Power of the towers

Initiative to save landmarks demonstrates Chico’s distinctiveness

Chico’s old water towers have become such an organic part of the scenery that many people probably didn’t give them an intentional look until last week, when word broke that the icons would disappear in a few months.

As reported in the CN&R (“Landmarks coming down,” Downstroke, June 8), a seismic survey found critical deficiencies in the pair at the corner of Orient and Third streets as well as two individual towers, near Chico State and Enloe. The California Water Service Co. said the cost to retrofit each tower would run approximately $1 million—around five times the cost of dismantling and removal.

Reaction came swiftly, as tends to happen in the age of social media. A Facebook group, Save the Chico Towers, sprung up Monday (June 11); by Wednesday morning it had 164 members, including City Councilman Andrew Coolidge. Historian Michael Magliari, also a group member, publicly raised concerns about Cal Water’s decision-making process. (See Letters, page 6.)

The towers matter to Chicoans. The groundswell shows they’re more than just subjects in Jake Early lithographs. They’re integral to the landscape, pillars of the past, the oldest dating to 1905.

The CN&R encourages Cal Water to consider public sentiment and counsel from experts such as Magliari, who may offer solutions previously not considered. Developer Dan Gonzales may take a tower or two for Meriam Park, but that won’t preserve all the landmarks. Can we save all four?

The attempt itself, born out of residents’ coalescing initiative, demonstrates yet again the spirit that distinguishes Chico.