Around the Valley with a Total Reading Time of Five Minutes

What the drought looks like at the former Stevinson Ranch golf course, why visitors love spending time at Hilmar Cheese Visitor Center, and a special designation for Our Lady of Mercy Church in Merced.

Photo by Steve Newvine

There are many signs of what the drought has done to the Central Valley.  Drive through any residential neighborhood and you will find brown lawns and dirty cars.  It is not surprising to go out to dinner at a local restaurant and see a sign that says “water served on request” as managers comply with California law.  

The photograph at the top of this column shows the former hole number one at one of my favorite golf courses, Stevinson Ranch, before it closed in July.  Rich green fairways lured golfers to this out-of-the-way world class course for several years.  Management closed the course in July due to a drop in business coupled with the ever increasing need for irrigation water.

Now take a look at that same golf hole two months after the watering stopped. 

Photo by Steve Newvine

This is What the Drought Looks Like in our Valley

Turning off the irrigation at a golf course pales in comparison to the thousands of acres of farmland throughout the state that have been shut down from production.  The valley has gone through a very rough dry patch.  Let’s hope we’ve seen the worst of it.

Photo by Steve Newvine

Hilmar Cheese Factory

After nearly a decade living in Merced County, I finally got to see the visitor center at Hilmar Cheese.  Every year, the Center at 9001 Lander Avenue, welcomes more than 15,000 school students for field trips, at least 300 tour buses, and thousands of others.  

Inside, there are displays showing the basics of cheese production.  But as many of us know, making the dairy product at Hilmar Cheese is a sophisticated process.  According to an environmental news website, the company employed nearly eight-hundred workers in Hilmar in 2010, with more employees at a facility in Texas.  Hilmar Cheese turns out two tons of cheese daily.   

The visitor center offers a welcoming environment for families, includes a gift shop, and offers a tribute to the agriculture industry in the valley.  It’s worth the trip

Photo by Steve Newvine

Holy Year of Mercy

Finally, Our Lady of Mercy Church in Merced is set to welcome visitors from throughout California over the next twelve months.

Pope Francis has named the 2016 church year as the “Holy Year of Mercy”.  The official name is the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.  

In the Diocese of Fresno, Bishop Armando Ochoa has designated Our Lady of Mercy as a “stationary church for the faithful” during the year of mercy.  It’s expected the Bishop will authorize special Mass times and services throughout the church year, which runs from December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016.  The Our Lady of Mercy Preservation Foundation receives contributions for the upkeep of the church.  A fund raiser was recently held at St. Patrick’s Parish Hall.

The church expects many visitors to come to Our Lady of Mercy over the next twelve months.  The church is located at 459 W. 21st Street in Merced.