Ruffalo: May we suggest that you ‘Ski Auburn’ or ‘Spa Auburn’?

Looking Behind the Scenes
By: Jim Ruffalo
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The intent was to write about something else this Sunday, but the response I received from last Sunday’s column convinced me to add to it. Now, I may be a cult of one on this, but the question of “What does Auburn need?” still has many more answers than the ones previously printed. Bruce Cosgrove, who heads up the local Chamber of Commerce, checked in with an idea he’s been mulling for several years, one which — if I remember correctly — even was the subject of a Project Auburn exercise a few years ago. “I started out with the concept of ‘Ski Auburn,’ but that can be expanded to a year-around concept,” he said, explaining that the “Ski Auburn” idea involves having snow-lovers come here in the winter and park their vehicle once. After that, shuttles take them up to the slopes in the daytime, with the nighttime après-ski events to be held back here. Those events would include dining, entertainment shows, art exhibits and myriad other presentations that local entrepreneurs think up whenever trying to figure out how to survive economically. “The idea is to make us a true destination stop. You come here and we’ll get you to the fun,” he added. A great idea, is it not? Talk about bringing the mountain to whomever! There were other ideas along this line, but as the Gentle Reader is well aware, I never reference the anonymous comments appearing at our online version of the columns and stories. The rationale is that if I’m brave enough — or dumb enough, for that matter — to stick my name on these efforts, then commenters need to do likewise. However, today I break that rule because “laughwithu” had one of the most intriguing ideas yet along the lines we’re currently exploring. You can get to your computers and call up last week’s column, then scroll down to “comments” for the unabridged work, but “laughwithu” displayed some brilliance when outlining his (or her), shall we say, village-spa concept. The gist of the idea was to designate a portion of the city as an area where harried Sacramentans and denizens of the tightly packed Roseville-Rocklin area could come here and unwind. The concept calls for the availability of bicycling, dining on “locally grown produce,” purchasing well-crafted art, relaxing to local live music and enjoying all aspects of outdoor recreation. It would be, as the comment put it: “a young, bohemian alternate” to the hustle and hub-bub of those down-the-hill cities. This idea is also a solution to one drawback of the City of Auburn. It seems that very little of the village is used after dark, which is economically foolish in that if the facilities are there, why not utilize them to the fullest? That’s the sort of thinking called for by Wayne Manning in last week’s column when he proposed calling for a series of meetings by the Brain Trust. However, City Council member Mike Holmes e-mailed that he’d already put together such a gathering back in January of 2009, when he was mayor. That “Economic Summit” came up with several ideas, some of which are being acted upon, such as moving the Placer County Visitors Center and the California Welcome Center to Downtown Auburn. Also discussed back then was the dilemma of the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) which saw its state funding resources disappear. “Auburn gets one-million visitors a year because of ASRA,” Holmes said, adding that some of those are repeat visitors, but adds that all those folks are accompanied by wallets and purses. Holmes said he’s expecting a soon-to-be announced funding agreement for ASRA between the Bureau of Reclamation and State Parks. Not all of the needs are rosy or intriguing; some of them are troublesome and grounded in reality. Cheryl Maki provided a prime example of that when she insists that Auburn needs to align itself with a regional waste-water treatment system if it wants a future at all. Her premise is that whatever local residents decide what they want their city to be, most — if not all — of the ideas will be predicated upon having proper waste-water treatment. Right about here I was going to point out that Maki’s thoughts were a splash of cold water being thrown into our faces, but can the Gentle Reader imagine the sort of torturous metaphors gushing forth? Nevertheless, she’s right in that the question is one of the main ones to be answered if Auburn is to be anything more than a bedroom community for other areas. “It’s true that our current city system is magnificently run, but no matter what we do, we’ll always be at the mercy of continual state mandates,” she said. That almost goes without saying. We’ve all seen the state — and occasionally the feds — mandate one improvement or another, almost always just as soon as we’ve made yet another costly improvement or update to the local plant. “If we don’t answer this problem now, our kids and grandkids will have to, and it will cost then a whole lot more than if we handle the problem now,” she said. Jim Ruffalo’s column runs on Sundays. Reach him at