It turns out one is not the loneliest number you’ll ever do, to riff on the great Harry Nilsson song. Especially when you are the single attendee at a Silverado Modjeska Recreation and Parks District (SMRPD) regular monthly board meeting on a cold, late-December evening, as other canyon residents are busy planning holiday celebrations, justifiably confident, it seems, in the actions of their elected representatives.  The two applicants from Circle S Ranch and Giracci Vineyards having departed after pitching their sponsorship of the 13th Annual Silverado Chili Cook-Off and Round-up, your typically un-intrepid scribe remained, enjoying the happy responsibility of observing the five committed SMRPD directors perform their civic diligence and thoughtful administration.  

With a new, privately owned site proposed for the annual chili con carne carnival raising funds for --- and celebrating! --- the Children’s Center, there will be even more work for them and others, including securing advice from former director Chay Peterson, with ultimate approval and an action plan expected at January’s meeting.  The cattle club’s owner Jeff Schlom and Linda Kearns of Giracci Vineyards --- who will provide parking --- were thanked for their proposal, with a date penciled in --- mark your calendars, especially volunteers --- of Saturday, April 21 at the Jackson Ranch location, where Schlom proposes using his scenic spread to accommodate booths, live music, and otherwise embrace this canyon culinary and community tradition of eating gourmet chili to support the district’s singular enterprise unit. 

Other SMRPD business featured Phil McWilliams’ detailed financial report and review of further pending Silverado Community Center site improvements, including painting the basketball court green and perhaps adding lines for pickle ball, a burgeoning sport championed by Kevin “Gherken” Topp.  Director Debbie Johnson assessed the facility’s impressive annual rental income, hoping to expand its nearly 10 percent yearly revenue total beyond only weddings and memorial services to include corporate events, birthdays and more.  For only $500, Johnson reminds those seeking a bucolic celebratory locale, the Center, with garden and gazebo, kitchen and indoor and outdoor dining areas, lots of parking and scenic views, is the cheapest in the county.  Modjeska Canyon’s own Community Center gets lovelier each week, with exterior painting, outdoor plants and signage in the works. 

Kearns, of Giracci and Cowboy Canyon Winery invites Children’s Center supporters to a soup fundraiser on January 19.  The center, now with 26 students enrolled, and employing four part-time teachers, is doing well, reported Tara Saraye. Its director, Laurie Briggs, recently earned certification as a nature pre-school administrator.

In closed session, the busy board played musical office chairs, per bylaws, with Saraye replacing Topp as board prez, Topp moving to VP, McWilliams now secretary, Francesca Duff as treasurer and Johnson, a director.  Each also works on one of five ad hoc committees, including communications, fundraising and SCC oversight, soliciting volunteers even as they exemplify good governance, whether anybody is watching or not.   

Local herstory
Ranger Emily McKewen of Modjeska House departed that position after working at both Heritage Hill and Arden for nearly four years, supervising improvement of collections management, intern research, volunteer program management, and special event planning.  She coordinated the work of a UCI student conducting a study of Helena Modjeska’s costumes, self-designed for her many theatrical appearances. 

Duff, also on the Modjeska Foundation’s board, reports on its garden committee beautification efforts, including relocation of Madame Mo’s rose garden to a site more favorable to the flowers’ future success. Members researched and identified specific varieties once in the original garden, then coordinated volunteer labor from local Church of Latter-day Saints missionaries doing community work: clearing debris, preparing the ground for planting, and improving the walking paths. Duff reports that the UC Irvine Library recently acquired the original manuscript of a fairy tale book Modjeska created for her grandkids, written in both Polish and English, and hand-illustrated by the multi-talented actress. The original, once held by a museum in New York, is now in the custody of university archivists, with photocopies of some pages on display at Arden.

In other local history news, Inter-Canyon League volunteer Melody McWilliams heads a group cataloging and preserving artifacts and papers, including property and other records of canyon life.

Goin’ with the flow
Vicki Osborn of OC Sheriff’s Department Emergency Management Division reports on U.S. Geological Survey Department and National Weather Service joint assessment, determining that Silverado’s 2014 fire burn area shows substantial recovery in vegetation, soils and hydrology.  Assuming we get any rain at all, this site won’t be used for monitoring, with the Post-Fire Debris Flow Plan discontinued. 

Mimi meme
Congresswoman Walters’ Irvine office has made the news lately, site of protest by activists including canyon residents, some demanding she support DACA students, others encouraging her to oppose the so-called GOP tax overhaul, for which she ultimately voted.


​​Canyon Beat:

A feather in their capsaicin