Unique in Butte County for its forested terrain and elevation, Paradise and Magalia together form a subregion, locally known as “The Ridge,” that’s decidedly small-town, isolated, and uniquely determined to retain its long-running reputation of quaintness that comes from its natural beauty.
For a century, the “fresh pine air of Paradise” was not just a pleasant-sounding trope here, but reality—it became an ideal place for retirees to live or for quick weekend recreation for nearby and decidedly more urban Chico.
Like many of the surrounding towns, Paradise, founded in 1877 and incorporated in 1979, has a historical gold rush element to it, even celebrating “Gold Nugget Days” with a parade and the naming of the Gold Nugget Queen. Johnny Appleseed Days, another local point of pride, is known as the oldest harvest in the state, a tradition dating back to 1888; the two-day fall festival celebrates the famed figure with apple-themed desserts, games, and crafts. One of the most enduring traditions in Paradise is seen on service-member holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, when volunteers line the streets of the Skyway, the town’s main drag, with American flags in honor of the military.
Small businesses and true mom-and-pops were in many aspects the lifeblood of the Ridge, from locally owned franchises to generational operations, like town-favorite coffee shops, nationally renowned candy maker Joy Lyn’s Candies, the longest-running community theater north of Sacramento at Theatre on the Ridge, and more. Paradise High football is a town tradition that many Bobcat fans would argue rivals the “Friday Night Lights” loyalty and enthusiasm of some of the biggest prep football towns in the country. Ridge residents could easily be characterized as fiercely proud of their hometown.
As of November 2018, though, another word also suits this population: resilient. With all but an estimated 2,000 people remaining after the Camp Fire, in a town that previously housed about 22,000, Paradise and parts of Magalia are in a state of rebuilding. Much of the natural beauty still remains on the Ridge, including the serene fishing and hiking at Paradise Lake or the west branch of the Feather River.
The townspeople here had built their paradise on the Ridge, and while many have moved away, those who are staying have no designs on losing the hallmarks of Paradise they know and love: A kinship with their neighbors, an embrace and respect for the surrounding natural habitat, and a truly resilient town personality.
Local historical groups work together to salvage and preserve what they can. A group that funded the upkeep of the fabled Honey Run Covered Bridge is in the process of trying to restore a replica. Many surviving or rebuilt businesses around town still proudly serve the Ridge, providing for Paradise and Magalia residents who have remained.
As they rebuild—a project that will doubtless be a work in progress for years—one can squint and start to see the Ridge they once knew it.