Bill Hocker | Mar 15, 2021
NVR 3/13/21 Foster Road supporters continue push for area’s inclusion in new Napa greenbelts
That hillside along Hwy 29 coming into the Napa Valley, which I now know as the Ghisletta diary farm, with its picturesque barns, farmhouse and ecalyptus trees has always seemed the essence of rural California now forever disappearing. Even when I first came to Napa in the 1970's in search of beaucholic landscapes to photograph, I remember it as a notable landscape composition. It should be preserved in a bell jar as an icon of what California was once-upon-a-time, before such places were buried by developers seeking greater profits from chewing up raw land rather than recycling underused urban land.
As a gateway to the Napa Valley, it is a reminder of a time before vintners began excavating similar hillsides to cage and discipline nature to their own more profitable ends. We love the look of vine covered hillsides, of course, a better example than housing tracts of man's relentless footprint on the land. But to see the vestiges of real life before the advent of the goodlife as you drive into this tourist destination is a history lesson well worth preserving for everyone.
The idea of a greenbelt between Napa and the rest of the world has taken a hit over the last few years. In one of many Napa Pipe hearings, a slide flashed up on the screen, almost incidental in its implication for the project, but profound in its implication for the future of Napa.
All of those areas that should have consitituted a greenbelt at the edge of Napa rural-urban line are now being filled with buildings. Napa Valley Commons, Airport industrial zone, Stanly Ranch, Carneros Inn, Meritage Resort, Napa Pipe, the Syar expansion, and for that matter the incorporation of American Canyon in 1992, are all filling the boundry that might have separated Napa from the urban sprawl of the rest of the Bay Area. More such projects are coming.
The idea of greenbelts and rural-urban lines, a product of the same enlightened era that created the Agricultural Preserve, seems to have passed. Yet it is heartening that the idea is being revived here and elsewhere. The Greenbelt Alliance
is active and full of hope.
But in Napa it is a bit too late. This is not to say that the Foster Road ridge shouldn't be protected. It should. It is a window into what Napa County once was, a reminder to residents and tourists what the land used to look like, and perhaps a tourist attraction itself. But it is a tragedy that we are reduced to talking about a greenbelt separateing urban Napa from western rural Napa rather than the relentless suburbanization coming from the south, already having consumed what should have been Napa's real greenbelt. Yes, preserve as much unspoiled landscape as we possibly can. The few still unspoiled wooded hillsides
around Napa need to be preserved. We owe that to future generations. But let's admit that the idea of a greenbelt to protect Napa from being engulfed by the greater bay area is a faded memory.