An alliance to benefit the Valley of the Moon
By Linda Hale for the Valley of the Moon Alliance
One of my favorite photos is of Jack London on his horse looking down into the Valley of the Moon. The photo was taken by Charmian London to record the setting, the power, and the beauty that lay before them. The land lay open and the mountains seemed to protect the landscape below. We are fortunate to still enjoy the open spaces and the breathtaking grandeur that surrounds us.
This past August, the Valley of the Moon Alliance (VOTMA) threw a party in the Kenwood Plaza Park to celebrate. We also wanted to honor our founders and promote our mission to protect our natural resources and the rural beauty of Sonoma Valley. We were fortunate to have two historians, Jim Shere and Dee Sand, join us for our Friend Raiser and Revival of the Rancho days in the valley. Folks visiting Dee’s and Jim’s history displays learned a great deal about past efforts to balance development with natural resources. Back in 1895 people got together to solve the “rising problems in the new community,” as Dee explained it. Turns out that the creek waters were rising and causing flooding in the town. And fences had been built that cut off some of the streets. Cattle also roamed the vacant lots and might chase women and children on their way to the two stores in town. A council of public citizens (all males) came together to solve some of these issues. They formed the first public improvement club to incorporate in Sonoma County. It wasn’t until later that women got involved. Dee explains in her history Kenwood, Yesterday and Today, “Until 1908, there were only male members in the organization. Then, women were asked to join and help form entertainment to raise money, as finances were bothering the club.” It seems that some things never change. Today it’s known as the Kenwood Community Club and their members and board act as stewards to care for the Kenwood Depot as a community resource.
The Valley of the Moon Alliance is also a Kenwood-based citizens’ organization but with an environmental focus. We are a nonprofit that was formed more recently by local citizens to address modern issues of development and other concerns. There may not be cattle currently roaming the streets of Kenwood or Glen Ellen, but there are issues such as over-development, vacation rentals, road safety, and water resources to protect. VOTMA acts as a forum for research, information, and education, and we make recommendations on projects that affect the environmental qualities of the Valley. We meet with County officials, attend public hearings, and recently worked for six months with the Sonoma County Winery Working Group to help formulate policies. We also have a representative who attends the Sonoma County Coalition’s public meetings to transform the Sonoma Developmental Center. We have given input on land use and the transition of the Sonoma Developmental Center to help protect this amazing community resource. And we have a Facebook page where folks can join, check for current articles, and keep informed on issues. For example, we are working to make sure that voters know the importance of renewing the Community Separators that provide for visual relief and open space between communities. Check it out on our Facebook page and join us at the upcoming Supervisors’ meeting. The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will be reporting to the public on this 2016 ballot issue at their Dec. 15 meeting at 10:30 a.m. in the Supervisors Chambers.
Like the original Kenwood Improvement Club, we appreciate our members. We were fortunate to have a great dessert auction at our Rancho Los Guilicos Days event in August along with some generous donors throughout the year. On Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, we are holding a celebration of VOTMA in the New Year to thank our supporters. Join us for beverages and hors d’oeuvres from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Kenwood Depot. Everyone is welcome. As Dee Sand wrote, “The sky the Indians saw from Los Guilicos Valley is the same sky seen by residents of Kenwood today.”
VOTMA was formed to promote the preservation, protection and maintenance of the agricultural character, natural resources and rural beauty of Sonoma Valley. Visit www.votma.org.