Idaho: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (Opinion)
I took a pleasure cruise on the Snake River. I’ve spent nearly every weekend of my summer sightseeing in Idaho and have barely scratched the opportunities to see some of the Northern Hemisphere’s greatest wonders. The past weekend, I floated on the 1000 Springs Tour. I’ve been to canyons, rivers and mountains.
In a couple of weeks, I’m hosting a radio program at the Twin Falls County Fair. I could broadcast there every day if we could make it work with the schedule. The fair is a big attraction as is geography but I’m not sure we put on our best when we open the doors to visitors and tourists.
This morning, I had a conversation with a fellow at work about how we shouldn’t be afraid to share opinions not only on radio but in our written communication. So, once again I’m venting.
There are infinite marvelous things to see in Idaho but getting to see them often requires a drive through what seems like Third World conditions.
Thirty years ago I was working reading news at a radio station in an old worn out rustbelt city. At a city council meeting, I looked over an agenda and saw a line item for the purchase of tulips. When I asked the city manager what the expense was for, he explained the flowers were planted in the median of a highway serving as gateway to the city. “We plant them, they grow and look pretty,” he explained. Flowers in bloom are a welcoming vision for visitors but on both sides of the highway were boarded up factories, empty lots and dive bars. I’m not sure people arriving at the edge of the town paid much attention to the tulips. The ugly hulks lurking and crumbling on either side of the street more likely set the tone. The city was struggling to attract new business and opened an “incubator” on the north side of town. To get to the new industrial park, you were forced to drive through a series of shanties. Do I need to explain where I’m going?
A friend from out-of-state came to visit Twin Falls last November. He was blown away by the canyon and can’t wait to return again for lunch at Canyon Crest. I’m happy he saw the city’s claim-to-fame. When he drove to the radio station earlier in the day from his hotel he wasn’t impressed by other parts of town.
A few weeks ago, I was traveling through the lovely sagebrush in Eastern Idaho when I saw a sign for the historic Atomic City. Oh, what a letdown! Crumbling gas stations, crumbling taverns and a few scattered and broken down mobile homes greet the tourist.
Driving to Sun Valley requires passing through Shoshone. A few weeks ago, I was in Rupert and decided to explore neighboring Paul. Even historic Idaho City has hovels mixed in with the museum pieces. The bad and the ugly! What are we thinking?
A few questions. Am I the only one who notices? Are you happy when you leave the county fair and drive through downtown Filer? It’s a hole, friends! Last year Governor Otter told me Idaho has the fourth fastest growing economy in the country and the three states in the lead all had resources that can be pulled from the ground and turned into fuel. We’re doing it without oil, coal or gas. Randy Stapilus reports in his Idaho Weekly Briefing the state should remain in the top six in growth for much of the next decade. Could we be higher if we improved the look of some of our gateways? When I pass through any town, I always think would I be safe here? Can kids get good schooling here? Will my neighbors leave rusting hulks by the curb? Could I maintain property value? People who bring businesses to Idaho are thinking of some of the same things and even more.
Are you proud of the scope we see between the good, the bad and the ugly? How can we change first impressions?