Barely a week later, the roads are open, the power is on and life is more or less back to normal.
While flooding has always been a part of the reality of living in Felton Grove, one resident has made it her mission to show the world that the unique history of the neighborhood — which has roots as old as the town itself — goes far beyond the water level of the river.
The community sits along the bank of the San Lorenzo River behind Covered Bridge Park and floods during sustained rainfall that raises the river level.
“I think there are so many benefits to living here,” said Vicki Wees, a real estate agent who has lived in Felton Grove for more than 30 years. “To be able to live here in the mountains, to be able to walk to all the amenities — it’s hard to come by.”
Wees recently launched FeltonGrove.com, a blog dedicated to documenting the community and development of the neighborhood, from its beginnings as a summer getaway destination to a collection of private homes.
The idea for the blog originated with a suggestion by Mary Anderson at a meeting of the San Lorenzo Valley Chamber of Commerce in 2011, Wees said. She said she practiced blogging techniques on a “practice blog” for roughly a year before launching FeltonGrove.com in September 2012.
“I wanted to have a blog about Felton Grove eventually,” she said. “But I didn’t want to embarrass my neighbors.”
Since FeltonGrove.com went live, Wees has spent her free moments interviewing old-timers and poring through old newspapers and museum collections for information about the history of the 21-acre community, which spreads from the Felton Covered Bridge Park to Felton Bible Church along Graham Hill Road.
“I feel this history there — I’m drawn to it,” she said. “A lot of people have been there for a long time and choose to stay there because they love it.”
Once upon a time, Wees said, Felton Grove was a place filled with tent cabins, a few permanent cabins, a summer camp for boys, a baseball field, a tennis court and Saturday evening dances — no jitterbug dancing allowed.
“It was a summer resort for the rich people of the San Francisco Bay Area,” she said.
Wees has found advertisements and other references to the area as a campsite dating as far back as 1880.
The area continued as primarily a summer getaway until the mid-1950s, when a severe storm caused massive flooding that swept away many of the structures.
When Wees moved to the neighborhood in the late 1970s, Felton Grove was one of the few places she could afford to live as a young mother with two children, because, as she said, “it was a dive.”
She described unpaved roads that would become mud pits with the slightest rain, transients squatting in empty summer homes and no street signs to be seen.
Since then, much has changed.
The roads are paved. Streets are marked with signs. And as a result of a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency following floods in 1998, all but three of the 50 homes in the community are elevated so that the area is no longer susceptible to the devastating property damage from floods that was common in years past.
“I’ve watched this neighborhood evolve over the past 30 years,” said Wees, who said she had sold 35 of the 50 properties in that time. “There’s a lot of pride of ownership now.”
As a symbol of Felton Grove’s history, Wees recently commissioned a faux wooden sign at the entrance to the neighborhood, welcoming visitors and including the URL of FeltonGrove.com.
“I didn’t tell people about (the blog) until the sign went up,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be a blogger — it just took on a life of its own.”
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