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Rural enclave threatened with annexation by City of Modesto

This is the oldest black walnut tree in California and is in the Wood Colony area right outside of the City of Modesto. This tree, along with all the farms in Wood Colony, are threatened by annexation and possible development if the Mayor and the Modesto
This is the oldest black walnut tree in California and is in the Wood Colony area right outside of the City of Modesto. This tree, along with all the farms in Wood Colony, are threatened by annexation and possible development if the Mayor and the Modesto
Kevin McClarty

Nestled in a cozy, rural 1,800 acre enclave just west of the City of Modesto, is the farmland enriched area known as Wood Colony. This increasingly rare and precious gem is being threatened by an ambitious city council in nearby Modesto with a totally different agenda than that of the people who live and work in Wood Colony. The city council, which is largely influenced by the Modesto Chamber of Commerce and its commercial business expansion agenda, is hoping to annex the Wood Colony farmland area to provide business parks and other commercial interests in conjunction with expanding transportation thoroughfares, according to The New York Times on March 14.

The Wood Colony area originally was settled by Ebenezer Wood in the mid nineteenth century. German Brethren families who are much like the Amish of Pennsylvania, settled in the Wood Colony area and have been farming and passing their farms down to their children ever since. The Wood Colony area is a microcosm of what American rural life used to be with each family taking pride in its work and passing the farms down to the next generation.

The threatened annexation of this precious rural enclave not only is an affront to those who live in and around the Wood Colony area, but it also is an assault on the precious rural legacy of hard work, devotion, dedication and just plain sweat, that made America the great country it is today. The city council members, led by Mayor Garrad Marsh and City Council member Dave Cogdill, are spouting their ignorance of the importance of the Wood Colony area to future generations of Americans in promoting annexation. At the very least, they are displaying an impervious insensitivity to the needs, aspirations and dreams of those who live in and around the Wood Colony area.

Such insensitivity was blatantly obvious in the comments by city council member Jenny Kenoyer when speaking of the Wood Colony residents who were protesting the threatened annexation: "They can't even vote for me!" At a recent city council meeting attended by hundreds of Wood Colony residents and overflowing into another room with closed circuit televisions, Kenoyer stated that she was considering voting for the annexation because of a proposed technology based manufacturer in the Wood Colony area that would "bring jobs" to Wood Colony. This remark was indicative of more ignorance by another city council member. The Wood Colony area already provides dozens of agriculturally based jobs that are very stable, unlike the somewhat tenuous and precarious technology industry.

One Wood Colony employer is Paul Wegner who runs the Wood Colony Nut Company which produces food products made from almonds, walnuts and other nuts grown in Wood Colony. Wegner made reference to the abundance of jobs in the almond industry that are preeminent in Wood Colony. He cited the fact that there are many family owned and operated agricultural businesses in Wood Colony and they also represent jobs. Wegner stated:

“For crying out loud, they talk about sustainability and putting people back to work. That’s agriculture.”

In an article in the March 14 edition of the online publication, "Eye on Modesto," Emerson Drake brought out the fact that Modesto resident John Walker is circulating a petition to recall city council member Dave Cogdill, Jr.. Cogdill, a Republican whose father, Dave Cogdill, Sr., was removed as the Republican leader in the State Senate by his own party in 2008, has been at the center of controversy throughout his tenure on the city council. He and Mayor Marsh have been pushing for this annexation the hardest.

Marsh claims that he is pushing for the annexation to protect the farmland of Wood Colony from other parties that would use it for their own commercial interests. However, the residents of Wood Colony are not buying the mayor's claims nor his promises. They fear and totally distrust any kind of change and see no reason to upset the apple cart and make any changes to their rare, noble and precious way of life.

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