What Are THEY Doing to our sense of Place?

There’s a deep sadness when we lose a friend. We miss the familiarity and good times we’ve spent together over many years. Similarly there’s a profound sadness when you no longer recognize what had been your home and your community. You no longer recognize it because it is being taken away from you piece-by-piece. Gone (or soon to go) are the toy shop, the dance studio, downtown Safeway, Pearl, Cervoni, Zellers…places where you were welcomed, where you met friends, where your children met friends.

It’s all in the name of progress.  THEY (our elected and appointed officials) tell us we need tourist revenue But WE (the people who live here) need our sense of place. We are losing the soul of our Napa.

And now THEY have done it again. After almost weekly announcements of the demise of yet another local establishment, THEY told the model railroad museum at Expo it had to close. This museum was built by our fathers and grandfathers and designed to represent our Napa. But THEY decided the space is needed for progress—a parking lot. And many residents of Napa are deeply sad; this is a location so many have enjoyed for generations.

The Vision Statement of EXPO states that it is to be: Napa County’s premier agricultural, recreational and community gathering place. If they evict the RR Museum the community will have to meet in the parking lot.

The Last Train Is Leaving the Station-Napa Will No  Longer Be a Family Town

The message below was written by John Rodgers, a member of the Museum since 1966:

Every Friday night for the past 47 years residents from our community and neighboring communities have  gathered for a friendly meal and then headed over to the Fairgrounds to a relaxed workshop environment.  What brings us together is the model railroading hobby, but the magic sauce is the diversity of people and  the joy they find in simply gathering socially. The model train layout creates a place where neighbors can talk  and mingle with some of the smartest people in our community. The society is a repository of Napa talent in  electrical engineering, computer sciences, art, photography, topographical mapping and multiple disciplines  including historical research and curatorship of historical information. Kids receive mentoring in positive  social behavior, productive conflict resolution, cooperative group dynamics, protocol and design discussions.  

When people gather over a mutual interest like railroads or any hobby, strong friendships develop and the  society becomes an incubator for a sense of self-worth and a belonging to the Napa community. The railroad  museum is much more than a bunch of old guys playing with trains. If you want to know about anything, ask a  member of this 501(c)(3) organization and there will be someone who will take the time to get you an answer.

young boy and man looking at model trainWe provide a structured social environment where kids can come and participate in negotiating, exploring  group dynamics, understanding the democratic process and the chain of command native to any well-run  institution across a multitude of generations. We  are a healthy place where kids can grow  up.

I recently asked why the Fair Board was going to terminate the railroad historical society’s lease when it is  such a healthy, accessible and beneficial asset to our community. I found out that they had decided to replace  what took 47 years to create with a parking lot.

Folks…for several years the Fair Board has had a piece of paper called a Master Plan but they do not have  the money to build the pretty pictures they see on this grand vision of a Master Plan. In the desire to create  a pop culture venue and event center, part of the Fair Board wants to eliminate the model railroad with the  hopes of someday actuating this new master plan which competes with private enterprise venues. Locals  who have recently attended the summer fairs have noticed the changes. Do you remember the Sons of Italy’s  spaghetti and handmade meatballs at the summer fair? Gone! Do you remember the fireman’s corn? Gone!  PTA  Hamburgers? Gone! Rodeo? Gone! Destruction derby? Gone!

The Fair Board mission  statement:

The Napa Valley Exposition is a vital part of the diverse Napa Valley community and showcases our agricultural  heritage, provides a high quality entertainment venue and cultivates recreational and educational  opportunities for residents and visitors of all  ages.

boys and men looking at Napa Valley Model Railroad museum trainsThe railroad layout is a one of a kind hand built art installation and is a functioning model. It is literally a part  of the building in which it resides. It is too complex of a set-up and would be impractical to relocate to another  location, even if another 3200 square foot space could be secured. The Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical  Society’s lease terminates on December 31, 2017, unless the Fair Board decides to sincerely allow time for  legitimate opportunity of public comment or includes the railroad museum in the newest Master Plan. The Fair  Board’s rushed vote has the appearance of a political maneuver without proper community comment and now  the community is stuck with their destructive vote. Another part of the social fabric of our fragile community  will end up under the blade of a bulldozer and maybe someday you will end up with a VIP parking lot for a  few more cars.

The community [YOU] can help the Fair Board become unstuck by asking the Fair Board to have a  proper public comment period where the Board can receive comment from all interested parties. Perhaps the  Fair Board doesn’t consider public comment because it lacks a constituency. Nevertheless, it has a duty to the  public and to its mission statement. The issue should be voted on with all stakeholders’ opinions out in the  open and every Fair Board member allowed an informed opportunity to  vote.

The purpose of public comment is to allow the public to participate in the development and changes done  by agencies to their community. We remember the past redevelopments that have sacrificed our uniqueness  and beauty only provided by unreplaceable historic buildings and byways. Rather than restore and preserve,  agencies have ordered their destruction, stripping Napa Valley of its  character.

We’ve seen other master plans without money come and go. This one is not different. It is, as of today, still  unfunded. Yet, without promise, should we the citizens of Napa allow what we’ve already built, love and  treasure to be destroyed? Save the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society!

Put up a fight Napa! Show up at the Expo Board Meeting this Tuesday morning at 10AM to let them know you want to keep the Museum in your Town.

