Vermont to the Sierra: Small Towns Facing Similar Challenges

As a recent transplant to the Tahoe region from Vermont, I can say that both places have a lot more in common than I anticipated. I grew up in a small town with picturesque covered bridges and vibrant fall foliage. It was frequently flooded with visitors coming either for the weekend or to live their quiet Vermont lives in the hills. After recently moving to the Truckee-Tahoe area, I’ve realized that the rural and picturesque communities so many of us are attracted to often face similar concerns.COMM KR Blog VT 2013 11

My small and rural hometown community was no exception. In an area full of people who love their environment and community so much, it felt like there were a lot of questions to answer: In the decentralized and rural community we all were attracted to, how could we develop an effective public transportation system? In a hilly environment, where winters are harsh and jobs are often several miles from where people live, how many people can realistically bike or walk to work? How would the tourist-based businesses fare in the slow seasons? What would such a transient population of those who “summered” in Vermont or who came up only to ski on the weekends do to the strength of the communities of those who lived there full time? How can families and businesses effectively weatherize their houses and buildings for cold winters and the short days that are associated with them? And how could there be community-wide outreach and assistance to areas that are so rural that one would have to drive to most houses for a campaign, or get into a car several times to reach most local businesses?

When I moved out to California three weeks ago where I was going to live my picturesque life in the mountains, naturally I should have realized that this area – with very similar physical and developmental characteristics to home – would come with a similar set of challenges. It has already come to my attention that traveling by foot or bike is difficult due to the distances between most locations. Public transportation is indeed available, but only at certain times from certain locations. I have thus far only witnessed the slow season of tourism, but it is clear many businesses are hanging on and waiting for business to pick up in the winter months.

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I know that I am only just beginning to understand the underlying social, economic, and environmental implications in this region that come with the characteristics of the area, but the strong connections between both the positive and negative aspects of living in this type of community are clear. As I begin my work at the Sierra Business Council, I am excited to learn more about the environmental, social, and economic concerns of the Sierra. I am ready to focus on issues which include assisting rural businesses and communities with energy efficiency, helping them get treated in the same manner as those who are more centrally located, and dealing with the issues that come along with efficiently and sustainably developing rural areas. I hope that in my time here, I can begin to understand the solutions to these problems, and hope that I not only can make a difference and contribute to solutions in this community, but maybe share some of these ideas with the communities back home – as we are a lot more similar than we realize.