The Current Need For Adopting a Diversified Strategy To Promote El Dorado County’s Economic Health
Ill-considered large high-density urban-style subdivisions have for too long been pushed by the developers’ lobbyists and sold to the Chambers of Commerce and the Board of Supervisors as the county’s principal revenue base and economic “engine”. But large, high-density subdivision developments are not the solution to our economic needs; they are the problem.
High-density suburban-type sprawl does not pay its way; it is a net drain on public government and taxpayers’ money, as studies have shown. El Dorado County government services are in serious economic straits due in no small degree to the Board of Supervisors’ misguided decision to base the County’s budget and economic well-being almost solely on large high-density subdivision development. Because of the volatility of the subdivision housing market, such reliance has caused great economic harm to the County during real-estate bust cycles such as the present one we are in, and will do so again in future downturns.
Instead, the County needs to adopt a strategy of economic diversification. This means instead of putting all our economic eggs in one basket, El Dorado County needs to foster economic development across a wide variety of revenue-generating and jobs-creating sectors. This means the Board of Supervisors, Chambers of Commerce, EID, and other community organizations must provide leadership and favorable conditions for economic activities which bring local jobs, economic stability, respect for the historical heritage of our county, preserve our county’s predominantly rural character, and protect El Dorado County’s natural environment.
Such diversified revenue-generating economic activities include:
- a) encouraging the restoration and preservation of historical towns and Gold Rush-era sites, and Native American cultural sites, to increase tourist visits and spending here.
- b) encouraging expansion of movie-making and television production activity within El Dorado County, making sure that land-use decisions do not destroy our county’s film-making appeal.
- c) protecting and increasing local agriculture and horticulture for domestic consumption and food-export purposes, including neighborhood gardens, and promoting a Grown in El Dorado County brand to foster recognition of the freshness and quality of El Dorado produce, eggs, etc.
- d) protecting and promoting sound commercial timber-planting and harvesting operations, utilizing environmentally-sound best-practices forestry, increasing lumberjack and sawmill jobs.
- e) developing a modern energy-producing, revenue-producing, and jobs-creating waste recycling facility (Materials Recycling Facility) which is controlled by and benefits the County (us).
- f) encouraging new or existing wineries to develop into attractive “destination” tourist locations.
- g) creating clean-energy generating facilities (solar, small-hydro, wind, biomass, bio-fuels and advanced-technology energy centers), so that El Dorado can soon become energy self-sufficient.
- h) fostering additional specialty-crop visitor-oriented operations (such as pears, cherries, etc.) which can create additional tourist destination sites (along the model of Apple Hill).
- i) encouraging the building of single homes, duplexes and quadruplexes by local small builders and local workforce according to actual demand, not speculation.
- j) encourage Folsom Lake College to develop an intensive health-services skills program at our El Dorado Center campus to provide training for jobs in the still-expanding health industry.
- k) promoting the opening of more cultural and entertainment facilities, (some located in conjunction with existing local businesses and wineries), such as outdoor music festivals, band concerts, cultural dancing exhibitions, gold-panning championships, etc.
- l) protecting and expanding cattle, buffalo, llama, and other commercial ranching operations, and assuring the availability of adequate grazing lands by retaining/increasing agricultural zoning.
- m) promoting more horse-ranching operations, and ancillary service jobs such as horseshoing.
- n) developing a new rodeo arena, potentially with adjacent equitation and gymkhana complex.
- o) bringing in one or more for-fee equestrian centers open to the public, offering horse services.
- p) developing public-access for-fee swimming beaches for resident and tourist use along the Cosumnes and American Rivers (for example, use blighted-community redevelopment funding to create a new Gold Beach public swimming/beach park and adjacent campground facilities.)
- q) increasing the number of private or county fee campground facilities on non-federal lands.
- r) encouraging opening an environmental study center with classes (potentially in cooperation with USDA Extension, Folsom Lake College’s El Dorado Center, and the US Forest Service).
- s) develop one or more small research park campuses, attracting high-skills well-paid workers.
- t) develop County-encouraged private-enterprise for-fee snow-play/winter sports facilities.
- u) promoting rural-located conference facilities for business and private groups (like Asilomar).
- v) encouraging the opening of one or more rustic-setting retreat centers, for serenity seekers.
- w) developing regional youth entertainment centers (bowling alley, video arcade center, motocross bike facility, skateboarding mini-parks, teen meeting/games places, etc.).
- x) fostering the development of more private schools, and also a four-year college campus.
- y) creating a County youth volunteer corps to do short-term revenue-generating service projects, with proceeds benefitting local charitable organizations: El Dorado County’s own “Americorps”.
- z) encouraging more community gardens and small truck farm cooperatives, (including organic), which can sell produce to local restaurants, farmers’ markets, and grocery stores.
Such a diversified, multi-faceted economic approach will help protect El Dorado County’s economic health and resiliency during economic down-turns, and provide a ongoing broad-based platform for strong healthy economic activity in good times. Let’s stop the current dangerous practice of relying primarily on large high-density subdivision development as the county’s principal financing strategy.
Let’s refashion our County’s economic structure in a sound diversified way to support and encourage local small businesses, build local jobs, and preserve a clean, healthy, prospering rural county that we can proudly hand on to our children and grandchildren.
Richard Boylan, Ph.D.
Diamond Springs, CA