Category Archives: News

The Outdoors Next Door: Exploring The Yolo Bypass

Various ditches convey water from one part of the Area to another.

By Thomas Farley

If you want to get outdoors but don’t have much time, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area is a perfect place to go. It is essentially the entire area visible from the Yolo Causeway and its main entrance is only three miles from West Sacramento. You’ll see birds of all kinds, an unusual, intensely managed landscape, and you’ll experience a relaxing break from city pressure. The noise of Interstate 80 barely registers, and you’ll soon find yourself lost in exploration.
The bypass has three main roles.

The first and most important is flood control. To relieve pressure on Sacramento River levees in heavy rain years, the 16,700 acre bypass is allowed to flood.

The second role is to encourage wildlife and habitat. After water recedes in the bypass, or whenever the ground is dry, California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the property. Rice is planted, seasonal and permanent wetlands are maintained, and grasslands are cultivated, all to increase the numbers of waterfowl and other birds.

The third role is education and recreational use. Fish and Wildlife partners with groups like The Yolo Basin Foundation to promote that end.

Heidi Satter is the Foundation’s Education Coordinator. Each year she helps to organize and conduct dozens of field trips to the Bypass for schoolchildren across our region. What better way for them to experience wildlife and wetlands so close to home?

Take the signed auto tour route to experience the many elements of the bypass. It makes a complete loop of open areas, along with interesting side roads. Bring binoculars, water, and a day pack; you may be tempted to park your car to investigate the many foot trails. Annual flooding of ponds is now occurring in preparation for waterfowl season. Located in the heart of the Great Pacific Flyway, the Yolo Bypass will soon play host to countless thousands of birds as they migrate from north to south. Dove season is currently running until Sept. 15, so certain areas may be closed. (Hunting remains an activity as it has for decades, however, this use is controlled and permitted only in specific areas.) Guided monthly tours start on Oct. 10, from 9 a.m. to noon. But you are welcome to drive the bypass roads yourself at nearly any time of year.

Going? Check the information boards posted at the site since not all areas are open at all times. Downloading a map is highly recommended. Dogs are only permitted in the bypass from the causeway to the railroad tracks. Hours are dawn to dusk year round. To get to the bypass, go west on Interstate 80, take the first exit, turn right at the stop sign, and then loop underneath the highway on East Chiles Road toward the signs. The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Headquarters is located 1.9 miles further down on Chile’s. It’s past Yolo Farmstand and the soccer fields at 45211 County Rd 32B. Open weekdays.

West Sacramento’s port is on a path of profitability

Shown here is a length of dock at the port. Although idle now, two to four ships visit each month.

By Thomas Farley

Has the Port of West Sacramento’s ship come in? Or is it still at sea? The landmark facility alongside Industrial Boulevard has struggled for years to keep afloat financially, but new practices suggest that a more buoyant future lies ahead.

The Port made a renewed effort toward profitability after reorganizing its business in July, 2013. At that time, seeking cost reductions and greater efficiencies, the City of West Sacramento turned over shipping management to a private company.

SSA Marine, a worldwide port operator, now leases and manages the Port’s North Terminal cargo facilities. SSA in previous years moved everything at the Port from wood chips to windmills. Frank Patalano is the Terminal Manager for SSA Pacific. He talked about their recent two-year anniversary at the Port, saying that progress is good so far and that one of their challenges turned out to be educational; SSA is learning to become a port administrator, not just a terminal operator. They are now tasked with, among other things, fulfilling various permits and complying with California Air Resources Board requirements. Patalano says that this experience is proving valuable to him as a manager and to SSA Pacific as a company.

Patalano reflects, “One of our biggest accomplishments in the last two years is maintaining the business we have always had, the leader in exporting rice to Japan, as well as building on that current business and adding to it, through the global marketing team that SSA possesses. We are confident. We’re continuing to export rice, we import cement, we’re importing grains like corn and soybeans from around the world.”
The other part of the port equation is the City of West Sacramento, which acts as a landlord to SSA Pacific and some 30 other businesses operating on the sprawling port property. Although SSA is by far the largest tenant, other lessees include a log yard operator, a dredging company, four boat clubs, two transportation and supply companies, a cell tower tenant, and even a beekeeper.

