05.25.08

Local Amenities

Posted in Conservation, Economic Development at 3:38 pm by justakim

In Regional Economic Development I was told that some areas have an advantage over others because of the local amenities. There are some places that are just never going to have the draw of others. Who doesn’t like a view of the ocean? Who doesn’t appreciate trees? A temperate climate. Sunshine.

But I don’t buy this. I don’t believe that some places are completely out of luck. Plenty of people–plenty of growing cities!–are located in places I wouldn’t dream of living. Not everyone has the same priority order of amenities that I do. Certainly, too many people like what I like (Mediterranean climate with ocean, mountain, and desert within an hour), but not everyone.

And there are plenty of places in the US where no one lives, which could appeal to me, except for the fact that no one else lives there. There are parts of Wyoming and Montana where I bet you could own your own mesa. I could live with that, if there happened to be a big city nearby. When I crossed the country, I saw many empty places that I’d love to explore, had I the resources nearby to make it worth living there, not the other way around.

Think of all the desert cities in Arizona and New Mexico. The sun is a draw, and only so if there’s air conditioning, but does every resident look out upon the deserts and see a harsh and uninviting place, or do they perhaps see something to be proud of, or to admire? Surely, there are few places in the lower 48 that are less welcoming to human life.

Appeal changes. Amenities can be enhanced or destroyed. LA might have nice weather, but I don’t imagine many people considered it a beautiful place to live in the beginning. Did you think the San Francisco Peninsula had trees? Some places develop from historical accident, from the needs of transportation or technology, but the nature outdoors does not seem to me such a limiting factor.

Still, I understand that people are willing to pay more for certain natural amenities than others. I live in a beautiful place. And all those amenities are fully enhanced, supported, and advertised. I am paying for the view, the forests, and the trails. The farms, the local markets, the nearness of the sea, and all that the city provides. I intend to get more than my money’s worth.

In the past, I have not utilized the local amenities. I used to live with Mt. Rainier in my backyard. I would observe it. I would admire it. I would occasionally visit and I would never stay. It was distant, aloof, indifferent.

I flew past it on my way home one day, and wrote this:

Mountain King

arising from mysteries, robed in fog
an island of certainty in a sea of clouds
commanding the landscape like no other
the mountain king presides over his dominion
while change lurks beneath the foamy surface
the high kingdom of snow and cloud remains serene

The thought of hiking up to a glacier, sleeping on it, and climbing to the top never appealed to me.

And then I moved, and then there was another mountain in my backyard.

At first I thought Mt. Hood was nice, but it was just another mountain. Anything that required equipment was scenery and not something to stand on. Every so often, we’d go up to Timberline Lodge, sip a drink, and observe the peak from a comfortable distance. On one of our first trips, there was a search and rescue going on, in a window of clear weather. I watched the clouds rolling in. It was like a shroud of death.

People die up there. There’s a whole Wikipedia page devoted to Mt. Hood accidents.

About 10,000 climbers attempt Mount Hood every year, the mountain claiming one to three lives annually.

And yet, as time went on, the mountain beckoned. There was something so enticing about it, luminous and pristine on every clear day. “You’ll take the challenge.” it said. “Yes, people die on my slopes… that’s not going to stop you.”

Next year, I’m taking classes and I’m going with a group. All the resources are there to make it possible. The summit will be mine.

There are few creatures more ill-suited to climbing than I, but I won’t ignore an opportunity so tidiliy laid out before me.

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