Over the past two weeks I have spent some very pleasant hours visiting a number of towns and cities, rural areas and suburban, in the great northwest. As I traveled from town to town I did what I normally do when on a trip; I bought a lot of community newspapers.
While many people want to only take in the sights, sounds and smells of areas they are vacationing in, I also like to get a feel for the local flavor of the communities I visit. A community paper gives me a taste of the politics, happenings and human stories that populate every corner of our planet.
And what I found upon reading all those papers is that often issues in other places do not vary that much from what concerns us right here in Carbon County.
A good example of a universal issue is roads; building them, maintaining them and getting people to travel on them.
I was interested to read an editorial in a paper from a coastal town in central Oregon that brought up the fact that tourism in the area is down this summer. The person who penned the piece said that many local merchants, restaurateurs and lodging officials blamed the decline in visitation on a national report that said the roads along the coast were not only inadequate for the traffic they handle, but also in poor repair.
I remember just a few years ago that a national magazine named Highway 6 as one of the 10 most dangerous highways in the United States and that same summer a number of travel organizations urged people not to travel our main artery because of the massive amounts of construction going on. Some around here complained that the claims would hurt tourism in the area. I not sure what the results from that summers business was, but the similarities between the two situations just show how much we are alike.
Actually I found the report about the roads along the coast to be somewhat true; in many places there is too much traffic for the highways as they are built and in some areas they are in disrepair. But I also found a lot of construction going on by ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) to solve some of those problems. Sounds familiar doesn't it.
I sometimes get complaints from people about what we carry on the front page in terms of stories. They say there's too much about the county commission, or too much around water or too much about Price City, or.... well the list goes on and on. I am sensitive to those comments because we want to provide what our readers need and also what they like to read.
But as I perused the papers from comminutes big and small in the northwest I found that they ran similar stories on the front of their papers. In fact in some cases if we changed the names and locations in some of the stories, we could be led to believe the problems were from our community rather than one over a 1000 miles away. That just shows that people everywhere are concerned with growth (too much or lack of it) with water (too much or lack of it) and with business (too much or the lack of it).
My point? It is that in this country, we are more the same than we are different. And it's as true for the positive things as the negative. Papers in the northwest had photos of their celebrations spread all over their papers, whether it be the Lavender Festival in Sequim, Wash. or Toledo Days in Oregon. They have photos of people doing everyday things, or uncommon things. They showed important local baseball games, and photos of those who are being wed, celebrating anniversaries, graduating and gaining honors.
The truth is that communities that have populations between 500 and 20,000 people in this country are the backbone of our society. They are the places where people grow up, go to school, graduate, get their first job, get married, move away from for career advancement, and then return in later years to try and recall their youth or raise their kids in a place they loved.
I suggest that the next time you travel, get a little deeper under the surface of the place you are visiting by reading a local paper. Find out what is going on and be interested. It truly adds to the vacationing experience.