Changing Times In Point Arena, By Kersten Tanner
When I first arrived in Point Arena in the bicentennial year of 1976, there was an Air Force base, Loran and Coast Guard stations, thriving logging, fishing, and construction industries. Multiple logging trucks rumbled through town everyday, and a dozen or so commercial fishing vessels moored at Arena Cove. New home construction was booming on the ridge and in The Sea Ranch. Within a few years all the military closed and left, the fishing fleet pared down to three or four commercial vessels, the Coastal Commission slapped tighter restrictions on construction, and the logging industry shrank to a few trucks a week.
In 1976 Main Street hosted two grocery stores, three gas stations, a dress shop, shoe store/repair shop, fabric store, and stationary. There were five restaurants and five bars and a laundromat inside city limits. The opening of Sunstrom Mall in Gualala lured many of those businesses away, and then big box stores further eroded local retail. The business model continued to morph into shopping on the internet. This led to virtually no retail left in town. These days tourists wander aimlessly through town staring wistfully into empty shop fronts.
In the 1970’s many local young adults left for opportunities elsewhere, as droves of college educated ‘back-to-the-landers’ swarmed here with an idealized images of sustainable lifestyles in the country. We filled the available jobs in schools, construction, fishing, and enjoyed the space to garden and/or create artwork. The marijuana industry filled in the employment gaps. It flourished in this county with some large gardens, and many mom and pop operations that seasonally employed friends and neighbors. Whether personally involved or not, no one could ignore the influx of cash into the community. Even the local grocery store sold tools of the trade and displayed them in their window at the seasonally appropriate time.
Now with the legalization of marijuana large grows in warehouses are moving the industry to urban areas and this town is at a new threshold of monetary anemia in the local economy. It appears to be time to “reinvent” this town again. The obvious uptick is in tourism and businesses like Franny’s Cup & Saucer, Lisa’s Luscious, and The Little Green Bean add to the tourist draw as well as fill local needs and desires. More visitors appear from further afield to enjoy walks on the Stornetta Lands and the beautiful scenery here on the coast. Despite the difficulty in getting here, there is an amazing assortment of activities for the visitor for such a small town with the pier, lighthouse, theater, exotic animal preserve, casino, live music and the longest stretch (12 miles) of publicly owned and accessible coastline in California. But in bad weather the options for tourists shrink dramatically.
Perhaps we could rectify this situation and open an avenue for the inward flow of money by designating and promoting “Destination Point Arena Weekends” when the timing of events could be coordinated with the theater, library, other nonprofits, music venues, the lighthouse, pop up markets and more. Pop ups could be open on three-day weekends and/or during daytime weekend theater shows. Some markets could have a specific focus like crafts one time, vintage and collectibles, or ocean themed another so the change keeps them fresh and interesting.
Just such an event is happening Saturday April 13th from 11am to 6pm with the Third Annual Almost Fringe Festival sponsored by the Point Arena Merchants Association. This festival is on the same day as the Wind & Whale Celebration with giant kite flying at the lighthouse, and the Blues on the Coast series at the theater. There will be food vendors in the theater parking lot and a pop up market with crafts, foods, vintage clothing and more in a shop front to be announced. This entertaining springtime festival celebrating edgy arts of all sorts is right in step with this wonderfully unique small town with so much to offer, and it invites locals to appear in Festively Fringe Attire – interpret as you may.
To have your name and contact information added to a list of pop up vendors for future events please email Kersten Tanner at firstname.lastname@example.org with your specifics including what you would like to sell.