Plum Creek’s Northern Exposure…

Posted: 29/09/2008 in Uncategorized
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The Brick, from Roslyn Washington, as seen on Northern Exposure.

I’m sure most of you remember the hit TV series Northern Exposure, with the Moose seen strolling down main street, and the gang hanging out at the Brick for beer and company. Cicely Alaska was a fictional town, but it was set in a real community. A community just like Greenville. Roslyn Washington was the home set for the cast and crew of Northern Exposure. It’s also the home of an earlier Plum Creek related development that also promised pie in the sky wealth riches and unending employment.

In the 1990’s Plum Creek battled back and forth with local residents, the State of Washington, and environmental groups for the ability to re-classify their land holding and allow them to be sold and/or developed. Many new jobs were offered, and a construction boom began, making it seem as the areas employment troubles were over. Through a series of land deals and contracts a mega resort, known today as Suncadia was developed and opened. With a resort community and hundreds of summer homes now occupying the land in what is called Cle Elum and Roslyn itself, one would think it were true. And one would also tend to believe the claims made by the developers of the Moosehead Lake Concept plan are would be saviors to the North Woods economy. Sounds good, but lets take a look at Roslyn today.

Let’s forget the idyllic scenes we remember from the TV for awhile. I’ve read that there are no moose for about 400 miles from the area today. Wildlife seems to have taken a header for the mountains as it has declined in numbers, or at least viewable numbers from what it once was. I found an online classified ads page for The Daily Record. An interesting batch of solid opportunities I must say. The newspaper itself is looking for carriers and delivery drivers. No pay rate was listed. There were also some opportunities for service positions at the University of Washington. I also saw some health care positions, maintenance, personal care etc. A couple of restaurants were looking for full and part time help. Also, a C-store was looking for part time help. Possibly the best position was for a front counter position at a sporting vehicle shop in the parts department.

The ads didn’t look real promising for employment, so I turned to the local news to see what was going on. a couple of articles caught my eye. One of them was Rural homes stretch firefighters’ resources which detailed the risks having a rural fire department means to homeowners. No funding means no full time fire department. Having funding means raising taxes to pay for the fire department. When most of the residents do not live in a community, they can easily veto higher taxes and live without the full time fire department. After all, the volunteers will be more than eager to put out a fire at some rich man’s home, even though he doesn’t live there. Volunteer fire fighters are special people. They go beyond what others would do for their neighbors, even though the neighbors wouldn’t reciprocate.

Another article that caught my eye was Kittitas County economic outlook not as rosy as it once was. Funny, but the early claims by the developers of the MountainStar Resort, now Suncadia, seemed to suggest that there would forever be rampant employment. Just like here in the Moosehead region. The economy of Kittitas County is in the hopper, however. The article tells of how the unemployment rates are rising, and the high cost of housing has not declined, and in fact is steady. Statistics seem to indicate that housing in the Cle Elum area is about ten percent or so higher than the national average.

There are a lot of problems the area of Roslyn and Cle Elum have today that were not supposed to rear their ugly little heads with the construction of the resort with its hotel, golf courses RV parks and all of the rich boy housing. Once the construction boom ended, the economy of the locals declined. There are no miracle employment opportunities. Most of the positions are seasonal and part time in nature, with lower wages.

Five or ten years from now, are the people who supported this plan to reshape Maine’s future into a resort economy still going to look back and say they made the right decision? Are they going to go to Greenville, with its stagnant economy and decaying economy to sip coffee while throngs of trapped residents, too poor to move away where opportunity may await, gush over them with thanks for what they have done? Or will they look back and say, oops.


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