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Gilroy, CA
Thursday, April 26, 2018

Bryce Stoepfel

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Great Wolf, Great Mystery

As of Wednesday, a deal between the Gilroy and Great Wolf Lodge had slipped away.

Officer James Branik, fiercely loyal and tenacious

California Highway Patrol Officer James Branik, 44,  loved his family and was passionate about cars. He also loved being a CHP officer.Last Wednesday, Branik was killed in a motorcycle accident in San Martin. James was a man of deep conviction, tenacity, loyalty, and passion for life and for those he loved.“For most people, a job is a means to an end,” Scott Morris, Officer Branik’s brother in law said. “For James, his work was a fulfillment of who he was created to be.”  Officer Branik was born on March 1, 1973, to Lawrence P. Branik and Charlotte A. Branik. He was a graduate of Leigh High School in San Jose, where he was a member of the 1991 CCS championship basketball team.  He entered the California Highway Patrol Police Academy in 2004 and graduated on January 28, 2005.“He was quietly tenacious and fiercely loyal,” said Morris. “When you would talk to him you wouldn't know the impact that he had on the department."He was someone that people went to when they needed help. You knew, if you went to James, he was going to be there for you and he was going to have a piece of knowledge or wisdom to help you."Branik was a devoted husband to his wife, Gina Baiza-Branik. The couple had three dogs whom they adored. Morris described Officer Branik as a lover of animals, but the attention he paid to his nieces and nephews was appreciated.  “He had eight nieces and nephews and he was a great uncle,” Morris said. “The intensity that they showed as a cop was very different when he was at home. When he was around the kids, he would clown around. He would talk with my son about being a police officer and what the laws meant and he would play ‘pretty, pretty princess’ with my daughter. It was so funny to see Officer Branik wearing a tiara with my daughter. He had such a rich, warm heart.”Officer Branik met Gina in 1995 at a Mennonite youth event. The couple went out to play pool on their first date and two years later they were married. From the mundane of life to the intimate recesses of the soul, James and Gina wereinseparable.Officer Branik was also a person who refused to give up.“He applied to the police academy seven times; it was what he wanted to do,” Morris said. “It was hard, but he never let it get him down. It was inspiring to see someone who truly wanted something and who was not ready to accept failure. You wouldn’t have known it to talk to him. He didn’t sit around and complain. He just kept trying.”When off duty, Branik’s love of cars followed him him home. He worked restoring cars, including the complete restoration of a 1968 Camaro and a 1965 Ford Fairlane.“He loved muscle cars; you could always tell when James was coming down the road,” Morris said. “From the time he was 2-years old, he was on his back watching a neighbor fix a dune buggy. He just loved cars and trucks. It was in his soul. The fact he became a CHP officer was beautiful.”Officer Branik was born and raised in San Jose, but moved to Morgan Hill in 2012.“He loved being in Morgan Hill, it was his home” Morris said.

Where will we house people?

Gilroy leaders worried last week about having a place for their children to live and work.

How should Gilroy grow?

Gilroy is growing and to keep the pace the city needs more jobs for locals, says Tammy Brownlow, the CEO of Gilroy Economic Development Corporation. The past year has brought some success.

State of the Schools 2017

Math for kindergarten, focus on technology, solar power and new English materials are some of the highlights to students at the Gilroy Unified School District this year. Superintendent Deborah Flores spells out the latest on the three R’s and then some. (That’s Reading, ‘Riting and ‘Rithmetic for you millennials.

What is Gilroy doing to bring in tourists?

As the promise of revenues from retail is fading, the face of tourism in and around Gilroy continues to evolve and become more important to the city coffers. Gilroy Welcome Center Director Jane Howard has taken out ads around the world to let people know about all that Gilroy offers and has high hopes for new tourist attractions.

Gilroyans favor Great Wolf Lodge water park, study says

A survey paid for by the company that wants to build a 500-room lodge and waterpark near Gilroy Gardens said that 63 percent of Gilroyans favored the Great Wolf Lodge project.

Can we keep millennials in Gilroy?

Gilroy officials have made a priority of keeping millennials–people in their 20s and 30s–in town after they graduate from college. The challenge is daunting, according to a survey of Gavilan students, who say the city is boring, too expensive and doesn’t have adequate housing.

Guests say they love Great Wolf Lodge, despite the expenses

The Great Wolf Lodge in Garden Grove is huge—with nine stories, 603 rooms, a full water park, seven restaurants, an arcade, shops, animatronics and a hotel-wide interaction action-adventure video game.

Great Wolf tests the water in Gilroy

Gilroy city officials visited the Great Wolf Lodge in Southern California and days later a representative from the national water park hotel group came to Gilroy seeking feedback from locals.

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