Posted by: gdevi | June 14, 2011

Truckin’

One day last week I pulled over into the parking lot by Jay Street bridge and watched the dump trucks go by. My car was sandwiched between two trucks full of residual waste from the drilling sites. I was going to Oak Hollow Road off of 664 to pick up my daughter from her friend’s house, and after idling for fifteen minutes, I decided to pull over into the parking lot and let the trucks pass. I sat in my car and counted the trucks while I waited for 664 road to clear off so cars and other town street-worthy vehicles could pass by. I counted twenty seven trucks on 664 that morning in about thirty minutes. I am sure the daily aggregate number of trucks on these small town roads is much higher. 664 is a dual-carriage road, but it is a narrow road that serves as the main artery connecting several small housing developments off of Coudersport Pike with downtown Lock Haven. During school year, 664 is a high-traffic street with school buses, regular cars, jeeps, SUVs et al dropping kids off at Woodward Elementary school which serves a fairly wide zip code region. The recent introduction of  drilling and dump trucks and residual waste semis into this regular traffic pattern has made the 664 commute almost unbearable to see, to suffer and to navigate. The trucks are not going to school or home. They are gigantically out of place on this small street.

Sociologists speak of the “boomtown” phenomenon–regular towns where people used to live their regular lives that experience sudden economic boom because of the discovery and exploitation of some natural resource–gold, silver, minerals, timber, oil, gas, add what else Mother Nature has stored under the crust–as a particularly vulnerable form of development. You are a boomtown, if you considered yourself dying and not really anything to speak of, and you are “discovered” by outside prospectors, then given large amounts of cash for nothing that you really did, but simply because you happen to own a piece of land which has something they can sell for a profit. Boomtowns are elaborate get-rich-quick-schemes that feel like legitimate business. But they are a slash-and-burn industry that can quickly destroy the very matrix that supports them.  While a few key people profit very handsomely, at least for a while, while the boom is on, everyone feels its socio-economic benefits. People move into the area, old businesses pick up, new businesses thrive, and there is a general sense of all round well-being and prosperity.  If the boomtown uses its resources correctly at the community level to build lasting and enduring economic infrastructures, then it can be beneficial. If not, boomtowns turn into another sociological find, “ghost towns.” When the boom goes bust, either because of resource depletion or market-slump for the product there is a rapid exodus of people from the town. What formerly was thriving, shrivel and shrink leaving the place to feel lonely and off the map and waiting to be “discovered,” if lucky, again. Oil and gas boomtowns are spectacularly noticeable due to the excavated craters gaping from slaughtered hillsides. Abandoned drill equipments sit inert where they stabbed the earth in the flush days.

I hope Lock Haven will not allow itself to become a boomtown that is thrilled to be discovered by outsiders who want to predict its course. We have education, we have healthcare, we have our businesses, we have our small industries, we have our farms, above all, we are stewards of a beautiful land, which is our greatest inheritance. We must not sell our mother to buy big screen TVs and vacations to Costa Rica.

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