75 Residents Protest the Possible Closing of Blocksburg's Post Office
Yesterday, the town of Blocksburg (located east of Garberville) rallied almost half its population to protest the possible closing of its post office. Kristin Windbigler, who lives near there, described the scene:
About 75 concerned citizens of all ages converged on the tiny Blocksburg post office today to convince postal officials to keep it open. Residents organized seating, shade, and cool drinks for the hour-long meeting that took place in the dirt parking lot near the old store building.
“This is fifth generation with this post office,” said Dawnita Hoisington, who was holding a grandchild. “You’re taking more than a post office from all of us. You may not see everybody here, but these hills are full of people. It’s hot today. A lot of people didn’t come today. Our elderly people didn’t come because it’s hot. You’re going to take a sense of community from these guys that we’re never going to get back. We’re just going to be another strip along Alderpoint Road, and I think it’s heartbreaking.”
Tony Carvelli, manager of post office operations from San Francisco, read a prepared statement explaining the USPS’ official position on the proposed nation-wide closings and gave an overview of the feasibility study they are conducting to determine which offices will be closed. He reiterated several times that a decision has not been made yet about whether to close the Blocksburg post office. He cited a general drop in mail volume, revenue, and usage nationwide, but didn’t have specific numbers for Blocksburg on hand. As part of the feasibility study, residents were mailed a questionnaire last week, which needs to be returned by Sept. 1. Letters with additional comments and questions should also be submitted as soon as possible.
According to Carvelli, if the USPS decides to close the post office, route patrons would keep their zip code with mail being sorted in Alderpoint. For packages and certified mail, however, they would have to attempt to meet the route driver or make their way to Alderpoint to retrieve them. He suggested box holders could get their mail in Alderpoint, which, he said, has 120 available boxes for rent. Those in attendance were skeptical the Alderpoint office could handle the increased workload without incurring additional costs — such as hiring more employees.
Carvelli attempted to address community members’ questions and concerns as best he could. At the top of everyone’s list was the distance to Alderpoint combined with road conditions, inconvenience, and cost. One resident wanted to know what postal regulation determines acceptable distances to travel to retrieve one’s mail. Several people voiced concern for elderly neighbors and family members who would be unable to travel to Alderpoint on a regular basis.
“I am one of the elderly people,” said June Reger, whose family homesteaded a ranch here in the 1800s. “I am a veteran. We depend on this post office for our medicine. Mine comes from San Francisco. My brother’s comes from Fortuna. We call one day and it’s here the next day. We really depend on it. Alderpoint is too far, and we don’t drive.”
Additionally, several people expressed concern over the enormous mudslide at Dobbyn’s Creek and the possibility of a lengthy road closure.
Some residents were bewildered by the postal service’s suggestion that many services and products could be accessed online or through smart phones. Neither are viable options yet in this rugged country, where cell coverage is spotty and access to broadband internet services can be prohibitively expensive.
“This post office is a vital link — not just for the community — but for the community to relate to the world,” said Ann Forest.
A few people talked about how their home businesses might be affected by the post office closing.
“Property values out here would be affected by this because anyone with a home business wouldn’t choose an area where they had to drive 45 minutes to a post office,” said Les Herlyck.
Blocksburg has had a post office continuously since 1877 when the mail came in on horseback. In fact, it wasn’t even known as Blocksburg until the post office was established.
“Blocksburg is not a ghost town,” said Jim Lamport, who has been spearheading the campaign to save the post office. “Please don’t push us in that direction.”
Rural post offices serve as more than communication hubs, they provide a sense of identity and a center to the community. Many of them have been in continuous operation for over a hundred years. Losing a community’s post office means losing a tradition and a history that our rural culture values.
This photo from in front of the Blocksburg post office evokes a time that many rural residents want to continue–a time when social engagement and community interaction enriched us as a people. Removing the post offices not only adds physical and financial hardships to our communities but it tears at the roots of our small towns and injures a way of life all ready endangered.
Photo from Facebook event page opposing the closing of the Blocksburg PO>