What would Annie Bidwell do?

CHICO, Calif. - The Chico City Council's vote to approve the sale of alcohol at Bidwell Park Golf Course has raised a lot of eyebrows.

The course, which is managed by Rancho Murieta-based company Empire Golf, will soon be able to sell alcohol for the first time.

But some long-time Chicoans say this new policy flies in the face of tradition and one of the city's founders, Annie Bidwell, a prohibitionist who did not approve of alcohol use. She felt so strongly she barred the making and selling of alcohol as one condition in the deed that transferred her extensive property to the City of Chico.  That property would later become Chico's best-known attraction, Bidwell Park.

Assistant City Attorney Roger Wilson spent several weeks studying the deed Annie Bidwell signed in 1905, and many other documents concerning Annie Bidwell's 2,400 acre gift to the City of Chico.

These deeds restricted the making and selling of alcohol in the park, that includes the property that would later become Bidwell Golf Course.

Wilson said probate documents show, however, that those restrictions would legally no longer apply.

"Those portions of the deeds were purchased by a title company in the 1930s and actually sold to the city in the 1940s so the city owns those areas of the park free and clear," said Wilson.

Wilson said the city is on solid legal ground.

But does legal make it right?  Two of the seven city council members said the new booze policy flies in the face of Annie Bidwell's wishes.  Council members Ann Schwab and Tami Ritter voted against the measure.

And the measure faced an even closer preliminary vote at the Bidwell Parks Commission. Janine Rood is one three members of the seven-member commission who also disagrees with the change.

"I would just like honor Annie Bidwell's wishes really," said Rood. "That's my main concern."

Around Chico it's not uncommon to hear people invoke the name of Annie Bidwell and what she would have wanted for the city.  It seems clear she would not have approved of alcohol sales.

Rood says this will probably close the lid on this issue.  She doesn't expect any further challenges to the new alcohol policy. 

The alcohol license still needs ABC approval before being finalized.

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