Rick Toft is the Port Business Manager for the City of West Sacramento. He says the Port is also actively seeking development of 300 acres it owns on its south side. Called Seaway, the land is currently rented to a farmer. And like any landlord, the Port must manage its property and sometimes clean up after former residents. A small group of abandoned and derelict vessels floats idle in port. The boats have been made environmentally safe at the cost of millions of dollars but it may be some years before they are completely removed from the water.

Since the City handed off shipping responsibilities the Port is more stable financially. Revenue is modest but in the black. As Toft puts it, “The Port is a positive story in that its been a profitable enterprise since 2013.” Perhaps the Port’s ship has indeed come in. But in the form of an ocean going cargo ship, to be filled with rice and put back to sea.

New West Sac water restrictions allow for watering just once a week


The West Sacramento City Council has given City Manager Martin Tuttle authority to declare a stage 3 Water Shortage Contingency Plan in order to reach the mandatory 28% water use reduction required by the State Water Board. As the drought continues, this means increased water restrictions for the City’s residents, businesses and City of West Sacramento government operations.

New regulations under the Stage 3 plan go into effect on May 15, 2015. They include the following:

  • Outdoor watering of lawns and ornamental plants limited to one day per week. Customers with street addresses that end in an odd number may only irrigate on Saturdays. Customers with street addresses that end in an even number may only irrigate on Sundays. No watering is permitted Monday through Friday, except in food producing gardens and farms.
  • Using potable water to fill or refill swimming pools or artificial ponds or lakes in prohibited. Maintaining water levels in existing pools and ponds is still permissible.
  • Usable potable water in ornamental fountains or ponds is prohibited.

“The City will take the lead protecting essential surfaces in parks and playfields, but non-essential landscaping in these public locations will not be watered,” said City Manager Tuttle. “Residents growing food and urban farmers are advised to use water wisely. By working together we can have healthy gardens, protect our trees and meet the 28 percent goal.”

Current City water use restrictions also remain in effect, including the following:

The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots or structures is prohibited.

No application of potable water to outdoor landscapes during and within 48 hours after measurable rainfall.

No serving of drinking water other than upon request in eating or drinking establishments, including but not limited to restaurants, hotels, cafes, cafeterias, bars, or other public places where food or drink are served and/or purchased.

Operators of hotels and motels shall provide guess with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily. Hotels and motels shall prominently display notice of this option in each guestroom using clear and easily understood language.

Under State 3, the City of West Sacramento is adding staff to work with businesses and residents to promote water conservation, and asking all city employees to report water use violations.

In addition, the City encourages citizens to report water waste by calling the Water Hotline at 916-617-4545.

“State of the City” Address: Continued growth, innovative partnerships making West Sac “magical”


In his annual keynote address to a dinner crowd of 270 inside City Hall on May 5, Mayor Christopher Cabaldon both touted several current achievements and announced some new initiatives and projects, while celebrating West Sacramento as a city with strong civic engagement.

state of the city 3

Community Leadership Recipients – Mayor Cabaldon meets Community Leadership honorees during the 2015 State of the City program. Pictured, left to right, Mayor Cabaldon, Brown Construction’s Ron Brown (“Prosperity”), WSCX’s Matt Hargrove (“Service”), and Wicked West Pizza’s owner Michelle Van De Heetkamp (“Community”). (The “Pride” winner, West Sac Veggie Trike, was unable to attend the program.)

Cabaldon opened the speech with an impressive list of recent accolades bestowed on the city, among them an acknowledgment by President Obama in December as being one of seven leading cities delivering early learning to children. West Sacramento was also named a top city for commuting and one of the top five suburbs in the region (tied with Rocklin), and received a national award for gardens and green spaces for its work on the urban farm at 5th and C Streets in Broderick. Further, West Sacramento won the U.S. Conference of Mayors award for “most livable city,” along with New Orleans. “People around our community have known forever that this is a great place to live,” said the mayor, “but now we’re noticed.”