You can also Write or Call the Expo Board:

  • John Dunbar
  • Jeri Hansen-Gill
  • Don Huffman Jr.
  • Jose Hurtado
  • Belia Ramos
  • Vanessa Robledo
  • Devonna Smith
  • Thomas Trzesniewski
  • Al Wagner



7 Comments, RSS

  • jennifer Thater

    says on:
    September 24, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    Where is the Expo Board meeting held?

    • Admin

      says on:
      September 24, 2017 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Jennifer, The meeting will be held at 575 Third St. on the Expo site.
      Thanks for your interest!

  • Gary & Joy Jordan

    says on:
    September 24, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I couldn’t have said it better. Save the old Napa. The fair is horrible now. The corn the home made spaghetti and train museum along with the other great old stuff is what makes it great here. Save the old napa

  • RBNewsCriterion

    says on:
    September 24, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    It is with a heavy heart that I have read the Napa Expo Board is planning to replace the Model Train headquarters with … a parking lot?!

    The only possible motivation for such an action would be the opportunity to charge$10-$20 a vehicle during limited venues of entertainment, e.g., TheTown and Country Fair, Bottle Rock, Home and Garden Expo, and other events.

    I say “limited” in that they occur only once a year, none of them lasting longer than half a week.

    While in principle, seeking to add income to a failing enterprise makes a certain amount of sense, taking out one of the venues that actual fulfills the whole point of a fairgrounds …. provide entertainment …. serves as a kind of metaphorical oxymoron.

    It is also a poor mechanism for rewarding loyalty. It is not the train people who are responsible for the ever-descending income the Napa Expo organization has experienced for the last couple decades … yet they are suffering the consequences. “Poor form. Poor Form.”

    Certainly the last earthquake damage has bad a major impact on the potential income opportunities … but income and attendance have declined almost annually prior to the damaging temblor. Taking away popular events such as rodeo, racing, and other traditional fair and carnival events is part of it. Raising prices contributes to the decline. Increasing entrances fees to compensate for decreasing attendance results in decreasing attendance … results in increasing fees …

    Having a seniors admission discount day on opening day is a ploy to increase attendance on the slowest day … yet seniors are seniors every day. Younger people are disinclined to go on seniors day themselves … the place is filled with a bunch of old people.

    All slightly radical observations, admittedly … yet based on reality. Some of these conditions have or are changing … but it’s not enough.

    Driving or walking downtown, Napa has become unrecognizable as … Napa. Progress for Napa has meant attempting to appeal more to the ever growing economic tourist industry, worth billions of dollars. We are now at a three or four storey limit on construction. That will one day be extended to six or eight or ten stories.

    And yet the fair events continue to lose money. Why? Because they have lost the ability to attract local folks. The census sign at the city limits notes 70 thousand plus people … most do not go to the fair. Some, because the rodeos are gone. Some, because offerings once held in two major buildings are missing because the earthquake damaged and removed buildings have not been replaced.

    And an unaddressed racial issue … attendance has divided itself … Caucasian attendance during the day; almost exclusively Latino attendance at night. I think the white middle class is unjustifiably afraid to go at night.

    I go to the fair at least twice each year, and each time I go in the day and stay through the evening … the transition is subtle at first, but occurs. I love both time frames … it’s like going to two different events.

    And one of my stops has always been the Model Train Building … soon to be replaced by a parking lot. Reminds me of a certain President who wants to replaced National Parks with billionaire private estates … and most likely … parking lots.

    • Admin

      says on:
      September 25, 2017 at 1:11 am

      Your comments are right on! I’d like to suggest that you send them as a LTE of the Register for wider circulation. Thanks for corresponding. I hope you’ll be able to show up at 10 on Tuesday.

  • Don

    says on:
    September 24, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    The minority’s RULE has come to NAPA

  • Janice Andrade

    says on:
    September 26, 2017 at 12:50 am

    To the Napa Vision crowd, you have my permission to forward this letter to all the people it is intended to be for.

    A royal Boo, Boo, Boo to all the powers that be for destroying our beautiful downtown Napa and now are working on the LOCAL fairgrounds. You should all hang your heads in shame for what you are allowing to happen. The latest hotel is 7 stories by the way. Does anyone that sits on the city counsel, fair board, county supervisors or any other position of influence have any insight into what the citizens, the regular folks, the tax payers, the home owners, the small town joe, really wants for OUR town. NO, it’s all about pleasing the wine industry folks, the high minded tourist set, and other out-of-towners who come here wanting to change it all so they can make a buck or two. AND YOU the powers that be in control see $$$$$$$ and not people. The people you are suppose to look out for, the people that elected you (if in an elected position) to look out for them and their town. I am not against progress but being mowed over by the money machines and destroying everything about Napa that brought visitors here in the first place is insanity.
    As far back as I can remember the fair grounds belong to the state and the citizens of this town. As far as I am concerned you need to leave the agriculture activities and the rail road museum where they are and build a building to house the Fire Museum that had to close because of who knows what. Rebuild some of the structures that were damaged and concentrate on reestablishing some good old, small town activities instead of catering to the once a year events, like Bottle Rock.
    Anyway, I’ve had my say. Hope someone listens. Janice Anrade

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