NORTH FORK — The two markers that proclaim North Fork to be the exact center of California have been missing of late, but thanks to the hard work of the North Fork History Group and the Lions Club, both have been restored to their respective sites.
The one most visible to residents is the sign on the east side of Road 222 as one enters North Fork, festooned with four American flags, and welcoming everyone to the Exact Center of California and the start of the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.
The sign was erected approximately 25 years ago by the North Fork Lions Club with the approval of the U.S. Forest Service who issued a Special Use Permit, says Brent Mahar, secretary for the North Fork Lions.
“The sign was starting to show the ravages of time and the Chamber of Commerce thought it needed some tender love and care so they asked the Lions Club if they would want to bring it back to its original luster.”
Lions Club president Kenny Goodwin brought the issue to the membership, who made the decision to repair the old sign.
On May 9, the four boards that comprise the sign were taken down and moved to Goodwin Lumber where they were sanded, stained, routed and painted by Lions Augie Capuchino, Gene Harvey, Tim Allen, Dan Morris, Wayne Robertson, Jerry Miller and John Thomas.
On May 11, Lions Tim Allen, Dan Morris and Wayne Robertson sanded and stained the upright posts at the location on Road 222, to make ready for the horizontal boards.
Once the boards were dried, they were re-installed on May 17 by Goodwin and Allen.
“The sign now looks as good as the day it was first erected,” says Mahar.
Meanwhile, at the exact geographic point of California’s center, the North Fork History Group (NFHG) has replaced the bronze plaque stolen last November from the stone monument.
The monument, located 7.4 miles southeast of North Fork on Road 225 (Italian Bar Road) was stolen sometime between Nov. 20 and Nov. 28, 2016.
Unknown suspects used a prying tool to remove the plaque from the rock, and though a valiant effort was made by Madera County Sheriff deputies and many community members, it was never recovered.
Since the loss of the plaque, many residents and organizations have made contributions to fund its replacement with a strong, high-pressure laminate sign.
The NFHG was in the process of determining maintenance needs for the site around the time the plaque was stolen, and funds were also contributed for maintaining, restoring and remediating the site, also called Cal Center.
Coordination with other partners have progressed well. Those partners include the US Forest Service which administers the land on which the site is located, and Ponderosa Telephone whose cable is buried at the edge of the site.
The maintenance proposed will include remediation of erosion at, and contiguous to the site; cleaning out culverts under the two-car parking space and under Road 225; installation of vehicle barriers; replacement and installation of steps to reach the site; a handrail on the stairway; and a dirt stabilization platform around the compass rose.
You can visit the exact center of California by traveling east from North Fork on Road 225, also called the Mammoth Pool Road or the Minarets Road.
To find Cal Center, travel 4.7 miles east from downtown North Fork along County Road 225 toward the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, then turn right onto Italian Bar Road (still Road 225) toward Redinger Lake. Travel about 2.7 miles and watch for the CAL-CENTER sign on the left. The stairway rises about 21 feet to reach the compass rose at the exact center of the state.
“California lost its balance for a while after the plaque at Cal Center was stolen,” says the NFHG. “The plaque has now been restored and the community of North Fork is feeling much more centered.”