Mr. Dunbar, president of the 25th Agricultural District Fair Board, submitted a letter to the editor claiming to provide more complete information and context with respect to the fair board's decisions regarding the fairgrounds master plan, and more specifically, the fate of the Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society ("Napa Valley Expo explains ending model railroad lease," Aug. 9). It is unfortunate that his letter was misleading.
The board has indeed been creating a master plan over a number of years, and there were public hearings. Unlike hearings for new projects in your neighborhood, where individual notice is required, these meetings were noticeable to the public only if you were paying attention or were notified by your organization because they might be affected.
The Napa Valley Model Railroad Historical Society attended those meetings. I also attended. I, along with a few other members of the community strongly supported the idea that tradition fair uses should be retained and in some instances restored. Many of us grew up here and think that sharing the fair with our children and grandchildren should include helping them experience what we experienced. A visit to the train club is a good example.
These planning meetings were not well attended. Not a surprise given that so few could relate to the impact that these meetings could have. These meetings were also attended by representatives of BottleRock and the RV Park area. Their interests diverged from those in the public, who had a more traditional view of where the planning should go. A review of the adopted master plan will clearly show that money talks.
Having said all of this, I agree that the fairgrounds needs to find a way to be self supporting. However, it does not require the implementation of a plan costing over $100 million to make that happen. The fair board should have more clearly directed the planning consulting firm to retain desired existing uses while helping them solve the problem of creating a multi-use environment. The train club could not possibly take up enough space on the fairgrounds site to make the difference profit and loss.
Yes, our rent is cheap. We build our building with the sweat of members hard work and materials we purchased or were donated. Many of those hard-working members have passed on. Pictures of that construction and those members are in our building. We knew that the buildings would revert to the state by agreement. We also provide free admission to all during those 68 days that we are open to the public.
Our rent should be low. There is an argument that our rent should be free given that we are a nonprofit museum located on state property that is open to the public as often as an all-volunteer organization can be.
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Mr. Dunbar argues that our building is unsafe. We are not sure where he gets his information. We have the same fire department inspection each year that other buildings receive. We were inspected after the earthquake and were cleared to open. Our fire extinguishers are inspected and up to date. If you, or a loved one, has a heart attack while on the fairgrounds, consider rushing to our building as we have an installed AED and we have members who took the time to train on how to use it. To our knowledge, we have the only AED on the fairgrounds. If that is true, maybe we are one of the safer places to be.
We have been open for only the first two days of the current fair as of this writing. Public support for our retention on the fairgrounds is strong. Frankly, it is virtually 100 percent. The fair board, even with the public meetings, has misread the desires of the community. The public is not interested in a new grand entrance. They want their traditional fair back. Local food options, 4H, rodeo, train club and other past activities.
All of this can exist on the fairgrounds and still accommodate BottleRock, RV Park income and better multiuse structures. Perhaps it is time for a new fair board and fair management who can better tackle the challenges Mr. Dunbar outlined without destroying the traditions we grew up with.
The Register noted that the fair board had provided for a solution to our problem with the help of the Wine Train. More accurately, a contact was made and we appreciate that. Early indications are that they do not have adequate space for us other than for a small display which would have to run for their train customers. Resources to do such are unclear. A future larger space, even if available from the Wine Train is years away.
Beyond a short introductory meeting, nothing else has occurred.
Daniel M. Jonas