Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Down but not Out

Some of my favorite tours of the USA were ones that I took over 2 weeks in North Dakota a couple of years ago, often doing two and three talks/day and seeing some incredible country. I found the people to be some of the friendliest I’ve met and with an intense pride in their towns and searching for ways to keep them viable.

One of the towns that I visited was Crosby, ND, located in the NW corner of the state. I continue to receive their weekly newspaper and read it every week. About 50 miles due east of Crosby, in the adjoining county, is Bowbells (population 406) which is also the county seat for Burke County (population 1,947).

At the end of January the local grocery store shuttered its doors and residents of Bowbells are faced with having to drive the 16 miles to the nearest store. However, the Burke County ED group is looking at starting a food coop to help hold the town together. I hope that they are able to do so.

Burke County is on the one extreme in the USA. In 1970 the population was 4,739 but over the next 38 years they’ve lost over 50% of that population to deaths and people moving away. Since 1990 only six counties out of the 3,141 in the USA have lost more on a percentage basis. The average age is 49.6 years, almost 40% greater than the national average and there are only 1.8 people per square mile. This is very rural and very sparsely populated country.

Counties like Burke don’t deserve to die without a fight. I’m rooting for them as they try to keep a grocery store.

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