The Betabel Project is near and dear to our hearts. It is the kind of commercial project that will move us toward a brighter future. It was also the dream of young Errol Cross McDowell. Despite his own battle with brain cancer, he was determined to find a cure for pediatric cancer. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to help other kids and their families. Errol battled cancer for six long years. He and his younger brothers along with their dad Rider McDowell created a nonprofit called Cancer-a-Go-Go. It was a radical approach to fundraising for cancer research. They created a crowdfunding website. Their goal was to get every American to donate $1! Created in 2016, it has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for pediatric cancer research.
Errol’s dream was to create a vintage roadside stand, complete with diner, gas station and market, to raise even more funds for pediatric cancer research. His father would drive him up Highway 101 each week for his chemotherapy treatments. They would pass the massive junkyard at Betabel Road. Errol would tell his father they should buy it, clean it up to build that roadside stop. The McDowell family was able to purchase the land, but Errol would only see the property once. Errol lost his battle to cancer shortly after, at the age of 18. The McDowell family is devoted to pursuing his dream of funding a cure. The property was purchased through a charitable trust and once open, all profits will be directed to pediatric cancer research. It is a noble cause, and for this alone it should be built.
But that is not the only reason to love this project. We feel sustainability is important, and want to see projects built that respect the environment, align with our agricultural heritage and add value to our rural community.
The McDowell’s took an eyesore, and cleared the contaminated land of rusting cars, RVs and derelict buildings. They got rid of a chop shop and illegal marijuana farm. They even brought in a local environmental group to clean up and restore the Pajaro River, which had been severely polluted by illegal dumping for many years. This was no small investment of time or money. The price tag was well over $200,000. The work cleared tons of rubbish from the river and is invaluable to our community. It is good for local wildlife, but also stops debris from ending up in Monterey Bay! So it preserves marine life as well. In fact, trout were recently spotted again in the river after 75 years! Green building principles will also be incorporated into the buildings at Betabel. And despite misleading claims, they are not converting open rural space—they are building on the existing footprint of that old junkyard, which has operated as a commercial business in the past.
In line with our rich agricultural heritage, 90% of the 119 acre land will be developed as organic farmland. The produce will be sold on site at the market. There will also be a riverwalk, and picnic area, so folks can enjoy the area. So it preserves the watershed, respects the land, and they are sharing all that natural beauty our County.
For a group like Preserve Our Rural Communities (PORC) to adamantly oppose this project, when supposedly the group is about preserving open space and the rural character of the land, seems suspect. The motivations of this group appear to be more self-serving, a NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) push against development near their homes—not what is really best for our County.
Projects like Betabel build up our community. They are estimating 75-100 new jobs in farming, retail, service, security and more. Our County will receive a steady revenue stream each year from Betabel through sales and gas tax. A visitor’s center will showcase all San Benito County has to offer: attractions like San Juan Bautista Mission, Pinnacles National Park, as well as our local businesses and products. Then there’s that cherry on top…100% of profits go to fund a cure for pediatric cancer.
Join us in supporting this worthy cause.
We need to begin our journey toward a Brighter Future, with new commercial projects that will bring the jobs and revenue we need, while respecting our history, environment and preserving our community. The Betabel Project is a great place to start!