Building a viable community that is attractive to families, individuals and entrepreneurs that brings economic vitality is the future of any town. Building that future requires an understanding of the history of that location whether it be once open land, forest or a quaint village with a long or short history. Forest Hill is such a place that for thousands of years was an open space with occasional settlements of native wandering hunters and gatherers until gold was discovered and precipitated hundreds of 49ers clamoring for the ultimate prize of wealth.
Over decades Forest Hill became a focal point for scores of mining camps which flourished until the early years of the 20th century. As interest in mining declined as laws and advancing technology over whelmed the burgeoning population, the tiny hamlet of Forest Hill declined until the vast forests of the area were discovered to produce timber for war materiel crates and military bases, and new homes for a rapidly expanding population. Forest Hill became the focus of sawmills as timber harvests were scheduled to meet the huge demand for lumber. The community grew, local merchants prospered and the population expanded with new subdivisions, including Todd’s Valley. Once again, the community, especially local entrepreneurs is feeling the decline or stagnation of local business, with the Chamber of Commerce exploring ways of stimulating business activity for the future. Historically, the hills of the forest have been a vast open space, the focus of mining frenzy, timber production, and now another quiet period of stagnation. But is it, or have we ignored the incredible changes that have overwhelmed us? Let us reflect on our past as well agonize for a sustainable future.
At the turn of the last century, high schools were flourishing to prepare young people for future jobs. In addition to the standard curriculum, schools provided metal shops and welding, wood shops and drafting, typing and bookkeeping, secretarial classes and shorthand, to prepare students to enter the workforce with a diploma in hand. Junior high schools were established to expand the preparation for jobs to meet the demand for surging markets. Today, many of these classes have been replaced by digital and robotic technology. It should be noted that the Foresthill Union Elementary School District, once led the area with computer classes over 40 years ago, and built a middle school with a computer lab, that required Placer High School to offer advance courses in computer science for Forest Hill students.
Vast demographic and cultural changes are determining who we are for an unfolding future. We have a growing population of single families, mothers and fathers are employed requiring childcare and facilities, and we have house-husbands and mothers who become primary wage earners for families. A college diploma is now expected for assure workers for a job. We also have demographic changes where people are looking at once prime farmland and heavily treed forestland as location for a family dwelling. People are changing the outlook of once out-of-the-way places into suburbs. Marriage has become less of a priority to procreate, and young people are waiting longer to tie the knot. We could continue listing the dramatic changes that are effecting how and where we live. The world we live in today does little to reflect the world of 1900 or even 2000—and it will continue to change, especially as once distant isolated are transformed in to suburbs.
Those who wish to revive local economies would do well to imagine their once isolated towns as suburbs, rather than hideaway tourist attractions with weekend or vacation tourists. Forest Hill enjoyed the leadership of two visionary educators, Dan Elliott and Tim Justice, who both served as district superintendents during a period of significant growth. They encouraged their faculty to develop imaginary programs to attract families with children. The population soared to its present level during those years, as parents sought the best education for their children. While searching for a viable anchor enterprise to revitalize the economic development of Forest Hill, our business leadership has overlooked the possibility that an expanding visionary educational program is the anchor enterprise that is needed to sustain the local economy. Forest Hill is again at the crossroads of its educational future, as the Board of Trustees searches for a new superintendent. The elementary school district’s faculty is capable to offering students an invigorating and challenging educational program. Forest Hill is now blessed with an outstanding faculty at its own high school capable of offering college credit to interested students. The economic future of our community may be in the hands of our entrepreneurs and educators has they consult and plan together for the future. Could our merchants offer work opportunities in exchange for a quarter’s worth of credit for junior and senior high school students?
On the larger scale for the future, could local and county leadership encourage a college or university to consider a campus in Forest Hill? Given the new normal of wild lands fire ecology, and the need for an anchor enterprise, studies would be offered to research and find effective solutions to living and building domiciles in the forestlands. In addition, the county and the community could also be an example of designing a living community in the suburbs, given the recent fires in Santa Rosa, Redding last year, and Paradise and Butte County this year.
No urban area is safe.