I saw this article today written by Jim Russell on the Sustainable Cities Collective about the death of Northern New England. For those outside of these places (particularly people in California who think that New England is a state—uh, it’s not.), Northern New England is comprised of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. My Dad’s side of the family is from the first, I was born and raised in the second and I went to college freshman year in the third—you can say I have a personal connection to the area.
I’m one of the people who moved away from Northern New England after I graduated from college (UNH–Go ‘Cats!). While the area played a huge role in making me who I am today, I doubt that I’ll ever move back. My parents moved away in 2004 when my Dad retired and my Mom’s response was, “I ain’t shoveling any more snow.” (There were more expletives, but I don’t want to rat my Mom out for having an occasional “trucker mouth.”) Since my parents don’t live there anymore, there’s no reason for my brother and I to visit, much less live there. Most of my Dad’s extended family still lives in Maine and New Hampshire, as do most of my friends from college. And while I may pop in for a day or two should my parents, my brother and his family and my family decided to live it up and vacation for a week on the Cape, I don’t plan to go back.
Northern New England is beautiful. Every scenic photo of New England was probably taken in Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine. It’s a great place and a wonderful place to grow up. But the same people who grew up there are leaving in droves, and aside from the influx of tea baggers who snatched up property in New Hampshire in the last decade, outsiders aren’t moving in. I can’t speak for all young people who left, but I can say this: I left to explore the world and get out of the bubble. I probably won’t live there again (although never say never) because of the weather (it’s friggan cold in the winter! Has your hair ever frozen on the way to your 8am class?). Sure, there are old codgers who are running things that are resistant to change and a bear to deal with, and yes, jobs are limited (but isn’t that common pretty much everywhere now?), and yes, if you weren’t born there you’ll never be considered a “local” even if you live there from age 1 until you die, but that’s New England. After manufacturing left, there hasn’t been a ton of employment opportunity in the area. Despite this, Northern New England will survive. There may be fewer people and less tax revenue, but things will work out. New Englanders are a hardy lot who are great with 11th hour solutions.