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November, 2006


Stories of C Street And Beyond
By Jeanette Pontacq

I was only off the plane for a few hours recently, from an extended stay in the Pyrenees, when I heard the local street noise about 1) most of the Giacomini cows being sold to a Merced operation and 2) the extensive repairs done on the ranch levees. Even in my jet lag, I could understand that taking the cows away was a part of the original purchase deal with the Park Service. But I still have not figured out why the levees were repaired at this point.
As I understand it, trucks began hauling dirt and rock at 7:00 a.m. one day in mid-October and ended about 7 p.m., non-stop. In the end, a Cat was used to level the levees into place. The repairs seemed "rushed" to most people who noticed it. Why? If the area is to become a "renewed wetland" in 2007, with Papermill Creek being able to spread out again, rather than flood the Levee Road homes, why were the old levees repaired and made stronger???

Flooding last winter along the Levee Road was so bad that Point Reyes Station itself was cut off from the southern approach via Highway One because of deep water that even covered the green bridge. Levee Road residents lost cars, gardens, water damage to their houses, just for starters! Although worse than usual, last winter's flooding was nothing new since the creek was "controlled" by dikes and levees to allow ranching on the wetlands. I remember hearing of insurance woes from old residents like Jack Long because of the constant flooding. Insurance companies get kind of testy when they find themselves paying off over and over for the same problem of flooding in the same place!

Could it be that the Giacomini Trust renewed the levees at this point, even as the cows left for new pastures, because they know something the rest of us do not? Let's remember that the fate of C Street in Point Reyes Station is still up for grabs for serious development by the same Giacomini Trust. Remember the attempt to do a crazy land swap between the National Park Service and the Giacomini Trust, in order to give back a continuous landmass along C Street for market-rate development or a concentrated feedlot? Remember how upset most of the townspeople became at the idea? Remember the Park Service going back to the drawing board on the issue after receiving so many outraged letters from locals? Remember that we have not heard a word from them since on the issue?

I understand that at least one Levee resident went to Don Neubacher, Superintendant of the Point Reyes National Seashore, to ask about the repaired levees and get some answers. After all, the Park Service is now the owner of those levees! I'm told that Neubacher, as usual, just shined her on, not wanting to comment or get involved. Why? I could, of course, offer an opinion: it really doesn't make sense to spend the money to reinforce the levees along Papermill Creek unless, by doing so, one also reinforces and protects nearby potential Giacomini Trust lands along C Street designated for development. Could it be that a deal has been struck between the Park Service bureaucrats and the Giacomini Trust to make the contiguous parcels along C Street available to the Trust for development? I cannot say yes or no at this point, but it does seem logical, no matter how many official denials come forth. It may be that the residents of the Levee road are being sacrificed to continued flooding in order to protect coming investments in development on soft, filled lands adjacent to C Street. Not good.

Should either the Giacomini Trust or the National Park Service wish to offer counter opinions and explanations of why the levees were repaired and reinforced, I offer this space to them to do so! I think the town of Point Reyes, along with others who have long supported the conversion of the ranch back to the original wetlands, would appreciate some clarity and up-front dialogue instead of the constant silence and stonewalling.

MOVING ONÉ I would like to mention how important it is to remember the past. I believe Santayana once said that if we forget the past, we are doomed to repeat it. Coincidentally, earlier this year, I began a project of recording Life Stories of older West Marin residents. Life Stories come in all flavors. They are not just about personal anecdotes, but can even provide a historic photograph of a place long ago or even not so long ago. Our memories have been dumbed down in recent yearsÉ Americans in general seem to have short and faulty memories at best. So it is important to make an effort to remember the past and get the true story of what happened "back then" to make our world of West Marin what it is today.

For example, through the recordings done so far, I now know who nice Al Armanino was and how he lost his land near the present Dance Palace through a bit of local chicanery back 50+ years ago I have stories about the old, common septic system for Third Street in town back 36 years + ago. It was in what is now considered Giacomini property along C Street. The communal septic lines seem to have been built by Joe Gomez. How they were destroyed and the land "taken" for cows (cows that had broken the terra cotta pipes put in by Gomez) could be of major interest in any legal challenges to proposed development there.

Life Stories can also be historically enhanced, or disproved, by official documentation. The end result can offer us all a true and validated history of our town and the area. It may not be the official myth story, but I guarantee it will be more interesting, lively and real. Stay tuned.

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