The re-orientation of Napa Valley from agriculture towards tourism is a well-known secret. Traffic congestion, protests at supervisors' meetings, and endless letters-to-editors notwithstanding, county government has mostly ignored the discontent among locals who treasure Napa's semi-rural qualities.
But the transformation has been too great for careful observers to overlook. Both the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle ran recent articles describing Napa's travails. And last week James Conaway's third book about the county, "Napa at Last Light: America's Eden in an Age of Calamity", was released. Unlike accounts of Napa penned by starry-eyed travel or wine business reporters, Conaway writes from the community's, not tourism's, point of view. His reports are not welcome reading to an industry trading on lifestyle.
As if to confirm Conaway's grim observations about Napa's degradation from agriculture to tourism, NV 2050 coincidentally received this anecdote, a true story, from Donald Williams last week:
"My wife and I visited Sacramento for a few days last week. We had strolled to a museum about a mile from our motel in clement weather, but when we stepped out of the museum the rain was torrential, and we lacked umbrellas. We were the only visitors at that time and the museum director was just leaving for the day, so he offered us a ride back to the motel. In the car, he inquired, 'Where are you visiting from?'
“We live in Calistoga.”
“'Calistoga! I've been there many times. I used to love it. But now it's so 'done.' It's not the small town it used to be. Too much tourism. Too bad.”