Redesigning Rural Communities
We know at least a few of the reasons why rural communities go into decline. In eastern Washington, technology has radically improved agricultural efficiency at the cost of manual labor jobs. Technology, in the form of trucks and automobiles, has also replaced the railroad that once connected the dots of towns in a web of mutual trade and support. When the on-farm jobs disappeared, the commercial support base in small communities did, too. Banks, cafes, repair shops closed, leaving town after town with decrepit central cores. Brain drain takes young people to urban areas in search of employment—and the vicious cycle becomes a death spiral.
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Ghost towns of Washington
Soap Lake Photopourri
Main Street, USA
Standing on the beach at Smokiam Park, I dip my hand in the lake. The water is soft, slippery, almost squishy feeling. It’s full of sodium carbonate—washing soda. It’s a tiny lake, and on its southern beach is Soap Lake, a town experiencing a little renaissance.
Locals credit Washington State University’s Rural Communities Design Initiative for assisting their town of 1,500 in the eastern Washington scablands with improvement efforts. Soap Lake declined from fame and modest prosperity to a near ghost town but has recently rediscovered its pulse.
“Smokiam” is a Tsincayuse word that means “healing waters,” so maybe the sense of … » More …