Town between two worlds: the Gold Rushes of Nevada City
An inspiring story of a town in transition – from destruction to sustainability, from self-interest to community, from greed to service.
This 60-minute film is the inspiring story of a town in transition—from destruction to sustainability, from self-interest to community, from greed to service.
Born in the 1849 California Gold Rush, Nevada City began as a town full of “get rich quick” gold-seeking immigrants, who decimated the local Native American population, leveled the great Ponderosa forests, destroyed the land, and poisoned their waters, in a mad scramble for wealth. But a hundred years later, the mines exhausted, the town was dying and land was cheap.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a new wave of immigrants from big cities, including Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, bought land and settled in the nearby ridges above the sparkling Yuba River. The new counterculture sought a different kind of “gold,” based in community, connection with nature, and a desire to be long-term stewards of the land.
For years, an uneasy tension divided the “rednecks,” loggers and others who saw the newcomers as a threat to their way of life, and the “hippies” whose numbers gradually increased, and eventually, established thriving businesses, alternative schools, a vibrant arts culture, a lively community radio station and scattered organic farms in the area.
A common struggle helped bring them together—the threat of power dams that would destroy the beloved Yuba River, a playground for swimming and whitewater boating that the entire community enjoyed. The South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL), created to save the river led a 16-year fight that eventually brought Wild and Scenic River status to the Yuba in 1999. Since then, SYRCL has continued to push the community toward environmental sustainability and now counts of hundreds of volunteers for its annual river cleanup and internationally recognized film festival.
You might call it “the little town that did.” Nevada City is the center of a new vision for the future. Its transition, though still incomplete, points the way to new lifestyles that will be needed in an era of increasing environmental and economic challenges. Town Between Two Worlds highlights what a community can do to bring people together and build resilience. It is a film that will inspire other communities to do the same.
Directed by John de Graaf
Produced by Jennifer Ekstrom and John de Graaf
Consulting producer - Kevin White
Camera & Editing - Greg Davis