Living Here Guide

Nonprofit organization creates ways to Celebrate Los Osos

Pandora Nash-Karner, left, and the late Mimi Kalland, who co-founded Celebrate Los Osos. The new public viewing stand is dedicated to Kalland, who died in August.
Pandora Nash-Karner, left, and the late Mimi Kalland, who co-founded Celebrate Los Osos. The new public viewing stand is dedicated to Kalland, who died in August. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Los Osos residents Pandora Nash-Karner and Mimi Kalland often use the word “magical” when referring to their town of Los Osos — a town whose name means “the bears” in Spanish, for the animals that roamed the valley when Spanish travelers happened upon it.

Kalland likens Los Osos to the mystical, fictional Scottish village of Brigadoon — rising out of the mist, never to change or be destroyed by the outside world.

But even as Los Osos has long been known as an artistic, neighborly place, the town has had internal strife, particularly during a longtime battle over the installation of a sewer system (the system has been built).

Nash-Karner and Kalland decided in 2008 to join forces to create Celebrate Los Osos to unite their beloved community.

The nonprofit organization serves to improve public spaces, conserve resources and lift spirits. Their volunteer work has included hosting a party for sewer construction workers, building a fence for the community park, repairing an iconic bear statue that had been vandalized, removing abandoned kayaks along the Cuesta Inlet, holding concerts, painting the Baywood Park Pier, replanting medians and much more.

The town’s wounds over old battles have mostly healed.

“Now, the same people who once were on opposite sides of the sewer debate, arguing in front of the broccoli aisle at the grocery store, are picking up shovels and working side by side to dig holes for the signs we’ve posted at the Cuesta Inlet,” Nash-Karner said.

Moving forward, their goal is to recruit more young members.

“We hope that younger people will get involved and continue our efforts,” Kalland said.

Nash-Karner, a ceramicist, and her husband, Gary, a retired Cal Poly landscape architect professor, built their bayview home in the 1980s. Kalland, a retired education professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills, moved to town in 2003 from San Pedro near Los Angeles.

“I’ve heard people say they feel like they personally discovered Los Osos,” Kalland said. “Like me, they came upon it accidentally and were immediately drawn to it.”

The women highlight such events as the annual Christmas parade, the Boatzart festival, and Beer at the Pier concerts as examples of the community’s friendly spirit.

“It’s hard not to go anywhere in town without running into someone you know and having a nice conversation,” Nash-Karner said.

LOS OSOS

Population: 14,778

Key employers:

• Local retailers

• Rantec Power Systems Inc.

Community events:

• Boatzart, Aug. 21

• Bayfest, Sept. 11

• Oktoberfest and Car Show, Oct. 30

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