The Kenwood Press
News: 08/15/2018

Group looking to memorialize Jim Berkland

Supporters seeking to rename SDC-Glen Ellen bridge

Jim Berkland spearheaded a successful fight to save the classic truss bridge that connects the Sonoma Developmental Center to Glen Ellen, and today a vigorous local campaign is being waged to name that bridge after the man who saved it from replacement.

“Jim had swung from the steel under-rafters of ‘The Arnold Drive Bridge’ as a kid in the early 1940s with friends, and hunted crawdads in the creek below, later to sell them in town for a penny a piece,” BJ Blanchard wrote in the Sonoma Index-Tribune, Dec. 15, 2017. “When it became time to tear the bridge down and replace it with a simple cement road somewhere around 2000, Jim petitioned the state to place it on the California historical monument list and it became Historic Landmark No. 169.”

The bridge became a certified Sonoma County Landmark in 1998, some 67 years after it was completed in 1931 (the year construction started on the Golden Gate Bridge).

While he wasn’t born here, Jim lived in Glen Ellen from the 1930s when his father came to work for what is now called the Sonoma Developmental Center. Jim loved the outdoors and eventually became a working scientist, a geologist who became the first county geologist in California. He worked in Santa Clara where, according to his own legend, he began formulating his somewhat unorthodox views on the causes of earthquakes and other tectonic disturbances, many of which are based on syzygy – the alignment of three or more celestial objects such as the sun, moon and earth – which he believed could cause earth movement. He published a timely prediction of the 1987 Loma Prieta earthquake, a major event in his professional life, and soon thereafter retired to Glen Ellen and took up his youthful passions for the land and structures he remembered so well.

Jim was more than a scientist; he was a published poet, artist, humanitarian, and activist. When he learned of the imminent replacement of the bridge, he launched a successful push to save it, which led to the development of a historic bridge zoning district that includes 12 bridges. Watmaugh Bridge, constructed in 1929, has recently been replaced.

The original petition to save the bridge garnered over a thousand signatures, though there may have been a few tourists who joined in, gauging from the addresses.

Jim Shere and Marjorie Foster of the Glen Ellen Historical Society are spearheading a new campaign to have the bridge named after Jim, in spite of a county policy of not naming bridges. Besides, the county has already named another local bridge after Sonoma solon and cheese mogul Ig Vella.

A copy of the petition may be signed at the Kenwood Press front counter, or you can call Marjorie Foster at 228-9991 and get a copy. You could also attend the next Glen Ellen Forum meeting on Sept. 4 and there are bound to be copies at the Glen Ellen Village Fair on Oct. 14.