Woodside is a small town in San Mateo County, California, on the San Francisco Peninsula. It has a population of just over five thousand people and is one of the wealthiest communities in the United States.

Woodside is said to be the oldest English-speaking settlement in this part of the San Francisco Peninsula. Before the Europeans came to explore and settle Alta California, Woodside was home to the Ohlone or Costanoan people. Explorers landed in 1769, led by Gaspar de Portolá, searching for San Francisco Bay. The first English-speaking settlers arrived in the early 19th century to log the rich stands of redwoods. In 1849, during the California Gold Rush, 20-year-old Mathias Alfred Parkhurst purchased 127 acres of timberland and named it “Woodside.”

More people were attracted to this beautiful valley, and by 1852 there was a regular stage coach service to San Francisco. John Greer gave land for the first schoolhouse and by 1859 there were over a hundred pupils enrolled. The Library Association was one of the first of its kind to be established in California. Another result of this boom was the number of saloons which multiplied on Whiskey Hill Road. To combat these, founding residents built the Dell Temperance Hall in 1856, which served as a social center for the community.

Gradually, the character of the valley changed. The sawmills were replaced by farms, small cattle ranches, and vineyards. In the 1880’s, prosperous San Francisco families began to establish country estates in Woodside. The First Congregational Church of Redwood City built a small church in 1893. It now serves as the chapel for the Woodside Village Church.

After World War II, the growth of San Mateo County was rapid, and construction altered the mid-peninsula landscape. In the 1950’s, Woodside began to feel the effects of San Mateo’s growing population. After several large parcels of land had been sold to developers, some of the residents anticipated that continued unrestricted growth would result in the transformation of Woodside from a rural residential community into a less attractive, more urbanized one. They raised the issue of increasing the degree of local control over public activities. In 1956 Woodsiders voted to incorporate, which brought road maintenance, management, planning and zoning under local control and budget. These functions remain the primary responsibilities of the town. Woodside still retains a rural residential character, though it is a short commute to Silicon Valley.

The intentionally small business district includes a few restaurants, a grocery store, a saloon, a hardware and horse tack store, a home and garden store, a hair salon, a cleaner and a post office. Outside of the business district are the Stillheart Institute educational event center, Skywood Trading Post, and the Mountain Terrace event center.

Horses are part of the local culture. Numerous residents keep horses, and the town government maintains a network of horse trails. Some resident’s homes are even considered farms. The town is also popular among local cyclists and draws them in large numbers on weekends. The Tour of California bicycle race includes several roads along and adjacent to Skyline Boulevard and CA-84.

Woodside is home to a number of open space preserves, including the Purisima Open Space where both horseback riding and bicycling are allowed. For mountain biking, the famous Skeggs Point is located in Woodside along Skyline Boulevard.

Dr. Carl Djerassi founded an artists’ colony in the community in memory of his late daughter. The Djerassi Resident Artists Program is one of several Bay Area programs housing artists in an environment where they can be creative without worrying about how to pay the rent. Others include Villa Montalvo in Saratoga and Marin Headlands Center for the Arts north of San Francisco. It is adjacent to the campus of Stanford University, east of the town.

Drug Abuse in Woodside

The Stanford Daily published a story in 2016 titled “A look at stimulants and study drugs on campus.” Almost half of students surveyed knew students who abused stimulants to “succeed.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association’s feature article, The Dangers of Stimulants, “Stimulant drugs damage the brain’s decision-making abilities, revving up the course of addiction and making it harder for people to quit.”

During the early stages of stimulant use, people often make a bad bet—underestimating the number of times they can use cocaine, for example, before becoming dependent. This tendency may be explained in part by the fact that stimulant drug use itself makes people worse gamblers, according to several studies.

The siren song of a quick fix can be hard to resist under pressure, and many have fallen prey to the lure of stimulants. Addiction can be overcome, and many excellent rehabilitation resources exist in Woodside and the rest of San Mateo County, to help those who wish to find their way to a life free of dependence on chemicals.

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