On the edges of Vacaville, just before it turns into Fairfield, there is a small park called Lagoon Valley. It is a hidden gem of the community, one that deserves protecting. Unfortunately, it is also one that often needs protecting. About every 10 years or so, talk of development burbles up. This small wetlands is always in danger of turning into a typical city park surrounded by homes and shopping centers, not unlike the wetlands in many communities in the United States.
A small organization called The Lagoon Valley Conservancy seeks to change this. Rather than fight the same battle against developers every decade, they would prefer to revert the land to a private conservancy. This is a common solution for California land battles. Governments are fickle and can change political fortunes in a single election. Government officials are prone to persuasion of lobbyists and developers often have deep pockets in which to pay many a lobbyist a dedicated salary to be the voice for their constant to need to see new suburbs. Those that hope to conserve open land are often volunteers and don’t have the dollars to back their voices. It doesn’t make their message any less important but it often makes it harder for their voices to be heard at all.
Lagoon Valley is worth preserving. Not only does it provide needed wetlands in the community, it is an historical preserve. There is a pioneer history that deserves to be saved, including a small cemetery set back in the foothills and the original Ranch of the Peña family, called Peña Adobe, which was finished just before the 1849 Gold Rush.
Perhaps Lagoon Valley is an even more important historic park for it’s connection to Native American history, a history that has long been buried because Indian voices had been silenced many years ago. Local Indians were removed to Catholic Missions in the early 1800s. Those that remained in the area died in the small pox epidemics that followed. By 1850, the census shows that no Indians lived in Solano County. Ironically, it is also the year that Chief Solano, one of the most famous Indians of California, died.
Plans of the Lagoon Valley Conservancy include building a vibrant connection to the past. They want to return the Lagoon to it’s natural habitat; they want to add a Malaca Village with tule structures to help people visualize the pre-pioneer period; they plan to restore the adobe buildings, including furniture of the 1840′s pre-gold rush era. In short, the community park would attempt to pull together the threads of a very diverse history.
I hope they succeed in their endeavor. I cannot imagine returning to visit and finding Lagoon Valley surrounded by homes. I would miss the hiking trails, the birds on the lake, and the deer grazing in the wetlands that make surviving the hot, dry California summers possible. Simply, I would miss the view.