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Clif Family Winery hosted a fundraiser bicycle ride and volunteer bike build day with the Napa County Bicycle Coalition. Volunteers built over 60 bikes for kids in our community who lost everything in the recent fires."

American Canyon's Snow Day celebrates 'Magic of the Season'

AMERICAN CANYON — Snow wasn’t in the forecast for Napa County on Saturday, but snowballs were flying through Shenandoah Park in American Canyon for the city’s annual Snow Day celebration.

Hundreds of families came out for some chilly cheer to kickstart their holidays. Festivities included two snow areas, a 90-foot slide, reindeer and pony races, visits with Santa and live music provided by The Search.

“It’s the coolest,” said Cameron Vale, 8, as he waited in line to return to the snow area after spending the previous session pelting friends Nihal Rattu and Esteban Vidal with snowballs. “It’s so much fun. I could do this all day.”

Fifty people at a time were allowed into the snow areas for 10-minute periods. In between sessions, volunteers raked and shoveled snow to freshen the field. New snow was laid down by San Jose Ice Company throughout the day to make sure there was plenty of fun for everyone, no matter what time they arrived during the five-hour event.

“We hope that Snow Day brings a lot of great holiday fun and cheer to our community,” said Creighton Wright, American Canyon Parks and Recreation director. “We want to bring everyone together for this special time of year, and each year we plan a little more. We have new characters this year. We try to have something for everyone, so that no matter your age, you can have fun at Snow Day.”

Shaun and Joanne Maharaj enjoyed time in the snow with daughters Ava, 7, and Olivia, 2.

“It’s so nice to have this here at home,” Joanne said. “Instead of having to drive up to Reno or Tahoe, we can play here for a while, and this is Olivia’s first time in snow, so it’s nice to be close to home in case she doesn’t take to it.”

Bundled in a heavy pink jacket with the hood up, Olivia scooped ice into her monkey mitten-covered hands and tossed it at her father. “She seems to like it,” Shaun said. “As soon as she walked onto the snow, she flopped over and started making a snow angel.”

While families enjoyed the festivities, Sherri Cassidy, American Canyon Parks and Recreation administrative assistant, patrolled Shenandoah Park dressed as The Grinch. Last year, dressed as a gingerbread man, Cassidy spent hours delighting children, but her Grinch was getting mixed reviews.

“I guess I should have anticipated that some of the kids might cry,” Cassidy said. “I’m telling kids I’m a good Grinch, the nice Grinch from the end of the movie. I hope I don’t scare too many little ones. I love dressing up as the characters, and I think this is such a wonderful community event.

“Some of our families have never been to the snow, so to have all these fun things right here in the park – for free – I think it’s just another thing that makes American Canyon so special.”

American Canyon’s Magic of the Season holiday series continues with a community scavenger hunt called “I Spy Rudolph” on Dec. 12-13, and Santa and his sleigh will appear at the Walmart parking lot on Main Street on Dec. 16-17. For more information, visit

Drone shots capture new community emerging along Napa's Soscol Avenue

New streets are emerging at the Gasser Foundation project in south Napa, as a major swath of land is redeveloped into a new section of the city.

In the coming years, the area will become home to expanded auto dealerships and hundreds of new apartments.

Recent photos taken from a drone camera show the changes in south Napa, including new roadways, a roundabout, a new bridge and a new connection for Soscol Avenue and Gasser Drive.

“We’re really excited about having new housing in a very tight housing market,” as well as making it possible for a local auto dealer to expand in Napa and adding new retail and restaurant offerings in the area, said Gasser spokesman Joe Fischer.

“It’s gratifying to see that something that was envisioned so long ago is actually happening,” Fischer said.

The development is part of the Gasser Master Plan approved by the city in 2006.

Winter construction can be limited due to weather, but Fischer said some of the work that can be done includes adding curbs, paving streets, grading and some utilities and landscaping. Those new roads should be open for traffic in June, he said.

Hanlees auto dealers will build two new dealerships, one for Chrysler and other vehicles and the other for Subaru on a large section of land that will face Soscol Avenue. The current Hanlees auto building at 495 Soscol Ave. will continue to sell Volkswagen vehicles after the development is done.

