In theory, at least, rural economies such as ours in the Sierra Foothills were supposed to be winners by the 2020s: Offering a breath of fresh air from sometimes stifling city life.
Unlike Coastal California, the housing is in our neck of the woods is affordable. Our schools are still good (Ghidotti High is a statewide standout) and the outdoor lifestyle is extraordinary. Those neighborhoods with high-speed internet (we live in one) open up great telecommuting opportunities from the woods.
Jobs are a mixed bag, as you’d expect in a rural setting, but good opportunities exist for those with entrepreneurial mindsets (we’ve experienced that).
Things have been looking up in our towns: A thriving arts and culture scene, exciting new projects ranging from the new Center for the Arts building in Grass Valley to the Truckee Railyard — as well as heightened environmental awareness.
Then along came the wildfires. And COVID 19. And PGE’s “planned” power outages. (Like others, we now awake to the sound of power generators running in our neighborhood, not just song birds). This week, the internet dropped too. Argh.
Add to that “distanced learning,” the latest education “experience” in the COVID 19 era. And fighting in the streets of our “quaint town” as political rallies turn ugly.
For those on fixed incomes — a big chunk of our population — the stock market decline has depleted their IRAs. Others have lost their jobs all together. Some are half joking, “What’s next? The locusts.”
As it turns out, 2020 is proving to be a challenging one, exposing our region’s vulnerabilities. In short, we seem ill-equipped to handle all of it at once.
It’s a fragile state of affairs, to be sure. And it’s easy to get drawn into the negativism.
Though the problems (expected and unexpected) seem daunting, I’m remaining optimistic and keeping it all in perspective (AKA “The sun will come out tomorrow”).
I’ve noticed encouraging signs of collaboration, such as the Nevada County Relief Fund: “The Nevada County Relief Fund is our emergency response to Covid-19. We don’t know how this crisis ends, or how bad it will get. But we do know that in times like these, we take care of one another and unite against adversity head on.” We’ve gladly donated to the fund.
I also see some progress when it comes to expanding broadband initiatives, a longtime bugaboo. And I see more of our talented locals stepping up and running for public office — providing new leadership. I also see signs of compassion, even smiles emerging from beneath the masks that people are wearing around town. We can do this.