Traveling with some friends, we just returned from a visit to Lakeview – at 4,798 feet ‘The Tallest Town in Oregon’. Lakeview sits at the north end of Goose Lake, a huge drainage basin shared by California and Oregon. It also advertises itself as the ‘Gateway to the Oregon Outback’ which is the sparsely populated high desert of the state’s eastern region. The town of about 2,200 has definitely seen better days. And from talking to the locals, the worst is yet to come. What happened?
During our stay we had a chance to talk to owners of three businesses. Each had lived there for at least twenty years, and they told us a story of what happens when a town decides to buy into an imported glory road. Historically Lakeview grew as the seat of Lake County and the commercial center for ranching and timber enterprises in southern Oregon, in later years adding a dollop of tourism that took advantage of the nearby mountains for camping, skiing, and some awesome hang gliding.
Then in the 1990s came some new folks with slick talk of smart growth, things natural, and sustainability. They pitched the community on getting some OPM (other people’s money) to develop natural sources of wind, solar, and geothermal energy. In the future, business and living would be controlled as they are in the big cities. New zoning laws were passed, and strict business ordinances put in place. With the help of a couple of big name foundations and government grants things were going to get organized – things were going to become progressive as reflected in the town’s new ‘mission statement’
The mission of the Town of Lakeview is to provide citizens with a safe, family-oriented community while promoting sustainable development of our human, economic and natural resources. We progressively seek a positive future while honoring our heritage.
Well, things didn’t work out as the central planners had it figured. The projects were delayed, the monies were late, some stuff had been overlooked, and when it came right down to it, people had other ideas which they now had a hard time implementing because of all the new rules and ordnances and codes and … . Since they could no longer implement their own plans – i.e. continue the free and self-reliant lifestyle that drew and kept them there – people started leaving Lakeview. Today the town is eerily empty with boarded up stores and empty commercial buildings, as its population has declined for the last twenty years.
There is a lot more to the story of Lakeview as another place that has suffered from progressive blight, and we’ll add to this piece as relevant data warrants. But what I want to point out with this report is that such blight has quietly spread pretty much nationwide, most certainly since 2009 when we started getting all those new rules and recovery programs for the Great Recession. It is charitably clear that no one from Washington has looked at how rural counties have taken the brunt of the ‘new thinking’ that is being imposed bit by piece on our less populated regions. In Lakeview people know about Agenda21 (they told us so) because they are living it every day. The real plan for Lakeview is for it to revert to its ‘natural state’ before people arrived.
As reported here for some years, California’s rural counties are destined for the same future as Lake County. We see it right here in Nevada County which has a lot more to offer residents than Lake County, Oregon. Of course, California imposes on us its own unique and widely infamous brand of insanity to impede growth, economic development, public use of public and private lands, and on and on. Our own imported progressives are very active in creating and sustaining an environment in these foothills which stifles any vestige of human activity that is not according to the outlined objectives of Agenda21.
Such strategy notwithstanding, we in Nevada County divert ourselves periodically with workshops and meetings that address the holy grail of economic growth. And we invite speakers from faraway places to tell us how they were able or are still trying to promote such growth. What we seem to miss is that these hoped for experts come from places that look nothing like our county and community. Perhaps we should hold more useful gatherings and hear the experiences of people from places like Lake County. I bet that each of them have a woulda/coulda/shoulda tale to tell that would really resonate with what we have been going through, and maybe even shine a light on some yet-to-be-discovered dark corners where there be tigers waiting for us.