Sunday, October 4, 2009

What price "coolest"?

This is a story on Yahoo! Travel today that has me scratching my head:

America's Coolest Small Towns

Every now and then, you stumble upon a town that's gotten everything right—great coffee, food with character, shop owners with purpose. These 10 spots have it all, in perfectly small doses.

Now, I'm as much a sucker for ambiance as the next person, and these towns might be interesting to visit, but I'm wondering how the residents feel about the places - especially now that Yahoo has outed them and they will perhaps be inundated with visitors (that it sounds like they don't have the infrastructure to handle).

OK, so they've got cute coffee shops and bookstores and bed-and-breakfasts, but do they have a decent school system? A well staffed police and fire department? Social services and public works? How about a library? What does it cost the residents for water and waste disposal? These kinds of services can be exorbitantly expensive for small towns, and a yearly influx of tourists may make shopkeepers happy but doesn't put much into the government's coffers.

And it's all very well if you can find a great latte, but how about buying daily essentials like groceries without being gouged. I grew up in a small town; I know about the greed that ensues when there's no competition. And are there doctors and dentists and a hospital, or do residents have to drive into the closest city for health care? Consider that when you kid's sick in the middle of the night.

All that ambiance stuff that brings in the tourism quixotically could make the places more crowded and difficult for the locals, and I would bet doesn't add a lot to their day-to-day life.


Jennifer said...

I'm with you....small town life is not easy, and tourists aren't there all the time to see what goes on when they leave.

Joan said...

I agree - and disagree. I grew up in a small New England town that was visited by "leaf peepers" every Fall, and skiers every winter. Although it's traffic and lines at the few restaurants in town were a problem, the tourists were the basis of our economy and kept many Mom & Pop shops in existence. A highway was built that bypassed our town, and poof! many businesses folded as the tourists passed us by. It's a Catch-22 I guess.