We have closely followed the hearings and options presented for the future location of the North County Corridor (Oakdale Bypass).
The residents along Stearns Road have loudly voiced their objections in public forum and they certainly have substantive points of view that must be considered.
The Burchell Nursery is also in the potential path of the bypass – one of three proposed routes neatly splits the 800 acre ranch east of Oakdale into two separate pieces.
Should this route be adopted I believe it is safe to say that the Burchell Nursery will be forced to relocate its operations to South Fresno County and Oakdale and Stanislaus County will lose yet another major employer.
At peak we employee some 250 workers and staff, and our year round work force numbers 50 to 60 employees. All of these employees live in the immediate area and all would be severely impacted if the local nursery operation closed down. Obviously we would offer them employment at our Fowler location, but that would no doubt cause most of our workers to simply be unemployed.
A brief look at the nursery history bears out the realities of this situation. For many years the nursery operated its sales, distribution and variety orchards on McHenry Avenue in Modesto. When McHenry was widened and Pelandale was cut through the nursery could no longer operate under these urban conditions - traffic being the biggest problem. Thus the company completely closed down the Modesto operation and moved to Oakdale. This move gave Oakdale one of its largest and most prestigious businesses.
For many years one of the nursery’s main growing grounds was located on the east side of Oakdale, and as the city grew around this farming operation it was no longer viable to operate standard farming methods and this too was closed down.
Thus, the Burchell Hill subdivision was created out of land that had been successfully farmed for years, growing our basic nursery stock. No longer could we spray, disc, harvest or fertilize this ground and subdividing was the only option.
Should the Bypass split the present nursery grounds, history will surely repeat itself. The property will no longer be viable to operate as growing grounds. Vital farming equipment, major irrigation pumps and systems, and other nursery farming operations will not be possible.
This would open the door to another subdivision, one that would create a number of almond farms in the 20, 40 and 80 acre size, which would be attractive to farmers.
These farms would not require the present number of employees and the amounts of monies spent locally for intense nursery operations would also leave the area. History would repeat itself, as the nursery will quietly close down the local operations and move 100 miles south to begin again in an area more conducive to this type of farm operation.
The Burchell Nursery proudly received the Oakdale Chamber of Commerce “Business of the Year” award several years ago. It would be a real shame to see a business operation like Burchell close its local doors because of a highway that prevented its successful operation.
We have made the County of Stanislaus and Caltrans aware of those concerns. Now the citizens will know these issues as well.
Richard Hagerty is Property Manager for The Burchell Nursery, Inc., 12000 Highway 108-120 east of Oakdale.