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article imageOp-Ed: Despite obstacles one woman is bringing Gymnastics to Sonoma Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Feb 5, 2016 in Lifestyle
Sonoma - Cartwheels, flips, fitness and fun are what Sonoma resident and business owner, Mary Alice Jambon wishes to firmly establish at the Carneros Corporate Park on 8th Street.
“I need a permanent place for the gymnastics academy,” said Jambon who has been steadily building a series of classes and actives at the Veterans Memorial Building on First Street on the East side of town not far from the plaza.
Since April of 2014, Jambon has conducted gymnastic classes and events at the Veterans Building. Working with kids from local schools like Sasorini Elementary, the gymnastics classes have been a success. And, as she explained over a cup of coffee at Sonoma’s Best Cafe this past January, “there are gyms, health clubs and exercise classes in Sonoma. But there is no gymnastics club.” She went on to say, “gymnastics is very specific, with a series of events-activities such as the balance beam, cartwheels, back flips; like what we see in the Olympics.”
As she pondered the idea of bringing gymnastics to Sonoma, she did some research and homework. "I posted a survey on the web, I talked to parents, teachers, she said. I found out what the day to day, nuts and bolts requirements would be.” She admitted at first she had doubts. Yet with some encouragement from local business owners like Vincent Pacheco of Vinny’s A-1 Shoe Repair, Jambon knew she was following the right path.
“I am very proud of her," said Pacheco. "She is no stranger to starting and managing a business. She also knows what is like to be in the fitness and health business. Before I opened up shop here in Sonoma, in my younger days, I was a fitness coach and trainer.” And, like Jambon he too knows all about the lifestyle and pace of Southern California. “I lived in the LA area and built my own coaching and training business through Gold’s Gym.”
“When Mary Alice told me about what she wanted to do, I understood, he said, as someone who owns his own business. I encouraged her to take the risk and make the effort. And, since she started teaching gymnastics classes at the Veterans Building, I have noticed her energy and positive outlook increase as well as her confidence and business savvy, become more assured.”
Jambon sees gymnastics as essential and “fundamental, like eating your veggies. But its lots of fun too!.” she said. “I was involved with gymnastics ever-since I was little, so I know.” In terms of sport activities she places gymnastics in the same category as swimming. “It builds strength, helps develop motor skills and instills a sense of self-discipline as well as accomplishment.”
Founder of Sonoma Gymnastics Academy  Mary Alice Jambon  preparing the next generation of future gym...
Founder of Sonoma Gymnastics Academy, Mary Alice Jambon, preparing the next generation of future gymnasts.
Courtesy of Sonoma Gymnastics Academy
She envisions the gymnastic academy as something vital for kids of all ages, high schoolers and college-age young adults. “To have this established and firmly set up (in a place of its own) would be a tremendous opportunity for so many young people here in the valley.”
Originally from Orange County in Southern Cal, Jambon grew up not far from Laguna Beach. She came to Sonoma to attend Sonoma State University, majoring in Sociology. And, as she said, “I have been everywhere from California to Boston and then onto greater parts of the world.” Still, Sonoma made an impression.“I come from a family of teachers and educators,” she said. She was raised with the understanding that one must give something back to the community.
She mentioned that she has always coached, assisted with trainings at cheerleading camp, and so on. Gymnastics and similar activities have always been a part of her life. After pursuing different careers, one being an advocate/sales person for solar and renewable energy, Jambon returned to Sonoma, because it as she said, “so much of the renewable energy movement is right here." “If you know Southern California, you will understand when I say, everything is so built up and at a very hectic pace. I wanted to be in a place were one can enjoy and appreciate the beauty of California”
Cartwheels  flips and fun is what the gymnastics academy in Sonoma is all about. Founder  Mary Alice...
Cartwheels, flips and fun is what the gymnastics academy in Sonoma is all about. Founder, Mary Alice Jambon has been teaching gymnastics in the Veterans Memorial Hall building in Sonoma. Yet has been working with City and County officials to establish a permanent home for the gymnastics club for more than a year and a half.
Courtesy of Sonoma Gymnastics Academy
She again, noted that she has traveled all over the United States and has been to various parts of the world. “But I think California is the best place to live of all. And, I love Sonoma.” Her experience at Sonoma State and her interest in renewable energy beckoned her to the ‘Valley of The Moon’ with its hills and mountains and of course rolling vineyards.
And, it is in just such a setting at Carneros Corporate Park that she would like to firmly plant her business. “It is an ideal location. The fountain in the ponds, the oak trees, open spaces surrounding the area: I think it is the right spot.”
But, even with her proven success and already-up-and-running gymnastics enterprise, the City and County of Sonoma has its planning department and permit office to deal with. “Its funny, when I was in school, I thought I’d join the FBI as a possible career. The idea of being a ‘field agent’ appealed to me,” she said. Yet, dealing with so much bureaucracy lately has only confirmed to her all the more that ‘government red-tape’ as it were is not something she likes to deal with.
“Funding is not so much the issue as it is all this bureaucracy. I need the county to move things along,” said Jambon. With a contract waiting, a landlord eager to have her move in; And most of all, classes of gymnasts eager to reach the next level, the delays are frustrating.
Speaking with the Customer Service Ombudsman for the County of Sonoma Permit and Resource Management Department, this reporter could only confirm some of what Jambon was referring to. “The Carneros Corporate Park is zoned strictly for commercial use,” said Patrick Mullin. He went on to say, “businesses applying for permit must do so as part of a two part process. The buildings are just shells basically. It is up to the tenant-businesses to make all the needed adjustments to the interior.” But he also pointed out that application for use is separate from a zoning permit.
He would not comment or say anything as to the exact status of Jambon’s application. Only, that the use permit and the zoning portion of the application process are each separate steps along the way to approval. To obtain any more detail would require more time spent on hold and being transferred through an endless labyrinth of menu options and phone line extensions.
Carnero Meadow Corporate Park  Sonoma
Carnero Meadow Corporate Park, Sonoma
Courtesy of LoopNet
Jambon thinks the delays are unreasonable especially since, “I began the entire application process in January of last year (2015).” Hopefully, the PRMD will recognize Jambon’s efforts and get all documents and approvals through. Meanwhile, she will continue conducting classes at the Veterans Building. “Everyone at the Vets Building has been wonderful to me," she said.
But most of all she sees the difference she is already making in the lives of her students. Undaunted by the county bureaucratic delays at the PRMD she said, “I have always demanded of myself to be flexible and ready at any time.” “Exercise like that in gymnastics releases the endorphins, keeps you healthy.” So, whatever happens with PRMD and the extra hurdles that may appear, she will manage it. because, “I am poised, ready and eager to excel.”
For more information about Sonoma Gymnastics Academy visit the web page.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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