Parts (previously Norberg's Oakhurst Market). Once stripped barren, this land is never the same. Nary a weed grows on that decimated ground today, even decades later.

I always wondered what happened to the "big" plans that they had for that once pristine acreage. Rumors circulated through the county for years after the first ground breaking that it would be utilized as a skate park, public swim center, and several other claims that never came to fruition. So why then I ask was it leveled to begin with? I liken it to a woman purchasing a wedding gown when she isn't even dating. Senseless.

Then again there is the once gorgeous property behind Capital Pipe on Highway 49 that my high school sweetheart and I used to explore. That property has been reduced to a washed out, trash strewn, hacked up heap of degraded ground that now is overrun with drunken, drug induced wanderers. Where you use to be able to meander through the tall golden grasses, gaze across the fields of giant oaks, watch deer grazing freely, one must now watch where they track in fear of stepping in human waste and discarded, bug infested trash.

I fully understand the importance of expansion and development, and that they are essential to the survival of any small town. Being the daughter of a contractor I know the worth on a more personal level than most. But honestly, must we continue to rape the very land that we all love and some have actually relocated here for? What is the point in butchering the land in hopes that one day "they" will come?

Should there not be a plan set in place before the excavation begins, prior to the disfigurement of yet another sacred property? And why not work with the land, to try and preserve its God given beauty rather than gutting it, leaving no shred of aesthetics behind? Though some might argue it isn't possible, I saw firsthand how it can work, as my father made a living doing exactly this.

So I ask you, how much more land will be annihilated in hopes that if it is prepared for construction, business will come? I have to wonder, would we truly want more big business to move in when the core idealism of small business in our area already struggles to survive? Won't the coming of a 'rumored' Wal-Mart or other big box store put a large chunk of the local businesses out of commission?

As a native to this land I fear if we endure more loss of mom and pop stores it will surely dissipate the remainder of the already waning charm from Oakhurst.

Then what will draw the much needed tourists? Do we really want to be a mere pathway to Yosemite, or rather a magical destination in itself? Is this truly advancement, or are we simply destroying our most precious of resources just for the sake of a buck?

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