By Trudy Wischemann
“No one wants to live here anymore,” said the same friend in the same conversation I wrote about last week. The explanation she gave for that purported trend, that many current residents now park their cars on their lawns (which is a violation of Lindsay’s municipal code, enforceable by law) was merely one indicator of the overall decline of this community’s once glorious existence. It’s shorthand for an unnamed and unanalyzed problem facing towns throughout the Valley and rural communities across the nation.
If no one wanted to live here anymore, I would expect to find a large number of empty houses. Instead, we find a lack of “for rent” signs, construction of new (albeit subsidized) housing, and street-side parking spaces filled with cars every evening in many neighborhoods. Some people obviously want to live here. I happen to be one of them.
Perhaps my friend was referring to the perceived desirability of the town, particularly to people of greater means. Attracting more “middle-class” people to Lindsay has been a stated goal of several councilmembers, as well as the staff, for years. The assumption is that we’d see economic benefits from that class of people which would be reflected in the town’s downtown environment, perhaps even greater social commitment to schools, parks and cultural events. I understand the correlation they’re making – in the past, that’s how it was – but I don’t think it pertains to the present, much less the future.
I think most of the City’s projects have been simply attempts to “modernize” the town, regardless of whether it is an improvement. From the project to renovate the downtown and the city park, to the construction of the new library, McDermont Field House, the Wellness Center and the existing and proposed roundabouts, this “modernization” has come with real impacts to the town’s financial stability and the living qualities that made some of us want to live here, not to mention participate in its future.
I think that choosing maintenance instead – maintenance of the park, the city streets, the traffic circulation, the street trees that once existed and now have been replaced with palms and overgrown shrubs – would have been a better strategy, one that would have served the town’s current residents better and increased our desirability by showing a devotion to the qualities that make this small town a great place to live.
Modernization may be an effective technique in cities, but in small towns it puts at risk two essential aspects of our real desirability as alternatives to the urbanizing world: a connection to the history of this place, and authenticity – the “authorship” of the space, if you will, by individual human beings exerting their creativity and rights to exist through businesses, offering goods and services to their neighbors and contributing to the common good.
Exeter has been more careful to preserve those two aspects while modernizing, an example we should examine for help maintaining our own. They also have been better at listening to their residents, who rejected the roundabout constructed at a five-street intersection and demanded that it be taken out and made it a five-way stop instead. I hope Lindsay will learn from Exeter’s example.
Trudy Wischemann is a rural researcher who writes. You can send her your modernization ideas c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.