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Community Profile: Plenty to do in friendly, small-town Grass Valley

By Tinka Davi

Grass Valley’s historic downtown business district has many unique shops which are popular with tourists and local residents.
Grass Valley’s historic downtown business district has many unique shops which are popular with tourists and local residents. Ed Andersen

In their search for a home a few years ago, Erin and Carlos Angulo were looking for land where they could build a home. They checked around the Grass Valley area and settled in the southern part of Nevada County, about 25 miles from Grass Valley.

They didn’t build, but bought a custom home on acreage that was a short sale. They moved in 2011.

Erin liked the open land and the elevation that was low enough for snow and views, definitely a change from their former home in Folsom.

Grass Valley attractions are “lots of open spaces, a small-town feel and lots of outdoor activities — hiking, fishing and more,” she said.

Robin Galvan-Davies, CEO, Greater Grass Valley Chamber of Commerce and executive director, Grass Valley Visitors Center, said people are attracted to the quality of life, the hometown charm, outdoor recreation and entertainment, lower cost of living than coastal communities or to be near family.

Alisa Johnson of the Sierra Lifestyle Team at Keller Williams Realty said Grass Valley appeals to people who want to get away from the big city. They’re looking for a slower pace of life, a simpler way of life.

That’s not the Angulo’s lifestyle.

Carlos was still working the first year they lived there and he commuted to Sacramento — “a long commute,” Erin Angulo said.

Among their activities these days are church in Grass Valley, the Gold Country Welcome Club, Scouts, woodturning (a form of woodworking that is used to create wooden objects on a lathe), plays and concerts, the County Fair and Grass Valley’s Cornish Christmas.

She is currently president of the Auburn Garden Club and was president of Folsom Garden Club a few years ago.

“It’s amazing how many things we do,” she said.

“The dining and recreational opportunities are great. There are lots of wonderful restaurants and small shops are numerous.”

For major shopping, she heads to Auburn, Roseville or Folsom.

It’s about a 30- to 40-minute drive to big box stores in larger communities, Johnson said.

Otherwise, “everything we need is in Nevada County. That includes art programs, book stores, … It’s all nestled up here.”

Grass Valley has three distinct shopping districts, Galvan-Davies said. They are the historic downtown, the Brunswick basin between Grass Valley and Nevada City and another at McKnight Way and Freeman Lane.

She noted several “fun new businesses in downtown —Crystal Empire Gems, Grass Valley Games, Dovetail Designs, Bent Metal Tasting Room, Homes by Towne Sales Center, Ramen on Main Street and, soon to re-open under new ownership, Frank's Pizza.”

Johnson’s family has lived in Grass Valley for over 36 years. She went away to college and returned 14 years ago.

She attended schools in Nevada County, where her four children currently are students.

Elementary school districts include Pleasant Ridge Union, Grass Valley, Union Hill and Chicago Park and Nevada Joint Union High School.

Johnson and her family live just south of Grass Valley, about 10 minutes away in Alta Sierra, where homes are on half-acre lots and there’s an 18-hole golf course.

Other communities within the area are Morgan Ranch, The Cedars, Lake of the Pines and homes in downtown Grass Valley.

Homes by Towne has broken ground for 37 homesites at the Ridge Meadows neighborhood on Ridge Road and also has acquired the first phase of Berriman Ranch in Grass Valley, Galvan-Davies said.

Inventory of resale homes is extremely low, Johnson said.

“It’s truly more of a seller’s market where things move quickly. The options are a bit limited which is driving home sale prices up in most areas.”

The number of homes currently on the market in Grass Valley is 377. Prices range from $250,000 to $850, 000 but are mostly around $289,000 to $475,000.

Average asking price or average sold price is $375,000 for homes that are 1,700 square feet with three bedrooms and two baths.

Properties are as small as .10 acres, more are in the .30 range and some are as large as hundreds of acres, Johnson said.

There are historic homes in the downtown area and several condominiums in the community.

“Nevada County is a desirable area for families and single individuals,” Johnson said. “We offer an amazing community with art, music and nature that people can explore. We are also close to hiking, biking, outdoor adventures and more.”

Other recreation includes golf and disc golf, swimming in municipal pools, lakes and the South Yuba River and gold panning, Galvan-Davies said.

Grass Valley is a town that’s maintained its historic flavor, Angulo said.

Many of the buildings in the downtown area are on the national register of historic places.

The city’s history is closely linked to California’s Gold Rush when vast amounts of gold was discovered and extracted from the community’s underground mines. It was one of the richest of all California gold mining towns.

The community’s Cornish Christmas Celebration was launched in 1967 to preserve the city’s Cornish heritage and holiday traditions. The event is held Friday nights from Dec. 2 to 23.

Today and Sunday the Country Christmas Faire will be held at the fairgrounds.

Grass Valley has a wonderful small-town feel, Angulo said.

“You always see someone you know. Everyone is very friendly, nice, kind and cares about each other.”

Those who want a simpler way of life can find it in Grass Valley, Johnson said.

“They like the fact that we get all four seasons and there’s a plethora of things to do, Or they can do nothing at all.”

Tinka Davi is a freelance writer and editor based in Folsom.

FAST FACTS

Where: 75 miles east of Sacramento

Size: 4.7 square miles

Population: almost 13,000

County: Nevada

Charter City: March 1893

Government: Council-Administrator

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