The Sage Town Hall Association member appreciation event took place Saturday, Aug. 17, hosted by the Collins Ranch with artists, musical entertainment, food and a surprise announcement.
“STHA is proud to announce that with hard work, determination, and the incredible support of Mr. Chuck Washington, Opal Hellweg, Olivia Balderrama and the rest of the phenomenal staff in our county supervisor’s office, as well as Tom Mullen in the Riverside County Mapping Department, we were able to receive an official map of Sage, California.” association secretary Lyndi Dana said at the event.
“This map was presented to the post office, and, we believe, was the last hurdle we could possibly be asked to jump in our quest to receive our own ZIP code – separate from Hemet. A version of this map, which eliminated some of the area surrounding Vail Lake, has also been submitted to the U.S. Census Bureau along with a request to be redefined from a ‘populated place’ to a federally recognized ‘census-designated place’ in the upcoming 2020 census. We could not have come this far without the incredible support from our members. Thank you for standing with us and helping us on this amazing journey. We will be sending out an email soon with details on how you can help us in the next step with the USPS,” Dana said.
Before the formation of Riverside County, the community of Sage was known as San Ignacio in San Diego County. With the formation of Riverside County in 1893, this community was renamed Bladen to honor a local beekeeper, but three years later, the residents petitioned the county commissioners to approve another name – Sage. A decision was made at that time to expand the borders of Sage to include the Diamond Voting District in Diamond Valley.
As a recognized community, Sage predates other area mountain communities. As far back as 1900, the U.S. Geological Survey maps listed Sage as the name for this area.
According to studies performed by STHA, in the 1950s the U.S. Postal Service decided to close the post office in Sage. The area residents had no idea of the many consequences of this decision at the time. They were simply given the choice to have their mail routed through the Temecula or Hemet post offices. They selected Hemet. In the years since that decision, the identity of the tiny community was almost totally lost.
“Even the county of Riverside treated this community like it didn’t exist,” STHA board Chair Bill Donahue said. “We are the only community which is divided in the General Plan and spread across three different Area Plans within that General Plan. The crime statistics for Sage are far
lower than those for Hemet, but because we share two ZIP codes with Hemet, the government lumps the statistics together, making Sage appear to have a higher crime rate than it does. Likewise the census data for Sage is lumped in with Hemet. We are not currently even a census-designated place like Anza or Aguanga. The internet calls us a ghost town.”
As Hemet and Temecula grew, Sage deteriorated. The area lost its community center, market, gas station and park. The association members felt that Sage needed to get its own identity back and its own ZIP code, and they worked to make that happen.
“Because our shipping addresses show us as Hemet, we are charged sales tax as if we lived within the city,” Dana said. “Hemet has higher tax to cover pay for their fire and police departments. Sage does not receive those services, so we are paying a higher tax rate for services we do not receive. We will also likely see a reduction in our insurance rates when we have a accurate crime statistics.”
The next step is obtaining a new ZIP code for Sage. The STHA members said they are not asking the U.S. Postal Service to build a new Sage Post Office. The same mail carriers who deliver mail to Sage currently would deliver to the same routes with a different ZIP code.
“The cost of this adjustment to the USPS is negligible, but they have not followed through on their promise to issue the ZIP code once we produce an official map,” Donahue said.
The map is a major step in resolving this issue.
“Once again, we turned to our county supervisor for help,” Donahue said. “He and his staff directed county employees to search through the archives for records from 1896 when Sage was formed and determine the boundaries. After a considerable amount of effort by Tom Mullen and his staff they produced an official map of Sage.”
The map is a demonstrable exhibit STHA used when explaining to Valley-Wide Recreation and Park District that while Sage residents pay property taxes on this large area, they do not have a single park in the community.
“It makes it harder for the USPS to defend attaching us to Hemet like a postage stamp when we are more than four times larger than Hemet,” Donahue said. “This map should have crossed the final hurdle from the USPS. In fact, we have a letter from them saying that the map is the last thing they need. However, since we submitted the map along with all the other documentation we have submitted over the past two years, they have been ignoring us.”
The member-only appreciation event turned extra festive after the announcement of the completed map of Sage.
“I would like to express how heartwarming it was to see everyone come together. One of the biggest challenges that we face, in attempting to represent such a large geographical area in an unincorporated, rural locale is contacting and engaging with all of the community members. When we first started the association, we presumed that it would be a big challenge to get residents involved, so watching our membership grow and hearing the messages of support from everyone has been uplifting and encouraging. It was only with the help of all of our members that we were able to accomplish such an amazing feat. Sage is no longer a forgotten community. When we lost our post office, we somehow lost our identity, and STHA and its members are here to proudly reclaim it,” Dana said. “We would like to thank all of the members who attended our member appreciation event this evening, as well as our special guest artists and musicians. We had a wonderful time and we hope you all enjoyed our special surprise.”
For more information on the Sage Town Hall Association, visit them on Facebook or at www.sagetownhallassociation.com.
Diane Sieker can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.