Prevailing Winds: An Essay about the New(s) Year

Prevailing Winds

Commentary by Patric Hedlund

[First published in the January 2009 issue of The Mountain Pioneer]

Our nation—the entire global community of nations—went spinning off the tracks of an economic Magic Mountain roller coaster ride at the end of 2008.

Illusions of wealth as the great insulator from personal vulnerability evaporated in a heartbeat as retirement savings and home equity—often even jobs—disappeared in the bat of an investment banker’s eyelash. That’s the bad news.

There is good news too. You live in an amazing place, surrounded by amazing people. Our skies still have stars here. We conquer snowstorms, dirt roads and living with bears. As we meet the challenges of these mountains, we change the way we think of ourselves…and the way we think of each other.

In 2008, the greater Frazier Mountain Communities, from Neenach on the east to Cuyama on the west—enfolding Pine Mountain, Pineridge, Cuddy Valley, Pinon Pines, Lockwood Valley, Lake of the Woods, Frazier Park and Lebec—learned some surprising lessons.

We learned that over 40 years of working together to organize festivals and parades that celebrate the seasons (while helping local charities) have led to unexpected benefits—including the ability to work together when quick action is required.

This winter we saw the bold results of our mountain skills. Beginning January 1, 2009, an Amtrak bus will stop in Lebec daily, due to activism by mountain residents that prompted introduction of special legislation by state Senator Roy Ashburn.

When the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) voted to extend the valley floor’s “No- Burn Day” bans to our region, over 1,720 signatures were collected in four days in December to demand scientific evidence to justify extending the no-burn ban here.

On December 18, Frazier Park’s Chuck Woerner explained the science of our unique geographic and meteorologic region to the air district’s governing board in a teleconference between Bakersfield and Fresno.

Overnight, this east-west mountain region with prevailing winds different from the rest of the district was proclaimed its own “air control area.” Sensors to gather relevant air quality data were ordered deployed.

As we go to press today, The Fresno Bee and The Bakersfield Californian are shaking their editorial heads in surprise that the articulate, intelligent and vigilant people of the Greater Frazier Mountain Communities took their argument to a faceless bureaucracy and won the right to burn wood to stay warm during chilly winters.

Two days earlier, on December 16, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to accelerate the start of the long-sought and hard-won firefighter- paramedic program in Pine Mountain. The Kern County Fire Department’s very first paramedic program will begin here on March 1, 2009.

That is not a bad reward for more than five years of struggle for better emergency medical care in this rural area, despite efforts by the mayor of Bakersfield and his political friends to derail the quest and to confuse voters.

This was a marathon run by hardy mountain residents who refused to take their eye off the ball. A beefy 89 percent of registered voters came to the polls to vote 75.3 percent in favor of providing better protection for their children, themselves and their neighbors.

More events of 2008 are evidence that the mountain’s unified voice is being heard. The list of self-help success stories continues.

At long last “Mount Rubble” at the gateway to our Mountain Community was removed from Frazier Mountain Park Road. The Cuddy Creek stabilization plan was finally implemented.

The streetscape beautification project is nearly complete in Frazier Park. Building will begin on the new Kern County branch library in 2009. The long-awaited fire station for Pine Mountain is also slated to be built in this new year.

The volunteer Pinon Pines water company board won grants to upgrade their wells and to install a dip tank for fire-fighting helicopters. The volunteer Meals on Wheels continues to help those in need. The “Name Your Price” Thrift Store in Lebec makes the Boys & Girls Club possible. The new SPCA is helping critters. The Mountain Ride Carpool Co-op has saved local commuters thousands of dollars. “Shop local” initiatives save local jobs and much-needed local businesses. Pine Mountain Scrappers and the Star Quilt Guild help veterans and youth.

Together, we’ve already begun to make 2009 an inspiring New(s) Year.


This is part of the January 09, 2009 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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