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Use it or lose it!

Letter to the editor,
I lived in Rainy River in the early 1970s and finished my high school there. At that time, it was a vibrant little community with a solid income base, provided mainly by the railway.
The main street may not have been as active as it had been in years prior, but it was, nonetheless, a far cry from the present situation.
The bridge toll kept people on the Canadian side of the river more-so than now and we had several more businesses and amenities. It is therefore, with a measure of sadness that I now witness what appears to an outside eye, to be its slow demise.
I had been away for a few decades and thus my first inkling of the hard times that the community was facing was when I read about the decision by the town to close the Little Street railway crossing. When a community gets to that point, one knows that there is definitely something amiss.
In my recent visits to Rainy River I was taken aback by the decay and the tired look that is in places evident. When one lives somewhere and the changes are gradual one becomes inured to them and may not see them, but when dropped in after several years it becomes quite obvious.
I think that the old adage, “use it or lose it” might be apropos in this situation. We see communities across this continent that have lost their main streets and indigenous businesses as the large box stores have moved in. The destruction to the social and economic fabric of these communities is palpable. Is the loss of these services in Rainy River not just another manifestation of the same process?
There are no big box stores in Baudette, but fuel is cheaper, and while there, why not make some other purchases? Perhaps the inconvenience of crossing the border to get it is a small price to pay for the lower cost, but what will happen in an emergency? What will you do if the border restrictions increase? It seems absurd to endure the line-ups and scrutiny of customs and immigration just to purchase fuel for your vehicle.
Despite the differences in cost, it is essential for the viability of a community that the core services be maintained and so perhaps one might want to think about whether their purchasing decisions are affecting the long-term viability of their own community, and in the process, the value of their own real estate.
With lower priced commodities handy in an adjoining town there may appear to be pragmatic reasons not to buy locally when trying to stretch a limited income and that may appear to be a perfectly valid rationalization but there comes a point in time when, after too many businesses and services are lost that a critical point is reached and the downward slide becomes difficult to stop. Who or what business would want to move to a community that doesn’t even have a service station? Perhaps, if the citizens of Rainy River want to see their community survive as a viable entity they might want to consider the costs of their decisions. Just my thoughts, for what they’re worth.
–Fletcher R. Wade
Comox, BC