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Website: When it formed in 2005, MyValleySprings.com set up an Internet website to educate the public about the importance of land use planning, community design, and to encourage participation in the community planning process.  In keeping with an increasingly electronic world and to combat the isolation and lack of services often found in rural communities, the site provides planning information, updates, resources, links to related sites, opinion pieces, meeting notices, and calls to action.

In 2007, the website received 27,060 visits and in 2008, 24,840 visits (representing 612—860 visitors per month).  Though our site is devoted to one small rural community, we have come to realize that many other areas are facing similar pressure, and our site has become a resource for both laypersons and professionals.  We have been cited as a source of information in local newspapers.  In August 2009, we were contacted by a resident of Elizabeth, Colorado, for advice in starting an organization to address uncannily similar issues there.

Valley Springs Community Plan Update: In September 2008, the Calaveras Council of Governments learned their application for a Caltrans Community-Based Transportation Planning Grant to update the Valley Springs Community Plan was successful.  The project partners include MyValleySprings.com, the Local Government Commission, and Calaveras County.  MVS.com and the LGC wrote the grant proposal. The grant is intended to produce a community planning document consistent with the Calaveras County General Plan and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The grant award was $204,648 and CCOG provided a local match of $51,162 for a total project budget of $255,810.  CCOG is administering the grant funds.  The heart of the effort is a highly participatory series of meetings, workshops, and design sessions in which a professional design team (headed by EDAW, Inc.) works with the public onsite to produce a collaborative plan.  The project began in January 2009 and is anticipated to finish in early 2010.  This project is the culmination of a three-year effort by MVS.com to update the community plan.

Public Presentations: MVS.com launched a series of town hall meetings in partnership with the Foothill Conservancy on February 28, 2007 with “Community Design: An Overview of Smart Growth Principles for Rural Communities” followed by “Understanding the Calaveras Council of Governments: A Look at Regional Transportation Planning” on April 12, 2007, and “Water and Land Use Planning: Making the Connection” on May 23, 2007.  In partnership with the Mother Lode Land Trust and, again, the Foothill Conservancy, MVS.com presented “Conservation Strategies: An Overview of Easements and the Williamson Act” on August 16, 2008.  In cooperation with First 5 Calaveras, MVS.com hosted an October 2008 showing of the PBS film, “Where do the Children Play,” which is an exploration of the important link between children’s learning and community design when considering outdoor recreation and play spaces.  (Public presentations are on hold during the community plan update process, 2009-2010, which is generating multiple public meetings and workshops.)

Public Information Campaign:  In addition to the website, the MVS.com public information campaign is ongoing and includes a brochure, email alerts and updates, letters to the editor, guest editorials, advertising in local newspapers, and distributing educational flyers, information sheets, and maps.

Advocating for Sustainable Development: MVS.com researches and comments on proposed projects in the greater Valley Springs area (and, sometimes, beyond) to the county planning department, Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and other relevant agencies such as the Calaveras County Water District, the Department of Fish and Game, and the Army Corps of Engineers.  MVS.com representatives regularly attend and address meetings of the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission.  MVS.com works with other community organizations and activists to promote sustainable growth and development that includes sufficient planning for adequate services and infrastructure without reducing the current levels of service to existing residents or increasing their financial burden.

MVS.com promotes preservation of oak woodlands, wildlife habitat, working landscapes, and historic sites and encourages a range of housing options such as senior, multifamily, workforce, low-income, clustered housing, and conservation subdivisions.  MVS.com promotes an economic base that features agriculture, tourism, education, and local, independent businesses.  MVS.com is an active member of the Calaveras Planning Coalition, which is composed of eleven community groups and organizations united in their belief that the current update of the Calaveras County General Plan should be comprehensive and that citizen participation is the key to a successful update.

On the Record’: A Project to Videotape Important Planning & Community Meetings: Since September 2008, MVS.com has funded videotaping and public viewing of Planning Commission meetings, including the lengthy Trinitas hearings.  Planning Commission (PC) meetings are now being broadcast on Public Access TV, Community Ch. 9, along with Board of Supervisors, CCOG and Angels Camp City Council meetings.  Meeting DVDs may be purchased from PATV.  PC meetings are also archived and available free for public viewing at the County Library in San Andreas and are posted on the Community Action Project website (www.calaverascap.com).

“On the Record” is part of the ongoing effort by MVS.com to educate and inform the public about planning and government, to promote citizen participation in local government and planning decisions, and to help ensure an open, transparent, and legally compliant planning process. The planning commissioners have supported videotaping and public broadcast of their meetings, but as the County did not have funds available for videotaping, MVS.com stepped forward to ensure there is a complete and accessible record of these vitally important meetings. 


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