Oregon | Economy | Rural Economy Project

Post Office Closings Could Hit Rural Oregon Communities

OPB | Aug. 1, 2011 2:23 p.m. | Updated: Jan. 14, 2013 10:57 a.m. | Fort Rock, OR

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David Nogueras / OPB
Fort Rock Post Office

Last week, the Postmaster General released a list of 3600 post offices across the country that are under review for closure.

Forty-one of those offices are in Oregon.  Many are in small towns, like Fort Rock. 

David Nogueras visited the town to see what residents think about the possibility of their post office closing.


More than a hundred years ago, when American homesteaders came to the small town of Fort Rock, one of the first things to get set up was the town’s post office.  Jack Swisher is the President of the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society. 

He gives me a tour of a preserved historical building that once served as the town’s post office and general store.

Jack Swisher is the President of the Fort Rock Valley Historical Society.

David Nogueras / OPB

“So this is it.  We’ve got it set up as Mr. Gumsford’s General Store. We don’t have all the stock that he had.”

Swisher says a man named Thomas Rhoton set up Fort Rock’s very first post office in 1908.

“That put us on the map.  He was approved for that.  So from March 9th, 1908 till the present time we’ve had a post office here.”

But many here are worried Fort Rock’s modern post office might be relegated to the history books before too long. 

Shari Blackman stops in for a book of brightly colored stamps.  She says in a town as small as Fort Rock – only a few dozen people live right downtown – a post office closure would be a big deal.

“I think it will have a heck of an impact on our area, because as you can tell we only have three things in town,” Blackman says.

Blackman owns one of those businesses - the Fort Rock Restaurant and Pub.  She’s worried about how she’ll get her mail each day. Door to door delivery isn’t available for everybody out here, and nearest post office is more than 30 miles away.

Out in the parking lot, I run into Paul Bowers.  He recoils at the mention of a possible closure.

“This is not only a post office, this is where all of the farmers’ wives come and have a meeting house everyday whenever the mail comes in.  This might be the heart and soul of the whole community.”

David Nogueras / OPB
Fort Rock Post Office

Bowers farmed this land for 25 years. He’s concerned for the hundreds of hay farmers who need to send large agricultural samples out of state for testing.  

“You might mail 15 of them at a time.”

Peter Haas is a spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service Portland District. He says residents of Fort Rock and other towns have a chance to weigh in on proposed post office closings. Haas says there’s a 60-day public comment period for all of the post offices on the list.


View Oregon Post Offices Being Studied For Closure in a larger map

“So all of those things will be taken into account, as well as public input and frankly can the postal service provide the service that our customers require in these communities without a post office facility,” Haas said.

It should come as no surprise that at the heart of the problem is money. Haas says the Post Office ran a deficit of $8 billion last year.  Yup, that’s billion with a “B”. 

Haas says that’s left the agency looking for ways to cut costs. One option the Postal Service is looking at he says is expanding a program that contracts postal services out to private or public entities.  That’s something the agency is calling the “Village Post Office”.

So if the post office closes is it possible that postal services might once again find their way into the town’s general store?

Historian Jack Swisher isn’t so sure.  He says many business owners here are already looking to sell.  Should the post office close he says, that might just be the last straw.

“I think we’re going to lose the town. If we lose the post office, we’ve lost something big.  That’s a federal connection here.  That’s our last stringer of connection with the federal government in town here,” Swisher says.
 
Customers of 40 other post offices in Oregon are also likely wondering if their local office will get axed.  U.S. Postal Service spokesman, Peter Haas says closures could come as early as this December.

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