A Northern California Interstate 80 greenbelt barricade to future urban growth aggression resulted in the 2001 John Muir Conservation Award honors from the John Muir Memorial Association in Martinez, to current and former officials representing Dixon and Vacaville.
Four special plaques made from wood from an incense cedar tree beloved by naturalist/preservationist Muir, were awarded to four Solano County officials April 18 in recognition of creation of a unique 1,003-agricultural greenbelt buffer for perpetuity along one of California's busiest freeways.
Vacaville Mayor David Fleming, Vacaville City Manager John Thompson, recent Dixon Mayor Don Erickson and previous Dixon City Manager David Harris received the Muir Conservation Award at Scott's Garden Restaurant in Walnut Creek, during the John Muir Memorial Association's annual membership dinner.
"I was pleased to work with this team," said Erickson, who added one of his personal satisfaction highlights as mayor was standing in a field of blooming radishes with Fleming, in publicizing the successful greenbelt.
The John Muir Memorial Association presents the award annually for an outstanding contribution on behalf of the environment, conservation or preservation in wake of the legacy of Muir, considered the father of modern conservation and who was instrumental in helping save Yosemite, Sequoia, Mt. Ranier and even the Grand Canyon as national parks.
Harris said he will treasure the award and noted the local elected officials "had political courage to step up to the plate." Harris gave his view the greenbelt would have its greatest appreciation decades from now when other areas are urbanized and described the Vacaville-Dixon greenbelt effort as "a bold stroke." Vacaville City Manager John Thompson credited Dixon Archer & Ficklin Co. broker as the initiator of the greenbelt concept to the two cities and "worked hard for less money" handling the sale to the new property owners Salad Cosmo and the Sharma brothers.
Thompson added among his job related artifacts he has the first dollar of the first sale at Vacaville Factory Stores and even a sample of sludge from the city sewer treatment plant, but he said a real green waist belt given to him by his friend and colleague David Harris truly means a lot.
Thompson held the belt up to the audience. It was imprinted with words that "This greenbelt will fit forever." Other officials in the audience included Dixon City Councilman Loren Ferrero, an original member of the greenbelt joint powers authority, Vacaville Deputy City Manager Gregg Werner, Solano County Supervisor Duane Kromm, Yolo County Supervisor Lois Wolk and former state Sen. John Nejedly. Pam Muick representing the Solano County Farmlands and Open Space and Carla Gyetvan of the Solano County Community Foundation, also were present.
New officers of the JMMA board of directors were "sworn-in" by Nejedly. They include President Elmer "Tret" Tretten, Vice President Brian Chikowski and Second Vice President Betty Zarn. Other directors present were Dale Cook, Ross Hanna and Carol Tretten. New Treasurer Jim Nitsos, Secretary Gabriel Jay and member Mario Menesini, had other commitments.
The John Muir Memorial Association is a nonprofit partner in support of the National Park Service at the John Muir National Historic Site Victorian Muir home, orchard ranch and 1849 Martinez family adobe in Martinez. For membership information, call (925) 229-3857. Muir, the first president of the Sierra Club, lived the last 24 years of his life at the site, where in his "Scribble Den," wrote his most famous books and articles.
Within a span of nine months during the 1990s, Vacaville and Dixon courted the greenbelt concept, sold the idea politically, acquired the freeway-frontage land and resold it at exactly the same price, but with the stipulation the property in that unincorporated area could only be used for agricultural use forever, via a permanent conservation easement being recorded with the property deed.
Fleming and Erickson previously were awarded the League of California Cities Helen Putnam Award for their greenbelt effort. And Thompson and Harris have received awards in Vancouver, B.C., from the International City Managers Association for their successful greenbelt results.
JMMA Executive Director Don Harness noted that Erickson also recently was named as Dixon Citizen of the Year.
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