Our smallest towns: Any future?

Downtown Crabtree: Its history is linked to the railroad.

Downtown Crabtree: Its history is linked to the railroad.

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A week or two ago, I stopped and got off my bike in Crabtree. Since then I've been wondering if there's a way towns like this can ever be revived.

According to the last census, the unincorporated community had 391 people with a median age of about 45, seven years older than Oregon as a whole. In the past few months the town has been in the news for two developments, the closure of the Crabtree Tavern and the controversy that ensued after the Albany & Eastern Railroad opened a log-loading yard last year. The railroad operation upset some residents, but actually it harkens back to the early history of the community, when the Southern Pacific came through the town.

All across the United States, small towns founded in rural areas more than a hundred years ago are drying up. It's the result of many trends, mainly the decline of the family farm, the change in the kind of work available to people, and the migration of commerce, first to retail chains and now to the Internet. In Crabtree, one place that's still open and functioning is the post office. But its parent organization is in financial trouble, so who knows how long the local branch will remain.

On a sunny Saturday afternoon, the place seems like a pretty nice and quiet place to live. If only there was some way for a business or two to open and survive. (hh)

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