Ben Lomond Village Alliance
Ben Lomond Village Alliance steering committee members host a meeting April 20 to introduce themselves and their mission to the community and businesses of Ben Lomond. (Contributed)

Last month the fledgling Ben Lomond Village Alliance (BLVA) was introduced to the community and businesses of Ben Lomond.

The April 20 event was held at the historic Park Hall, a community building owned by all residents of Ben Lomond residing within 1-1/2 miles.

The steering committee for the BLVA arrived early to prepare for the meeting. Anticipation was running high as they watched the doors to see how many people would attend. The meeting was to begin at 10:30am, and at 10:20am only a few people had arrived; however, by the 10:30am start, the hall was filled with 75 inquisitive community members.

Everyone in attendance was filled with anticipation and excitement to learn about what the Ben Lomond Village Alliance was about.

“The energy in the room reflected the love residents feel for their town,” said Molly Cokeley, a member of BLVA steering committee.

Heidi Castagna, a 20-year Ben Lomond resident, opened the meeting by welcoming everyone and thanking them for attending. She stated it was an informational meeting sharing the energy and ideas behind the Alliance, not a political platform.

She invited the 10 committee members to introduce themselves and briefly mention why they wanted to help create an Alliance.

Ben Lomond Village Alliance
Ben Lomond Village Alliance committee member Burgundi Rose Thure (center) captures ideas from the audience about what they would like to see happen in the town on a white board. (Contributed)

The audience heard from Julie Mitchell, who grew up on Alba Road (her bus stop was at the Alba School House). She read a definition of what a steering committee does, “provides guidance, recommendations and leadership to drive successful outcomes.”

Julie Horner, part owner of the SLV Post, mentioned that the Ben Lomond Library was a passion of hers as both her parents were librarians. Lisa Robinson, president of the SLV Historical Society, stated that historic preservation was her motivation. 

Other committee members spoke of how much they loved Ben Lomond and wanted to enrich the experience of living here.

Steve Leib was the last to introduce himself. He and his wife Vivian have lived and worked in Ben Lomond for over 20 years. The Leibs are the owner/custodians of the historic Wee Kirk Church, where Dr. Leib ran his medical practice until he retired.

Leib told of how as a child growing up in Los Angeles he “knew” he would live in a small town with big trees when he grew up. He then asked the gathering, “What brought you here today?”

Attendees ranged from third- and fourth-generation residents to more recently arrived new families. Many people shared their deep connection to the community and expressed their desire to contribute to the revitalization of the village.

Castagna then gave a brief overview of the mission, vision and goals of the BLVA and asked the group, “What are your ideas, what would you like to see happen in our town?”

The ideas came pouring out—more foot traffic and more businesses, a community garden space and farmers market, activities for teens and families, movies, dances, picnics in the park, preservation of the historic Park Hall and community library, improvements to the look of the town, holiday activities and rehabilitate the “Welcome to Ben Lomond” sign.

The Ben Lomond Park dam was mentioned several times in the hope of possibly bringing it back.

Committee member Burgundi Rose Thure of Sew Rose captured these visions on a white board for everyone to see.

Castagna then introduced Ronnie Trubek, a 50-year resident, the driving force behind the Alliance launch and passionate amateur historian, who spoke about the 120-plus year history of activism in Ben Lomond.

The audience was enraptured by the rich history of Ben Lomond she shared. One notable character was John Burns, a Scottsman who planted the first vineyard in the mid-1800s and named the mountain Ben Lomond in honor of his overseas hometown, also credited with naming Bonny Doon.

Ben Lomond Park Hall
Preservation of the historic Park Hall in Ben Lomond was among the ideas brought up by those in attendance at the Ben Lomond Village Alliance meeting April 20. (Contributed)

Wealthy lumberman James P. Pierce laid out the actual town in 1887 as his Mill Street, Ben Lomond Land and Lumber Company operations were winding down. When applying for a U.S. Post Office, the preferred name of Pacific Mills was turned down and the name Ben Lomond was taken from the mountain rising behind the fledgling community.

Community spirit was strong in the early 1900s. Trubek told the riveting story of a small Ben Lomond Improvement Association facilitating the creation of the riverside Ben Lomond Library Park, a gargantuan feat involving parcel donations and swaps, massive fundraising and buildings being rolled down the street.

She spoke with awe of the huge contribution that the Ben Lomond Fire Department made to the community over the decades and continues to this day. 

She finished with the Town Plan, which was developed with extensive community input in the 1980s, and the Santa Cruz County Park, Open Space and Cultural Services public workshops in 1991 on the design and development of the updated Ben Lomond Park that all enjoy today with the childrens’ play area and sports court.

Requests were made for a copy of the remarks, and Trubek promised a more comprehensive presentation of the overall history of Ben Lomond complete with photos later in the year.

Historic community activism was a natural segue to volunteerism today. Along with the handouts on the vision/mission statement and visionary goals and pursuits was a volunteer sign-up sheet. 

From the 75 people attending the meeting, more than 45 folks turned in volunteer sign-up sheets, reflecting the energy of the room as one of “we care” and “we can make it happen again” commitment. A number of volunteers expressed interest in a leadership position on the inaugural Board.

It was an outstanding community meeting and a positive indication for the future of Ben Lomond. For more about the Ben Lomond Village Alliance, visit its Facebook page at

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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