West Sacramento’s growth spurt continues inward, with additional urban development along the riverfront and the “Bridge District” north of the freeway. In March, ground broke on “The Barn,” a structure that will serve as an artistic centerpiece to the Bridge District while housing new restaurants playing host to events and concerts. Plans to work on the upper deck of the I Street bridge are underway. Between new development and projects launched by “visionary entrepreneurs like the Broderick Roadhouse,” the mayor said, the cores of West Sacramento’s original community, Broderick and Bryte, are flourishing. “Broderick is happening,” Cabaldon said, “and the magic is happening in every part of our town.”

The mayor expressed his enthusiasm over what will be the “newest part of the magic kingdom,” a large, Tom Sawyer-themed playground at Bryte Park slated for construction on May 31 with the help of over 400 community volunteers. The ambitious project is the result of a partnership between the city, Disneyland Resort and KaBOOM!, a nonprofit organization. Cabaldon used the story of how the project came together as an example of what he called “the West Sac way” – “the combination of passion and heart” in a community with a quick-acting government that is organized “to accomplish real things when the opportunity strikes.”

Other new initiatives on the horizon include:

  • A partnership with Code for America, an organization that connects city governments and web professionals through a fellowship program with the purpose of using “civic technology” to help governments solve civic problems.
  • A partnership with “Cities of Learning,” an initiative first launched in Chicago that assists young people with documenting achievements made in the community through a validated system of digital badges. The mayor sees this project as a way of tackling “high enduring unemployment rates in communities like ours,” as it offers a way for individuals to demonstrate accomplishments that go beyond test scores or resumes.
  • Membership in AARP’s Network of Age-Friendly Communities, with work on adopting features and services that help communities prepare for rapid population aging.
  • A proposed partnership with the City of Sacramento on development of a downtown streetcar to help grow the urban core.

Cabaldon also spoke to some of the city’s ongoing challenges, including homelessness and the drought.

Progress was seen with the “Bridge to Housing” pilot program, in which an entire homeless camp based along the riverbank was moved into local housing and received intensive supports with the help of countless community organizations and volunteers. “We’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work,” said the mayor. While acknowledging that there is still a long way to go toward solving the problem of homelessness, “for these individuals, we know it made a difference,” he said, noting that 80% of the individuals who participated in the program now have CalFresh benefits, 90% have health insurance, and many now have a source of income.

Despite the fact that West Sacramento is one of the top water conserving cities in the region and in the state, the ongoing drought presents a challenge to the city’s plans as a “global food hub that’s anchored with local urban farms,” a major city initiative. The mayor stressed the need for all individuals to do their part toward a goal of a 28 percent reduction in water use. “We are working with the governor and the state to try and resolve these issues,” he said, “and we’re making a lot of progress in order to make sure we can protect our conservation and protect the fundamentals of our regional and local economy.”

Included in the “State of the City” program was the presentation of civic leadership awards to Brown Construction, Inc., Matt Hargrove/WSCX, West Sac Veggie Trike and Wicked West Pizza & BBQ.

The event was sponsored by the West Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. Full video of the address can be viewed at the city’s website,

West Sac, Clarksburg women part of history program

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 18, 2015 —

By Al Zagofsky

“We are weaving the stories of women’s lives into the fabric of the history of Yolo County and also get young women interested in history by involving them in the program,” said Shipley Walters, Yolo County Historian  and Secretary for the Yolo County Women’s History Month Committee.

Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives is being presented by the Yolo County Women’s History Month Committee as part of their 28th annual Women’s History Month luncheon.

The event will take place on Thursday, March 5, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Woodland Community & Senior Center, 2001 East Street, Woodland. Reservations and payment must be received by Friday, February 27.  Reservations will not be sold at the door.

The committee will honor four women who are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came to Yolo County from different countries and represent four areas of Yolo County.

They are Alice Carbahal, of Spanish descent from Winters; Bessie Anderson, of Irish descent from Zamora and Knights Landing; Frances Sakai, of Japanese descent from Clarksburg, and Tanya Volkers, of Russian descent from West Sacramento.

