Heritage Roads-Flight of Fancy?
I spent many years going out to remote areas of Northern California to build water and wastewater systems for small communities. One of the very few “fun” parts of those projects was “diving into” the local history and how those communities got started, how they survived, and how did their past history shape their future. As an example, when Kirkwood Bly got a project to upgrade Garberville’s sewer system, I not only ran the project but read several local books on why Garberville (a guy named Garber in 1853 settled there and decided to name the town that sprung up around his property after himself) was founded and what economy of that little town was founded upon, and what it has morphed into now (the first “Cash Crop” was tan oak, then the economy switched to Redwood timber harvesting and finally to Marijuana). I knew nothing of Tan Oak and how important that product was to the tanneries who used the bark from ok trees in the leather tanning process. As early as 1814, tanneries in Stockton and San Francisco were using tan oak bark in their process needed to supply the world with inexpensive leather goods in the 1800’s. The area around Garberville and Weott, California, was home to these tan oaks that were used and that created opportunity for folks to go in and harvest the bark and then transport it by wagon, rail and schooner to the tanneries further South. I loved reading about how the Highway 101 got built in the 1960’s and what roads preceded our “modern” roadway that we are familiar with today? The Avenue of the Giants was created using convict labor from San Quentin Penitentiary from 1910-1918. This road mainly followed the South Fork of the Eel River and not the main fork because the railroad had secured the right of way along the main fork. To read a short article on this road history, click on this link—
I know, this is way more info than you wanted to know about early Humboldt roads but I am writing about it to illustrate the topic of this Soapbox.
Maybe it is just me, but I like musing about how Sonoma County’s rural roads came to be. So how did Sonoma County’s 1384 miles of unincorporated roads become roads? For example, back in the early history of Sonoma County, what prompted anybody to travel over Coleman Valley Road? How did the Petrified Forest Road come into being? This column is too short to answer those questions, but I suggest the history of local rural roads is at least as fascinating as Humboldt County’s early roads history. I suspect many of you enjoy an occasional drive on your Harley or in your car on those old roads to go wine tasting, or just get out and enjoy the beautiful environment that marks Sonoma County as unique. I know my sons, who have settled in the Central Coast area that is part of Southern California, enhance their return trips to Sonoma County by taking a leisurely drive on some of the back roads.
So why all the historical chatter about our roads? This past weekend, an article by columnist Gaye LeBaron in the Press Democrat, presented the topic of “Heritage Roads” of Sonoma County-to read the article, click here—
Here is a crazy idea to help preserve these roads and add an historical plaque to them: what if the ECA led an effort to coordinate with the Sonoma County Transportation and Public Works Department to formally list roads that could be categorized as “Heritage Roads” and protect their alignment and nature?
Perhaps, bit by bit, an historical marker could be constructed that told the modern traveler of the origins of the paved road they were travelling on.
Flight of fancy? Or a solid idea? Wouldn’t it be a nice way for the road building community of members to give something back to future generations?
That’s All Folks!