There are Few "Tree Huggers" Here in Stockton
For those of us living in Stockton, who are concerned about global warming, urban sprawl, and the environment in general, know that we face a majority of ignorance about such issues. Along the Smith Canal, garbage is dumped regularly, and though the city has raised fines and devoted more police to investigate such dumping, the litter continues to be pushed over the edge of the levee roads into the water. However, even along my conservative block of waterfront property owners, there was a collective sigh today as a Andre, my neighbor, cut down two Coastal Redwood trees with trunk diameters greater than 30 inches. "Those California Pines are dying", a wood cutter with chainsaw in hand remarked. I took exception to the judgement as the trees were clearly healthy given the green spring growth on the ends of the branches. "Where's your license, I asked". He said, "I have one but I don't carry it with me". Fat chance, I thought to myself, "Well, you're supposed to by law". But, it was Saturday, code enforcement offices were closed, and the tree climber was already busy climbing and cutting the branches off one of the 100 foot tall trees. Old Joe, ordinarily a strident property rights advocate reminisced about the 45 year old trees. "I loved those trees", he said, "but a person has a right to do whatever they want with their property." I asked Andre why he wanted to cut the trees. He said, "I need more parking and place to put that dumpster". I wondered when the old Bull pine in his backyard would be cut down. It is unstable and part of it fell down two years ago. That 120 foot tall tree has had a nesting pair of hawks in it for many years. But, in Stockton, a person has the right to do with their property as they like. I for one think my neighbor is a fool who just devalued his property though, and there wasn't a person on the block who didn't question in judgement about that. His humble little home would be worth little if it weren't for its waterfront and shade giving trees.
Stockton--true heart of the San Joaquin Delta
"Stockon is trying to renew itself."
I have a home on the Smith Canal waterfront. This is the only place in the San Francisco Bay Area where a middle class person can own a house with a dock on deep water, and so we live in something of a quiet backwater. Stockton--an agricultural-industrial city and place where the tractor was invented--has a fine old gas lamp downtown that is under redevelopment minutes from our home. Our network of waterways, once areas for development landfill, are getting cleaned up. Trying to escape a century or more of toxic waterways and blighted waterfront, Stockton is beginning to recognize its potential as a Venice of the Delta region. Generally, a huge distributional hub, the city itself is short on tourist attractions. But, it is a city that is great to live in because housing prices are reasonable, traffic hassles few, and because its centrally located to all parts of California. Minutes from Delta water ski action, Stockton is 45 minutes from the capital at Sacramento, 1-1/2 hours from San Francisco and Bay Area, just 3 hrs from Yosemite and ski country, and a quick 6 hours from LA.
"Stockton Urban Waterways are being cleaned up"
The Smith Canal is a narrow waterway that extends off the San Joaquin River near the Port of Stockton. This area is subject to twice daily tidal action, so despite the pollution, the waterway does tend to flush itself out. Our property has a large tree where hawks nest every year. Crowds of New York residents flock to observe one or two hawks in central park while we benefit from an urban pair that remind us by their cry that they own the skies. Lately, it seems that the West Nile Virus has killed off the crows that used to harrass the hawks, sometimes spoiling their mating season. For most people the waterway is for recreational navigation. But, Friends of the Smith Canal, a neighborhood alliance, and Delta Keepers, an environmental organization watchdog, have nudged the city and county into taking more responsibility for making the urban waterways a clean habitat for wildlife. Stormdrain pollution from the urban core remains a major problem, as does illegal garbage dumping by some Stockton residents along the levees. We irrigate our property, but would avoid eating the fish or swimming in the water. Even so, wildlife thrive along the waterway, protected by California's Fish & Game, and waterways are not unlike those found within any metropolitan region of the world.
"The Interesting History of Stockton"
Most California residents drive past Stockton on I-5 on their way through to Sacramento or LA. Those in San Francisco see the city on the map and consider it part of the hick central valley. But, Stockton was at one time the fourth largest city in the state, after San Francisco, Sacramento, and Oakland. The origins of the city were as a port of departure to the southern gold mines in the motherlode. So, in that sense Stockton was a sister city of sorts for Sacramento, but on the San Joaquin River. Downtown, there is a considerable heritage of fine old Victorian homes and brick highrise buildings that look out upon the water.