Sharon, Edgar and Candie

Meet some dedicated park-watchers and help a horse if you can

A few months ago, I wrote about two people I see on my way to the office each workday morning. Most days, they’re sitting in the same spot, on a bench in Lower Bidwell Park near the roundabout at Manzanita and Vallombrosa avenues.

There was a comfortable familiarity in seeing their faces again and again after dropping my toddler off at preschool. And one day, after weeks of making up stories in my mind about who they were and what they were doing there, we smiled and waved at each other. One of my guesses was that they were Park Watch volunteers. It was a pretty good one.

The folks I’ve come to rely on for this friendly greeting are Sharon Stern and Edgar Ovalle, a couple who indeed are park volunteers. For more on the Park Watch program and to put some faces to the names, check out Greenways on page 16.

Stern and Ovalle are faithful CN&R readers, according to Stern, who emailed me shortly after seeing that column (“Only in Chico,” Dec. 18) to introduce herself. Even still, they found out from other readers familiar with their presence at the park that they’d been mentioned in the newspaper. That’s a testament to their attendance at the site every day. They get to the park at about 6 a.m. and take a break on that bench after a run or bike ride.

As Stern told me, they know hundreds of regular park users by name, and more than 100 others by sight. And then there are the drivers, about 60 including me and my husband, whom the couple wave to as they whiz down Vallombrosa. Stern said the waving began as a car with kids passed by. “One hello grew to two and three and the rest is history,” she explained.

There’s a lot more to their volunteer efforts than waving or saying hello to passersby, but without that part of their outreach, I’d probably never cross paths with them. Speaking of which, one of these days when I have a day off I’m going to ride my bike out to that bench for a proper hello. I’d actually planned to do that over the holidays, but my son was ill during that time. I’ve been battling something gnarly myself the past two weeks. I’m affectionately calling it the plague.

Help a horse. Regular readers know I’m a dog lover and that I grew up with horses. I don’t have any equines of my own these days, but I still hold a special place for them in my heart. That’s why I want to alert folks to a plea from The Mustang Project, the local nonprofit that rescued dozens of wild horses—protecting them from slaughter—that were rounded up from public lands last year.

One of the creatures, a mare called Candie, came to the rescue organization with a badly injured leg. Long story short, it’s infected and requires surgery and antibiotics. To help Candie, go to and click the link to a crowdfunding page.