Saving Trees

By Lainey S. Cronk on June 16, 2005

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Dark-suited bigwigs filled the elegant interior of the recently completed Pacific Union College presidential residence. University presidents, a publishing press president and conference presidents mingled with pastors and education leaders in a luncheon preceding their constituency meeting. The tone was chatty and conservative, accompanied by a grey mist that obscured the expansive view from giant bay windows.

Seated among this large group of church and education leaders was an acclaimed local vintner—feeling a little out of place among a group that has a long history of avid teetotalism. Randy Dunn, owner of Howell Mountain’s Dunn Vineyards, came by special invitation to be honored for yet another paradox: a vintner giving up winery rights to save trees.

John Collins, PUC’s vice president for financial administration, shared with the group a number of amusing stories about Randy Dunn, a successful yet down-to-earth local who is both a business associate and a personal friend of Collins.

Several years ago, Collins explained, the college sold a 64-acre parcel of land. When Dunn purchased the property, everyone envisioned the trees being cleared and vineyards popping up. But Randy and his wife Lori had other plans. Giving up vineyard and winery rights to the property, they granted the forested parcel to the Land Trust of Napa County, ensuring that the trees will always remain.

The 27-year Howell Mountain resident and vintner quietly accepted the certificate from PUC President Richard Osborn. The only reflection he offered to the group regarding his interest in land preservation was to remark, “I have a bumper sticker that says, ‘Tree hugging dirt lover.’”

“ Angwin is a beautiful place,” he said later, “and it isn’t because of the vineyards!” Trying to keep the beauty of Angwin’s forested hills, Dunn also granted land near the PUC Elementary School in Angwin to the Land Trust. And he adds, “There are more places in Angwin where it would be good to do the same thing.”

The certificate presented to Dunn sums things up aptly when it addresses the Dunns as “Stewards of Howell Mountain,” and thanks them for their commitment to maintaining the natural beauty of Howell Mountain. “When others talk,” the certificate reads, “you act.”