Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts on Ghost Towns

Not long ago, we visited the ghost town of Bodie, California. Desolate, chill, and empty now, the town was once notorious as the "wildest town in the West," boasting 10,000 residents, and producing over $35 million in gold and silver in the span of ten years.

Looking into the once raucous bars, hotel rooms and school houses of this abandoned world, I realized how easily Places can be lost. Without any other industry but mining to provide jobs, Bodie residents fled to other areas when the gold ran out, leaving their ramshackle houses and belongings behind. It is the same phenomenon that has happened to many once wonderful Places around our country -- small towns when small farming died away . . . old town centers when the malls were built on the edge . . . cities like Detroit when their main industry disappeared.

Bodie wasn't built to be sustainable I suppose. The houses were slapped up overnight and the weather at that high, dry, remote elevation is not meant for pleasant living. It was built as a short-term place where vast sums of money could be made fast. Perhaps building around short-term gains is a precursor to building No Place, but aside from choosing to build in locations appropriate for the long term, perhaps one of the best things that we can do as a nation, as leaders of our towns and cities, or as concerned citizens to sustain our beloved Places is to ensure they continue to have the diversified industry and progressive foresight to avoid the fate of Bodie.


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