Thirty minutes north of here we can play golf at the world class Bandon Dunes, designed to resemble the links on the Scottish Highlands. We had lunch last weekend as people who had flown in for the game spent hundreds to play a round and more to be housed in lakeside bungalows and lodges with the sounds of the Pacific as it roiled and moaned all night.
Most people who live here cannot afford to play here.
But they are happy The Dunes provide work. Some work full time with benefits; many more work part time. Groundskeepers, the wait staff, housekeepers, caddies, drivers, cooks, general service people feel lucky to have a job, any job. They do not have the extra money to cover even one round of golf in the place they work. Young, ambitious high school juniors become caddies as soon as they qualify, and will work here for a few years, unless they are headed for college with a scholarship and the blessings of a supportive family. Most of the young people will not return to their town after graduation because the chances of getting a job is quite small, anywhere on this coast where millionaires fly in on chartered jets and play a weekend of golf without giving a thought to the town that is hosting them.
Before Bandon Dunes came to the west coast, cities like Bandon, Coos Bay, Port Orford, Gold Beach, survived on lumber and fishing and ranching. With the arrival of retirees from California and other areas where real estate had reached skyscrapers' prices these towns began to see an influx of steady income and the need for services like health care and hospitality. Restaurants and hospitals are doing well; other businesses, however start up and close down within a couple of years.
People here survive on very little. Over 70% of our school children qualify for free or reduced lunches. Parents work part time, with no benefits and make do with meager salaries. The free dental van that visits our elementary schools found a bigger percentage of dental decay in our children than usually found in undeveloped countries.
You are not going to hear sad stories out of anybody's mouths. These people are survivors, proud of their abilities to make do, year after year, cutting wood to use for heat and cooking, growing their own food, hunting and freezing their own meats, fishing in the rivers for fish that will feed their families for weeks. You may find they are eager to help neighbors, and they trade easily with each other, a mower, a tractor, a new part for an old engine.
The local municipalities have many challenges, not the least of which is how to upgrade crumbling buildings, water treatments, sewer systems, electrical grids, communication networks to keep the city alive and thriving. Grants are few and they require in-kind investments from a municipality without any industry to keep the coffers filled. Twice we have tried to pass a bond to upgrade our water system; both times it failed. With the sequester in place, schools and police force are seeing cuts that cannot be undone by local means. Safety and education will suffer; people will be displaced; food banks will empty out.
Yet, the golf business will continue to thrive. The recession did not affect them, as they developed and expanded even during those times; and they continue to grow and provide world-class recreation in a milieu of third-world economics.
Trouble, right here in Rivercity, my friends.