The hunt for Eden

By Observer editorial May 10, 2013 10:41 am
It’s not often when people brag about being No. 38 in anything.

In win-crazed America, where the overriding philosophy seems to be win or go home, in the land of old Green Bay Packers football coach Vince Lombardi where winning is the only thing, even being No. 2 pales.

Wait a minute. Let’s be real. Sometimes being No. 2, or No. 20, or No. 200 is terrific as long as we are doing our best.

La Grande, then, can take pride in being listed among the top small cities with a population of 45,000 or fewer in America. The city ranked No. 38 on Charles Anderson’s list, called “In Search of Eden: America’s Best Small Cities.”

La Grande is in good company. Also on the list were such attractive hometowns as Montrose, Colo.; Cody, Wyo.; Ellensburg, Wash.; and Moscow, Idaho. 

The author, a retired high school geography and civics teacher who lives in Florida, has worn out a lot of car rubber and shoe leather compiling the list in 50 years of extensive travel from sea to shining sea across America.

In explaining his choice of La Grande, Anderson might as well have been quoting the real estate agent mantra, “Location, location, location.” Situated in the Grande Ronde Valley, surrounded by the Blue and Wallowa mountains, La Grande and its one of a kind round valley, makes quite an impression on visitors.

Anderson also mentioned the importance of Eastern Oregon University to the town, and how the downtown area is attractive and in good repair.

Before outsiders had to wonder, he also made clear that La Grande is not on the wet side of Oregon, where rain can be and often is a pain. He mentioned our relatively mild winters, at least mild by comparison to the life-threatening doozies that slam the Midwest.

Gettysburg, Pa., came in at No. 1. The good people at the old Civil War battlefield site get the right to gather and chant “We’re No. 1.” 

The rest of the cities, La Grande included, will just have to be content with being fine places to live and perhaps a good place for someone to find his own personal Eden.