The lives of these individual women are important because they reveal exceptionally strong role models who share a more expansive vision of what a woman can do. Their stories and the choices they made, encourage girls and young women to think larger and bolder, and give boys and men a fuller understanding of the female experience. Knowing women’s achievements challenges stereotypes and upends social assumptions about who women are and what women can accomplish.

The late Tanya Volkers of West Sacramento was imprisoned when the Japanese took Shanghai. She later became active in a local Russian cultural society and historical society.  (courtesy photo)

The late Tanya Volkers of West Sacramento was imprisoned when the Japanese took Shanghai. She later became active in a local Russian cultural society and historical society.
(courtesy photo)

West Sacramento’s Tanya Volkers survived a prisoner of war internment camp when the Japanese invaded here home in Shanghai. In 1928, she immigrated to the United States and learned the embroidery business, and In 1945, Tanya built a highly successful embroidery business in San Francisco.  She settled in West Sacramento, and co-founded the West Sacramento Russian Cultural Society, was a member of the West Sacramento Historical Society, and an ardent supporter of the incorporation of West Sacramento. She greeted Russian ships when they came to West Sacramento.

While visiting Windsor, England, she took a tour of Windsor Castle, fell and injured herself and ended up in the Queen Mother’s wheelchair. Tanya Volkers passed away in 2008, in her home in West Sacramento at 99 years of age.

Each woman’s story will be presented by a female student from the Davis Senior High School Theater Arts Department. Gwyneth Bruch, drama teacher from the high school, is coordinating the program with Miriam Nansen as Alice Carahal, Sofie Brown as Frances Sakai, Geneva Duren as Tanya Volkers and Naomi Gerner as Bessie Anderson.

ABOVE: Former West Sacramentan Louisa Vessell is one of the organizers of next month’s celebration of women’s history  (photo by AL ZAGOFSKY for the News-Ledger)

ABOVE: Former West Sacramentan Louisa Vessell is one of the organizers of next month’s celebration of women’s history
(photo by AL ZAGOFSKY for the News-Ledger)

The committee encourages young people to attend the luncheon so they can hear about some remarkable women who may inspire them or have an impact on their lives.

The cost for the luncheon is $25. For reservations, make checks payable to WHM, and mail to WHM, P.O. Box 711, Woodland, CA 95776. The luncheon will be catered by Anderson Family Catering & BBQ of Winters.  Proceeds from the luncheon will benefit public libraries in Yolo County for the purchase of women’s history materials. The deadline for reservations for the Yolo County Women’s History Month Luncheon is March 5, 2015

To learn more about the luncheon, or to make reservations, contact Kate Mawdsley at 530-758-5093 / or Louisa Vessell at 916-451-2113 / 916-799-9932 / or visit

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Copyright News-Ledger 2015

Volunteers needed for Grand Jury

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 18, 2015 —

News-Ledger Staff

Would you like to serve on the next Yolo County Grand Jury?

Each July 1, the local court empowers a panel of 19 people to serve on this independent arm of the local judicial system.

“The primary civil function of the grand jury is to review the operations of city and county government as well as other tax-supported agencies and special districts,” reports the office of Court Executive Officer Shawn Landry. “Based on these reviews, the grand jury publishes its findings and may recommend constructive action to improve the quality and effectiveness of local government.”

The grand jury also listens to evidence and considers criminal indictments, and follows up on complaints from citizens, government employees and others.

Jurors serve for one year, meeting twice a month and spending about 25-40 hours per month on the job. They receive a small stipend and travel allowance.

Among the qualifications: you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18 years old, you must have been a Yolo County resident for at least one year before selection, and you may not have been convicted of a felony.

Visit or contact the Yolo Superior Court, Jury Services, 725 Court Street, Room 303, Woodland, CA 95695, (530) 406-6828.

Applications are due by Feb. 27.

