One of the reasons why I wanted to leave Humboldt County was because in the nearly 10 years that we lived there, many of the great ideas that people have about improving the area, never get off the ground. With the exception of the Redwood Technology Consortium who won the fight to connect Humboldt to the real world with fiber optic cable a few years ago, it seems that most great ideas never go anywhere.
Every improvement from the badly needed pedestrian / bike trail connecting Eureka and Arcata, to the fabulous Bay Trail, to the Marina Center Project, requires 10 consultants and 100 studies, and 10 years later, guess what? Nothing. Now, that definitely isn’t the fault of great residents like my friend Jen Rice who are so dedicated and try to get things like the Bay Trail to happen. No, not at all. It’s just that there are so many darn factions and infighting in Humboldt, that nobody can agree on anything. Every great idea that comes up will have a fight on its hands by some group claiming to know what’s best, guaranteed.
So as we head out into the rest of Small Town U.S.A., we are taking note of which towns have leaders and citizens that can work together and get things done.
Right now, we’re in the Deadwood / Sturgis / Spearfish area in South Dakota. In this lovely part of the U.S., SD is currently undergoing a big transition from an ag-based economy to a tech and industry one. Things look promising, and employers are coming here almost as fast as they did to Bend, Oregon some years ago. As long as civic leaders are prepared for growth and the issues that go along with it, this area will be even better than Bend, due to their myriad transportation options and fiber infrastructure, natural beauty, and a thousand other assets.
Here in Deadwood, I’m awed by the George S. Mickelson Trail that we jogged along today.
The 114-mile George S. Mickelson Trail was completed in 1998 as part of the rails-to-trails project. It winds through the heart of the Black Hills from Edgemont to Lead/Deadwood, much of the trail passing through National Forest Land. Riders encounter more than 100 converted railroad bridges and four hardrock tunnels along the scenic route. Gentle slopes and easy access allow people of all ages and abilities to enjoy the beauty of the Black Hills along the trail.
It’s not just for bike riders and joggers either, it’s also a snowmobile and cross country ski trail in the wintertime. Taking about 10 years to complete in 1998, this true Rails to Trail beauty is an amazing feat. The fact that a handful of small towns (with a combined population smaller than Humboldt’s) can get together to make this thing happen, is testimony to the fact that great ideas don’t always have to mean bureaucracy and infighting.
Today we are setting out to talk to the Spearfish Economic Development director today to see what possibilities this area might have in store for our own futures. If the Mickelson trail is any indication of the way things happen around here, who knows, we just might be back.