Friday, July 28, 2017

Retrospective out of southwest Oregon

Jeff Brady, a journalist with National Public Radio, filed this story out of his home town, Gold Beach, Oregon (population 2,253), a week or so ago.  Brady grew in Curry County (population 22,364), and he's returned as part of an NPR series where journalists visit their hometowns to see and talk about what has changed since they left.  Gold Beach's story is not uncommon in that part of the world.  It is one of a transition from commercial fishing, logging and timber-based economy to one based largely on tourism.  You see, the Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach. 

Here's an excerpt, but the story is well worth a listen in its entirety. 
Most of my classmate's parents worked in jobs connected to logging. My dad, for example, worked for the U.S. Forest Service where he helped manage the two-thirds of Curry County that is federal land.

Back then, timber was king and it seemed like the industry always would be at the center of Gold Beach's economic life.
"It was our number one employer at the time. People came from everywhere to work at the mill," says Gold Beach City Councilor Tamie Kaufman. She's a friend and former classmate of mine. 
Recently Kaufman and I walked around an old plywood mill site, a few miles up the Rogue River from Gold Beach. The mill closed after logging slowed down in nearby federal forests. One factor was environmental concerns and efforts to preserve the spotted owl. 
The mill burned in 1991 and never re-opened. Now the site has, ironically, been taken over by trees. 
Without the wages and regular overtime the mill paid, Tamie says the region has struggled economically. Poverty is a persistent problem.

No comments: