Oroville’s playground pipe dream

The owner of Oroville’s Fiedler’s Follies antique store

I read with interest your story “Empty promise” in the July 12 issue. The state has indeed pushed development of “Lake” Oroville off the back burner and off the stove altogether. However, I believe Oroville’s fantasy of becoming a vacation playground is farfetched, if not a true pipe dream.

First, we can’t depend on the reservoir level. One season it might be full and look great; the next it could be, as it often has been, so low it looks ugly and boats can’t be launched. Of course, the level depends on two factors: the amount of precipitation we get each year and how much water Southern California wants or needs. After all, that was the real reason the dam, fore- and afterbays were built.

When the subject of building a dam was first bought up, many people around Oroville said a big “No” to the whole thing. Oh, how they screamed. But Oroville believed the state’s hype sung by phony Governors [Pat] Brown and [Ronald] Reagan, who knew damn well that Oroville was just a bump in the state’s water road to give Los Angeles all the water it wanted. So they promised all to get Oroville off their backs so the state could do what it wanted. And little Oroville, or, as Mike Ramsey calls us, “Mayberry,” fell for the B.S. our elected officials put out and bought into Oroville’s becoming a tourist magnet.

The state did not for one minute plan to live up to all the promises made to Oroville. Behind closed doors was made a statement to the effect: “We’ll promise them everything, get the dam, put in some token development and screw ’em! What are they going to do, sue us?”

There are several reasons why this tourist-playground fantasy will never happen here. First, Oroville is not on a main tourist route. Oroville would have to have many things, big things, going for us in order to attract enough visitors to become a city with a tourist-based economy. What do we have besides the lake?

Let’s see, there is the Chinese Temple, a few good museums (though they are rarely open), a half-assed restored “historic downtown” and some lovely old homes.

Then there is the one thing that’s dogged Oroville for decades—our very negative reputation, which comes from our depressed economy, high unemployment, high crime and high welfare rates. Plus there is the latest drain on our poor cash flow—two casinos. Yes, they provide some low-wage jobs, but as a businessman for nearly 25 years in Oroville, I know the negative effect they have had on businesses. The casinos would have been no problem had our leaders had enough foresight to allow more good-paying jobs in Oroville, like industry.

Rather, our leaders have been hanging onto the Brown-Reagan tourist fantasy, while our economy goes down like the Titanic. Without enough lifeboats—i.e., jobs—business after business sinks. Wake up, Oroville, before all the lifeboats are gone. Put some heat under our deadbeat leaders to get some good-paying, year-round jobs in Oroville. This would do more for our economy than all the tourist hype and empty promises ever could.