Grand Opening for the New Paseo

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Downtown Gilroy just got a little more historical, educational and convenient.
On Saturday, former Gilroy Mayor Al Pinheiro and Joan Buchanan, the co-chairpersons of the Gilroy Historic Paseo Project, finished three years of work and cut the ceremonial red ribbon, officially opening the colorful new walkway between Fifth and Sixth streets.
The Paseo features exhibits that tell the story of Gilroy’s long, varied and rich history, along with connecting Monterey street and parking behind Gourmet Alley, easing access to Gilroy’s downtown.
The Paseo (walkway in Spanish) showcases panels with photos, drawings and snippets of Gilroy history, posted on weatherproof boards suspended by sturdy metal frames. Cattle baron Henry Miller, the Gymkhana Rodeo-era, the ethnic makeup of Gilroy, the town’s rich agricultural history and life of the Ohlone Native American tribes are on full display in the passageway between The Nimble Thimble and Lazo Firearms and Consulting.
Completing the project wasn’t without challenges. Gilroy needed to purchase and tear down the old shoe store that stood where the Paseo is now and the remaining walls needed to be strengthened to make them compliant with California earthquake standards. In all, the project cost more than $1.3 million. The city, however, did not pay for any of the historical panels.
“The city bought the property, did the demolition and worked on the infrastructure and concrete for the Paseo, that was all,” said Gilroy Foundation Executive Director Donna Pray. “The Gilroy Foundation acts as a financial sponsor for groups that want to do fundraising for the public good but don’t want to go through the process of getting their 501(c)(3) status. The Paseo is supposed to be a one-time thing, but they wanted to make all their money tax-deductible, that’s where I step in.”
As a 501(c)(3) organization, the Gilroy Foundation can raise tax-deductible funds for city projects such as the Paseo and the Demonstration Garden on Eigleberry Street. With the $155,700 of tax-deductible donations, the Gilroy Historic Paseo Project built the display panels.
Hundreds of proud Gilroyans, including Gilroy Mayor Roland Velasco, and numerous city officials, crowded into the Paseo to celebrate the official opening. Each panel was introduced, by representatives from the individual sponsors such as Christopher Ranch, Recology South Valley, Habing Nursing Home, RJ. Dyer and Family, Headstart Nursery, Pinnacle Bank, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Arts Alliance, Gilroy Rotary, Jack and Carol Peters and the Gilroy Downtown Business Association.
“We wanted something that would tell a story, so we decided to make this a historic Paseo and the one between Fourth and Fifth Streets would be the Gilroy Sister City Paseo,” Pinheiro said.
For Pinheiro, the co-chairperson of the project, the biggest challenges were how to tell the history of Gilroy adequately and how to manage the costs of producing panels that would withstand the elements.
“You can’t just put all this history in seven panels, we had committees after committees to decide what to do,” Pinheiro said. “The other challenge was managing the costs. The panels needed to be built from material that would withstand light and the weather. To help with the costs, we found local businesses that would sponsor the panels.”
Carol Peters gave the introductory speech to commemorate a panel featuring the city’s cowboy history. Her father, Alfred (Curley) Tomey, a cowboy, blacksmith and artist who rubbed shoulders with John Wayne, is part of the exhibit and is a permanent fixture of Gilroy history. Peters also drew the illustration of the Ohlone indians, the original residents.
“My dad has so many great pictures from the Gymkhana and all these cowboys, so a lot of these pictures came from his photo album,” Peters said.
The Gilroy Foundation is selling personalized bricks for $250, line the Paseo. The bricks include up to three lines with 15 characters on each line. The personalized bricks can be purchased on gilroyfoundation.org/paseo.

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