This is a day for feasting and football, but as we gather with friends and family, it’s also an opportunity to count our blessings.
Here on the Central Coast, we have so much to be thankful for that it’s hard to narrow it down to a single list. But we tried. Tribune reporters and editors brainstormed and came up with this top-10 list.
Here, in no particular order, are 10 things we appreciate about San Luis Obispo County.
The Great Outdoors
No matter where you live in the county, you’re never far from a spot where you can get away from it all. We have parks, beaches, hiking and biking trails, campgrounds, a national forest. Whatever you’re into — surfing, swimming, hiking, running, kayaking, camping, cycling, zip lining — there’s a place to do it.
This didn’t happen by accident. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to land conservation organizations, dedicated individuals and enlightened public officials who see great value in preserving open space for future generations.
Each and every drop of rain
Never again will we complain about rained-out picnics or parades. As we’ve watched the levels of our lakes fall and lawns turn into weed patches and heard from friends and neighbors whose wells have gone dry, we’ve learned a simple truth: Rain is something to celebrate.
For those of you wondering where we stand on rainfall, we turn to the city of Paso Robles, which keeps comprehensive rainfall records going back to 1942. The city, which averages 14.11 inches of rain per year, has recorded below-average rainfall for the past five years.
So far this season, thanks largely to last weekend’s rainstorm, 2.67 inches have been recorded at the Paso Robles Water Yard. That’s below average, but on the bright side — which is where we want to focus on this Thanksgiving Day — Paso is in much better shape than it was in 2013-14, when only 0.28 inches fell between July and November.
Libraries (and the friends who support them)
In this age of Amazon and Google, the value of a well-stocked library may seem elusive, yet libraries are one of those rare institutions that serve people of all ages, interests and backgrounds. The children’s librarian reading to kids; grandparents asking a research librarian where to find items about family history; students and professors conducting research all benefit.
One of the first items on a vandal tyrant’s list is to destroy the library — as the British did to the Library of Congress during the sack of Washington, D.C., in August 1814. Thomas Jefferson expressed distress and offered to sell his 6,487-volume personal book collection to become the kernel of a new library. Jefferson’s political enemies kicked up a fuss, but reason won over politics and Jefferson’s books were carted from his home in Monticello to Washington.
A town without a library is a place only a barbarian could love. Fortunately for us, just about every community in San Luis Obispo County has a library, and each has a dedicated Friends of the Library group to offer support. Interested in joining? Go to www.slolibrary.org/index.php/partners.
This year especially, we’re thankful for firefighters — men and women who put their lives at risk to protect our families, homes and Central Coast landmarks.
At the height of this summer’s Chimney Fire, which burned 46,344 acres near Lake Nacimiento in the North County, about 4,000 firefighters from all over California were battling flames in San Luis Obispo County.
Crews stayed on the job for more than three weeks for the blaze that burned from Aug. 13 to Sept. 6, with many firefighters moving from fire to fire as flames broke out all over the drought-stricken state.
Many residents already have shown their gratitude with signs and kind words, and Paso Robles even held a parade to celebrate the firefighters’ sacrifices. This Thanksgiving, we again echo these sentiments.
Cambria’s tree helpers
Volunteers, nonprofit groups and governmental folks are working tirelessly to help protect Cambrians from fire hazards and falling trees while working equally hard to protect and preserve the drought-ravaged, 3,200-acre Monterey pine forest filled with thousands of dead and dying trees. Thanks to them, the crisis is getting attention from Sacramento.
They’ll be hard at it this weekend. On Saturday, volunteers will work off their Thanksgiving-dinner calories by planting native Monterey pine seedlings on the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve. And California Conservation Corps crews and volunteer members of the Cambria FireFocus Group and Community Emergency Response Team will do free chipping of small tree limbs and other woody items Dec. 1 and Dec. 2 for Cambria property owners who sign up by Monday.
For more information, contact Friends of the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve at 805-927-2856 or www.ffrpcambria.org. Reach the Cambria FireFocus Group at 805-927-8006 or www.cambriacsd.org/cm/fire-safety/community_programs/fire_safe_focus.html.
San Luis Obispo County is blessed to have fine teachers at every grade level (and we aren’t forgetting school counselors, teaching assistants, librarians, coaches and everyone else). They’ve weathered budget cuts, high housing costs and, in some cases, outdated facilities and equipment. We’ve seen them reach into their own pockets to buy school supplies, volunteer their time to help struggling students and find just the right words to soothe a hurt or praise a success. All the while, they teach critical life skills.
As the bumper sticker says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”
We’d like to add to that:
▪ If you can calculate percentages, thank a teacher.
▪ If you can say “Where’s the bathroom?” in two or three languages, thank a teacher.
▪ And if you learned to finish your homework — or accept the consequences — to take turns at the drinking fountain and to ask questions (even if you thought they were stupid), thank a teacher.
A bounty of food and wine
That Thanksgiving meal you’re enjoying today? Chances are it includes ingredients grown right here on the Central Coast. We are blessed to have the combination of climate, soil and topography that makes this ideal for farming and ranching. We also have had local leaders with the foresight to pass right-to-farm ordinances and other policies that helped prevent prime land from being swallowed up by developers.
Agriculture is a big business in the county. The combined value of all crops was about $829 million in 2015, with strawberries leading the way, followed by wine grapes.
That said, farming and ranching face enormous challenges today. Drought. Labor shortages. Pests. Crop diseases. Market fluctuations. Yet local growers and their employees continue to provide food for our tables 365 days per year — including Thanksgiving.
There are 20,148 veterans who call San Luis Obispo County home. Here’s the breakdown: About 40 percent served in the Vietnam era; 20 percent in the Gulf War; 15 percent served in Korea; and 11 percent are World War II veterans.
Chuck L. Ward, chapter commander of the Military Order of the World Wars, said he believes San Luis Obispo County — and particularly Atascadero, where he lives — is one of the most patriotic cities in America.
“If you look at the Faces of Freedom War Memorial in Atascadero and the Purple Heart Trail signs, it’s very patriotic,” he said. “You stand anywhere and look 360 degrees and you’re going to see a lot of American flags on buildings and homes.”
It’s been said many, many times before, but we are going to say it again: Thank you for your service.
Art! Music! Dance! Drama!
There was a time when San Luis Obispo County was described thusly to patrons of the arts: “It’s halfway between L.A. and the Bay Area, so you don’t have far to go for ...”
In other words, San Luis Obispo is a great place to live, but you won’t find much there in the way of culture. (Or professional sports, but that’s another story.)
To which we say: WRONG!
Thanks to venues such as the California Mid-State Fair, the Performing Arts Center, Vina Robles, the Clark Center, SLO Brew, Fremont Theatre and others, it’s possible to see world-class acts. We’re talking musicians, comedians, acrobats, actors, you name it.
There’s a thriving dance scene — try Madonna Inn for ballroom dancing — and if it’s art you’re after, check out one of the Art After Dark events held in downtown San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles.
Homeless services providers
During the holidays, we’re often reminded to be thankful and to give back to the less fortunate. But there are those who do so the entire year round, and we should be immensely grateful for them.
These hardworking people spend the wee hours of the night volunteering at warming centers when it rains. They show up to serve soup and other meals at church parking lots and basements. They find housing for people living in tents and cars. They gather toiletries, blankets and socks and distribute them with a caring hand. And they speak passionately at local government meetings about the need to help the county’s homeless and advocate for an often silent population.
This holiday season, be thankful for these dedicated people who show giving back isn’t exclusive to one season — and maybe consider becoming one yourself.