Copyright News-Ledger 2015

West Sac man one of nation’s oldest — and liveliest — stadium vendors

Howard Lowe shares some moves on  Westacre Road  (By AL ZAGOFSKY for the News-Ledger)

Howard Lowe shares some moves on
Westacre Road
(By AL ZAGOFSKY for the

NEWS-LEDGER — FEB 18, 2015 —

By Al Zagofsky

The “Nation’s Oldest Stadium Vendor” is what a Bay-area publication calls 74-year-old Howard “Crazy Legs” Lowe of West Sacramento.

While Lowe is both embarrassed and humbled by this claim, he nonetheless loves the publicity and the adoration he receives from the many fans he garnered while selling Kettle Corn in Raley Stadium and the major ballparks of San Francisco.

Crazy Legs loves to dance, and when he’s vending his sweet and salty Kettle Corn in stadiums like the Giants’ AT&T Park, and the loud speakers play out a country or rockabilly tune, he gets happy feet and rubber knees, and gets down—free styling to the music. And soon, the kids are up out of their seats shaking their booties along with him. Their parents soon follow and the whole aisle is a-groovin’.

Before the bankruptcy of Tower Records, Lowe worked in their West Sacramento warehouse, a job that had the unique benefit of periodic concerts from the recording artists. He remembers Allison Krauss, and the rapper Coolio, “who strutted through the warehouse with his entire entourage,” Lowe said. “The owner, Russ Solomon, liked to promote young bands, and he would have the musicians come out and play a set for the employees. We used to look forward to that all the time.”

A lifetime baseball addict, when he learned that the River Cats were coming to Raley Field, Lowe applied to work at the concessions—even before the stadium opened. During construction, he toured the stadium several times.

“May 15, 2000 was the first game for the River Cats,” Lowe remembers.  He was assigned to sell beer. It was a night game and drew a crowd of 15,000 people, and most of them had to stay in the concourse watching the thunder and lightning. “It was the most miserable weather. It was pitiful that night. Everybody hung out on the concourse eating food and drinking beer.”

Not liking beer, he transferred to guest services as an usher, transferred again into food service, and became a server. As a server, he would deliver meals from the kitchen to the patrons in the seating bowl.

“The first time I was doing this, I was carrying three or four cups of hot chocolate on a tray,” he explained. “I was trying to be really careful, and wouldn’t you know it—a foul ball landed right in the middle of the tray, right in the middle of the hot chocolates. I saw it coming but I couldn’t react fast enough.”

Lowe took to vending hotdogs, french fries, lemonade— just about everything that the vendors hustled, but as he started reaching his later 60s, he switched to “kettle corn because it was the lightest thing to carry.” He carries 15 to 20 bags in an old Crackerjack bag turned inside out.

While ushering and standing around and waiting, he started tapping his feet to the bluegrass song, Cotton-Eyed Joe.  “I felt the beat. I felt the music and I decided to be me,” Lowe said.  “I love people and I love music and I love sports. It just happened.”

Lowe always loved dancing, but it was at a bluegrass festival in South Sacramento Beach Lake Preserve where he became famous. “They started calling me Happy Feet, Rubber Legs, and Crazy Legs—and the name Crazy Legs stuck.”

Vending at Raley Field was tough work. “In the summers,  it can get really hot—sometimes over 100° in Sacramento, and almost as hot in the Bay area. I put crushed ice in a cloth underneath my baseball cap to keep cool.”

As Crazy Legs approached his 70th birthday in 2010, he was told that the River Cats concessions no longer required his services. Fortunately, during the times that the River Cats were on the road, he found vendor work at several stadiums in the San Francisco area.

And so, if you go to AT&T Park or some of the other stadiums in the Bay area, look for Crazy Legs, spring for a bag of his Kettle Corn, and shake your booty with the granddaddy of the stadium vendors.

  Do you like what you see here?

  You can support local journalism, support this website, and see all the News-Ledger’s articles every week! Subscribe to the News-Ledger newspaper. It’s only $20 per year within West Sacramento – once a week, delivered to your mailbox.

  You can even try it for free for two months if you live in West Sacramento. Just send your name and mailing address to (offer open to new subscribers in West Sacramento ZIP codes 95691 & 95605).

Copyright News-Ledger 2015