Learning through Listening
On April 25, 2007 twenty OSU
students gave up their Spring breaks, crammed into two white vans and began the
long drive toward Chiloquin,
Oregon. In this remote town in Klamath County
we spent six days speaking with stakeholders in the area on issues affecting
the rural community as well as the Native population in the area. We heard very differing opinions on many
subjects but overall there seemed to be a general consensus that Klamath County is an area in transition.
The Changing Demographics of Klamath County
has been experiencing renewed population growth. After losing significant numbers of it
citizens with the loss of timber Klamath Country is now seeing more people
coming into the area. Over the course of
our discussions with stakeholders in the area we heard but positive and
negative views on this growth. However,
looking at the situation it does not appear that this growth will stop, and
will indeed continue on into the future.
However, with changing demographics in the area the Klamath County
of the past may not look the same as the Klamath County
of the future.
The Aging Population and Immigration of
have been many recent changes in the demographics of Klamath County. First of all, much of the population is aging
and there has been an overall outward migration of young people. Additionally, many retirees have been coming
in from out of the area, from places such as California.
They are able to sell their homes in California
and then move to Klamath
County and buy a much
nicer home than they had before with the profits from the sale of their former
home. Developments such as the Running Y
Ranch are being created to further entice this group into the area. With an Arnold Palmer designed golf course,
an ice rink, miles of trails and a huge lodge, the Running Y is a retiree’s
in the aging population has filled up the assisted living facilities in the
area and could put a strain on the surrounding healthcare facilities as
well. To meet the needs of the community
the Merle West
in Klamath Falls
is undertaking a $40 million dollar expansion project that will add hundreds of
new beds and expand the emergency treatment area as well. The project will make the hospital one of the
most progressive on the West Coast.
It will use geothermal energy, natural lighting, alternative
medicines, and will even have a healing garden at its center.
Klamath County has also seen increases in the
number of its Latino community members.
This population is coming in not as migrant workers, as they were in the
1940’s, but as permanent community members.
This population has a very diverse background a represents numerous
countries of origin from Guatemala
to Cuba to Mexico. They
are gaining prominence in the community and are sharing their various cultural
heritages through community events such as the Cinco
de Mayo celebration. There have also
been more restaurants and services popping up to cater to this group. It would seem that this growth trend will
continue on into the future with other diverse groups coming in as well.
The Klamath Tribe
Since the Klamath tribes
restoration in 1986 they too
have been experiencing population growth.
They have built a new health care facility and a brand new tribal
administration building as well. They
are working towards becoming more independent both politically and
economically. The Kla-Mo-Ya
casino was built in 1997 to provide jobs to both tribal and non-tribal members. Recently, the tribe has
its own court which will hear limited cases.
One concern we did hear was
concerning the blood quantum level. As
more and more tribal members continue to form families with non-tribal members
some people are worried that the blood quantum
level, which is currently set at
one quarter to be a part of the tribe, may have to be lowered.
Concerns with Changes
While most community members were
enthusiastic about the changes taking place in Klamath County
the class also heard various concerns voiced as well. Some people stated worried that as retired
persons moved in from out of the area they may not be as willing to contribute
additional resources to community needs that they are not feel apart of such as
raising additional tax dollars for schools.
We also heard
many people worried about the huge price increases in the local housing
market. One person stated that three
years ago their home
casino near Chiloquin, OR
was valued at around $67,000 and
presently it is worth $300,000. Some
worry this will keep young families from obtaining home ownership. Additionally, as more wealth comes into the area
new services and shopping outlets are being demanded. Many stores such as COSCO and Home Depot see
as a prime secondary market for expansion opportunities. This worries some residents that Klamath Falls will become another “Bend” and will stop being a place of
production, but one of consumption. With
limited industrial land available due to zoning and
geographic limitations every retail outlet limits production and/or
also worries that as greater number of upper income people move into the area
it will create more stratification and polarization between residents. In some of the very rural areas in the county
it almost looks like a third world country while the new developments are fine
testaments to modern construction.
very limited water resources some residents are apprehensive that all of this
growth could put a further strain on the water supply. We heard of some ranches in the area being
broken up into subdivisions, and with the passing of Measure 37 we might expect
this division to continue. However, as
residents demand greater amount of water all year long for things such as
showering, doing laundry and keeping their yards green this could make
increased complications for the other water users in the area.
People had various views on the
renewed population growth and gentrification of Klamath County
but overall it does not appear that there is going to be a sudden halt anytime
in the near future. The county has a
strong economic development plan that includes playing up its proximity to California to attract
business. The area seems to be emerging
from some of its historical rivalries and has developed new lines of
communication that will help ensure all groups are taken into account as Klamath County enters the future.
City of Klamath Falls
Klamath Falls Chamber of Commerce
of Commerce Article: Growth in Klamath Falls
The Running Y Ranch
West Medical Center Expansion