Napa County’s quest to create a future vision is receiving a bracing dose of citizen perspectives, with hopes ranging from a Napa River so clean that children swim in it to a more diverse economy.

The county on Thursday evening at McPherson Elementary School held the first of five planned workshops. These are to complement a three-part retreat being held by the Napa County Board of Supervisors.

About two-dozen residents came to Thursday’s workshop. They had plenty of positive things to say, but also had plenty of concerns.

Former county Supervisor Ginny Simms has lived in Napa since the mid-1950s and she sees plenty to cherish here, as did the other participants. She served on the Board from 1972 to 1976.

“The people – they are basically kind and caring,” Simms said. Another positive: “The agricultural land.”

Some voiced criticisms, such as the perception that the county listens to the wine industry more than citizens.

But the workshop was largely a look to the future. Consultant Talia Eisen told participants to talk about their dreams and aspirations for the county in small groups.

Resident David Heitzman reported the ideas from his group, such as doing more to clean up the Napa River.

“It’s the lungs of our valley, if you will,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the salmon came back?”

His group also envisioned a Napa County where county supervisors don’t accept campaign contributions from those coming to the county with projects.

“It’s too easy to connect dots, whether the dots are connected or not,” he said.

That was only the start. Among other things, those attending the forum said in coming decades they want to see a Napa County with:

- Small family farms and businesses that are celebrated and supported.

- Green industries so the county has a more diversified economy.

- More protections for watersheds.

- Lower cancer rates.

- Large employers such as Napa State Hospital running shuttles for workers.

- Passenger trains running from Vallejo to Calistoga.

- A safe way for people to ride bicycles from one end of the county to the other.

- Jobs and affordable housing so people can expect to see their adult children come to raise families here.

Various county staff members attended the workshop, but no county supervisors. Several residents took note of that.

“It speaks very loudly,” resident David Hallett said.

“Tonight is about you,” county Executive Officer Leanne Link said.

People’s ideas from the evening will be given to the Board of Supervisors, Eisen said. The Board is to continue talking about Napa County’s vision and working on a strategic plan on April 24 and May 22. Before then, the county will hold four more citizen workshops throughout Napa Valley.

“We’re going to have our comments to them made through a filtered medium,” resident Yeoryios Apallas said.

People who cannot attend any of the county citizens workshops can still participate in the county’s effort to create a new strategic plan. Go to: www.surveymonkey.com/r/NapaStrategicPlanComment to participate in an online survey.

While the county prefers people use the survey, they can also relay their ideas to Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan at molly.rattigan@countyofnapa.org or 253-4112.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.