Behind the Gasser commercial space, facing the river, will be the Napa Vista Tulocay housing complex.

A grading permit for that project, which is now owned by Fairfield Residential Company of San Diego, is imminent, Fischer said.

Fairfield will begin by building 282 units out of some 500 total apartment homes.

The Gasser Foundation is also in discussion with two developers for redevelopment of the current Hanlees Chrysler building at 333 Soscol and the parcel behind it, which totals about 10 acres.

That space was once proposed as a home to a new city hall compound but the city decided to keep that complex downtown.

Fischer reflected on the beginnings of the Gasser project which, when completed, will have completely transformed the south part of Napa between Soscol and the Napa River.

Flood control was the key part of the process, he said. Without plans to control high water, this current expansion, the South Napa Century Center and Vista Tulocay “would not have been possible,” he said.

The Gasser Foundation wanted to offer shopping choices and housing to keep people living, working and spending their money in Napa, he said.

Gasser Foundation is a major Napa County philanthropy, using revenues from its developments to support local hospitals, schools and social services, including facilities for the homeless.

Napa County seeks $3 million to shelter homeless families

Napa County is seeking a $3 million state grant to expand a homeless family aid program that is already in transition.

Samaritan Family Shelter on Old Sonoma Road had been the county’s only family homeless shelter in recent years. The property owner and former shelter operator, Community Action of Napa Valley (CANV), could sell the site.

Napa County considered buying the Samaritan building so a new operator, Abode Services, Inc., could run a shelter there. But county officials ultimately decided the cost for needed improvements is too high.

“Purchasing the Samaritan House shelter is off the table for the county,” county Public Works Deputy Director Liz Habkirk said last week.

That hoped-for $3 million state grant could be used to help buy a single shelter site or multiple sites to house homeless families, a county report said. A real estate agent on behalf of the county is looking at potential locations.

The county Board of Supervisors during a special Monday meeting voted unanimously to apply for the $3 million grant that could increase local homeless family services. The state is dispersing federal money through the Community Development Block Grant Program.

Samaritan Family Shelter could house eight to nine families, county Health and Human Services Agency Deputy Director Mitch Wippern said. It always had a waiting list that recently reached about 20 families.

“It’s a really fluid number,” Wippern said. “The families tend to be a lot more resourceful than the hardcore individuals we run into at the winter shelter. People end up finding something on their own or move out of the county to somewhere where it’s cheaper.”

Napa County abruptly stopped using the Samaritan Family Shelter in September after a building inspection done for the possible purchase revealed mold. County officials said they moved the occupants elsewhere out of an abundance of caution.

Six families ended up a half-mile down Old Sonoma Road at the county’s former, vacated Health and Human Services Agency campus. The county brought in portable showers and toilets.

Only two families remain there, Wippern said. The goal from the start was to move the families to such places as apartments.

That could become a permanent approach. Wippern said one option is to forgo having a single shelter serving multiple homeless families and instead house the families in homes and apartments at various locations.

This “scattered housing” approach allows the homeless families to be in a more mainstream, normal living situation, Wippern said. Whatever happens, the county will work closely with the city of Napa, he added.

“If we do get the $3 million or we don’t get the $3 million, the focus in the homeless system these days is really a housing-first model,” Wippern said.

That approach seeks to place the homeless into permanent housing as soon as possible, and then work with them on various life issues. The traditional approach is the reverse—solve clients’ personal problems first to make them ready for housing.

However, the county has run into a possible barrier in successfully seeking the $3 million grant – the Atlas Fire in October.

Counties to receive the Community Development Block Grant funds must have spent at least 50 percent of previous money they received through the program. Napa County received $1.5 million to build a new water tank at Berryessa Estates.

The county had every intent of spending 50 percent of the water tank money in time for the homeless grant application submission, Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan said.

“However, when the fires hit in October, we lost at least three weeks of construction time due to road closures and whatever,” Rattigan told county supervisors.

That left the county unable to spend the water tank money by the homeless grant application deadline. Napa County will seek emergency consideration so it can still compete for the $3 million.