It’s been years since railcars moved along the traction lines from General Mills through town, behind homes and businesses on their journey to the main rail line with destinations across America. The railroad tracks have sat silent and unused since the Big G ceased operations at its Lodi plant in 2015. The tracks may have been out of sight, but they haven’t been forgotten. There’s a group called Lodi Greenline that wants to utilize the former train corridor from Woodbridge through Lodi as a bike and pedestrian path.

Doug Bojack and Jeff Pell of Bike Lodi presented their rails-to-trails plan to the city council last March, but nothing has happened since then. Their plans call for the acquisition of the two miles of rail line property, removal or paving over of the existing rails, planting of landscaping along the sides and bike lanes down the middle of the new pathway. The benefits they cite include, “Add more than twelve acres of functional greenway running through the center of Lodi to Woodbridge” and “Connect Lodi’s greatest landmarks with downtown Woodbridge and wine country.”

Money doesn’t seem to be the issue as Measure K funds and other grant monies are available to pay for the project. So what’s the holdup? The Lodi City Council would need to make a decision about moving ahead with the project, according to City Manager Steve Schwabauer, himself an avid cyclist. At least one council member has reservations. Bob Johnson is concerned that Lodi would be giving up “one of the few properties left with rail access” if an industry were to decide to occupy the old G.M. plant.

It would be a “lost opportunity,” he says. The Greenline project proponents have established a website with all the particulars. It’s up to the city to make the next move, but Schwabauer says the issue may be on a council shirtsleeve meeting agenda sometime this month.

ON A ROLL: Speaking of Council Member Bob Johnson, he’s back to attending city council meetings in person, albeit with the help of a wheelchair or walker. Bob’s been laid up with a nagging condition affecting his legs, rendering him unable to walk for the past year or so, during which time he would “attend” via conference call. He says he’s made good progress towards recovery and is feeling better.

IN THE NEWS: If you begin to notice more visitors from Chicago in town, it may be because of a very flattering piece recently published in the Chicago Tribune about Lodi, its wine, restaurants and general ambiance. The writer, Mary Ann Anderson, gushes about the peace and solitude she found in Lodi (compared to Chicago, of course). Some locals would complain it’s too quiet here. She calls Lodi an “off-the-map destination,” an “oasis,” and “the wine road less traveled.” Among the several wineries mentioned in the article are Mettler, Michael-David, Klinker Brick, Harney Lane, and Bokisch. She was especially impressed with the food at Pietro’s, Rosewood Bar and Grill, and Towne House Restaurant at Wine and Roses. Rounding out her experience was a visit to Karen Chandler's Olive Drop Olive Oil Farm. Funny how city folk are amazed by the “secret” that is Lodi, something we’ve known all along.

STRIKE UP THE BAND: There’s music in the air, at least around the neighborhood of School and Locust. That’s because B Sharp School of Music has opened up in the “house” on that corner. Shelby Norton-Moran writes, “My favorite thing when you enter the door to the school is how the sounds of piano, singing, different string instruments, and drums fill the air.” Chase and Carol Ann Loeb are the new owners of the school and they’ve recently started an orchestra, which performed their first concert last December, says Shelby. Carolers from the school were also strolling through downtown Lodi last Christmas season. Some of the activities the school’s planning for this spring and summer include concerts in the garden of the school, jam session camps for kids, and grand recitals, according to Shelby. This is welcome news to some parents, who’ve noticed that many public schools have phased out music programs for lack of funding.

NEW FACE: The city of Lodi’s website received a recent face-lift and do-over, which is a marked improvement over the last iteration. But Kathy Grant wonders how the city got its web address, “lodi.gov.” The city rolled out its website back in the mid-nineties, when the Internet was known as the “Information Super Highway.” Lodi was one of the first cities to have a Web presence. At that time, a municipality could request a “gov” domain address. That changed several years later and the designation is now reserved for federal websites only. In fact the feds approached the city about 10 years ago threatening to take the web address away, but backed down when they were persuaded by the city attorney that they had no case.

WINNERS CIRCLE: If you ever want to find out who the big California Lottery winners are, check out the Lottery website (calottery.com/win/winner stories). The last big winner from Lodi was Jason Prewett, who won $750,000 back in February, 2017. According to the story posted on the site, Prewett bought his winning ticket at the Save Mart store on the corner of Kettleman and Hutchins. It was not his usual stop for buying tickets, but torrential rain that year caused him to detour. Lucky for him, literally.

THE HEN HOUSE: So, how many rotisserie chickens does Costco sell worldwide each year, you ask? Eighty-seven MILLION were sold in 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal. In fact, the retailer is building a “farm-to-table production system (in Nebraska) to ensure a steady supply of rotisserie chickens.” That ain’t chicken feed!

INTO THE FUTURE: It’s only a matter of time before Lodi gets its first “cashless” retail establishment. That is, a store that only accepts plastic for payment — no cash. Think it’s crazy? Starbucks, among others, is experimenting with such cashless stores in other markets. If it proves successful, don’t be surprised if a clerk someday soon refuses your greenbacks and looks at you like you just bounced a check.

Steve is a former newspaper publisher and lifelong Lodian whose column appears Tuesdays in the News-Sentinel. Write to Steve at aboutlodi@gmail.com.

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