Here in Oakland (Maryland, not California) spring has truly sprung. The trees around our 1870s home are bright with flowers, the sunlight has a limpid quality, the birds are all sweetly a-twitter.
But it is here, in this picture postcard-pretty spot, high in the mountains of western Maryland, that it’s worth considering what makes a town or city great.
Is it glamour, like Paris? Beauty, like Barcelona? Money, like New York? Power,, like D.C.? Style, like London? Heart and soul, like San Francisco?
Oakland, MD calls itself a ‘great small town’. And it might be. It has everything going for it. Several antique shops, an old-fashioned soda fountain, a restored 1884 train station, a new Transportation Museum (our house is just minutes down the street), many lovely walking/biking paths, scenic trails aplenty and a glorious autumn.
But is that enough to make a small town great? This rather interesting piece by an Oregon resident quotes Mother Earth News on the crucial issue of what makes a great small town. “In a list of ‘11 Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of’, the components of greatness are ‘a cadre of dedicated citizens with creative ideas and the energy to implement them; a progressive government willing to meet them halfway; opportunities to get close to nature; arts and cultural programs to feed the soul; a desire to meet the challenge of transitioning to renewable energy.”
And then there’s good local food and open hearts and minds. Not sure Oakland qualifies exactly.