Many years ago we traveled around the United States, looking for an area where we wanted to live. Eventually we decided on either Missoula, MT, or anywhere along the west coast between Eureka, CA, and Newport, OR. The ocean won. 🙂 I never realized I could get mountains with snow, evergreen trees, AND the ocean, within sight of each other, until we came here. We were also impressed with the clarity and beauty of the Smith River (one of the cleanest rivers in the nation).
One of the things we also looked for was a way to make a living in the areas we visited. At the time this corner of the world depended on logging, commercial fishing, and tourism. Eventually all the logging mills and companies were taken over by corporations who cared more about money than they did keeping people employed, and they logged the area out of business. They blame it on environmentalists, but it wasn’t the spotted owl that destroyed the logging industry — it was greed. Unfortunately, that is also where most of the commercial fishing industry went; too many big boats over-fishing the fish.
We still had tourism, with all the beautiful beaches (rocky and sandy), redwoods, and rivers, but it was not enough to support what had once been a thriving community. Nor were the lily bulb farms, which once produced 80% of the Easter lilies sold in the U.S. every year. So the “big fish” in our little pond signaled to the State of California that we would be willing to have a maximum security prison built here: Pelican Bay (named after the bay between Crescent City, CA, and Brookings, OR). In retrospect, it was probably a good decision. It kept our community from dying a slow death, and forced it into being less insular. It also brought gangs and inflated housing prices (because correctional officers made more money than most of the people already here). But it has been an economic boost to the community, and is now our primary industry. The prison itself is hidden in the redwoods.
We still have a thriving tourist industry. We have a couple of casinos on Native American land. We also have a commercial fishing industry, though the recent tsunami surge destroyed the harbor in Crescent City and messed up the one in Brookings. We have had those with a morbid curiosity visiting the area. At a local restaurant I heard visitors asking where all the damage was, and how many boats sank. “We expected to see more damage!” What? A harbor destroyed, along with the livelihoods of dozens of people, two lives lost, and that is not enough for you?
People passing though see the redwoods, the beaches, the fields, and the elk, and they think, “How charming!” Or, “What do they DO here?” They find it amazing there are no electronics stores with international converter plugs. What we have is a beautiful area with moderate weather (except for storms and rain) and a year-round growing season (though you have to go a few miles inland for hot-weather crops). We have a slower lifestyle, which is not interesting to a lot of people (including some of the kids who grow up here and leave). Things are generally less commercial here. What we “do” here is live our lives.
I love this area, and every day I thank Deity for the privilege of living here. 🙂