When Jake Wenger learned Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh and Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow had begun formation of a compact between the city and county that would protect Wood Colony, he was elated.
Wenger’s ancestors settled in Wood Colony in 1910. Besides farming and running farming related businesses, the family has a history of community involvement and activism. Jake’s father Paul is President of the California Farm Bureau Federation. Jake is a member of the Modesto Irrigation District’s Board of Directors.
After his initial elation at the prospect of protecting Wood Colony from urban growth, Wenger’s first concern was for the Beckwith Triangle.
The Beckwith Triangle has been a bone of contention for decades. Today, it’s boundaries include Beckwith Road to the south, Dakota Road to the west, and Highway 99 to the east. The location is highly coveted by developers because of its proximity to Highway 99 and the city of Salida. Wenger and fellow Wood Colony residents insist the Beckwith Triangle is an integral part of their community. The fear a domino effect if it’s developed.
Both the Beckwith Triangle and the city of Salida have been focal points for controversy during Mayor Marsh’s first term. Marsh was politically damaged when he proposed annexing Salida into Modesto; the proposal was soundly rejected by Salida residents. The damage got worse when he and the Modesto City Council included Wood Colony in the Modesto General Plan.
Marsh has insisted his intention in including Wood Colony in the General Plan was to protect farming. But even his long record as farmland protection activist couldn’t convince some people he wasn’t working with developers to take at least a portion of Wood Colony farmland.
Now, it appears as though Marsh has found a way to insure Wood Colony’s agricultural heritage. When presented with the opportunity to join Marsh’s effort, Supervisor Withrow acted with amazing alacrity (see Bruce Frohman’s report here). The county is apparently as eager as Mayor Marsh to build a wall of protection around the historic community.
Jake Wenger is optimistic, but he does have one reservation. As soon as he reflected on news of the possible agreement between the city and county, he said:
“The only challenge I see with the City is what do they consider Wood Colony? Up until now the mayor and council have been arguing the land they want to add west of 99 is not in ‘Wood Colony proper.’ If Marsh continues to say that the Beckwith Triangle is not in Wood Colony, he could again hurt his chances.”
If Stanislaus County and the City of Modesto succeed in forging a compact that would preserve Wood Colony through perpetuity, it would become one of the most significant events in the history of Valley land use. And if city or county officials want to know where the boundaries around Wood Colony begin and end, they should ask Jake Wenger. His family has been walking that fertile ground for over a hundred years.