Poor Susanville. This town of almost 20,000 people in northern California was our first major stop on our 2nd California trip in 2021. It’s very near Highway 395. Ruth and I spent some time in Susanville several years ago, and we really liked it. It was fun to be back there, but the town is about to fall on hard times. Just emerging from its COVID year, Susanville is about to lose its 2nd largest employer.
The California Correctional Center, Susanville’s 2nd largest source of salaries, will be closing permanently by June 30, 2022. The California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation and California’s Governor, Gavin Newsom, have announced plans to officially close CCC. Budget cuts in California is the cause. Job losses and eventual declining property values are the expected results. The California Correctional Center is in Lassen County. Its closing could cripple Susanville’s economy. Opposition to this closing is mounting despite the fact that the state can save 122 million dollars by shutting this prison. This closing will affect 3,000 inmates. The minimum security prison in Susanville, this town’s biggest employer, will remain opened. Many of the men and women working in CCC hope to find jobs in the remaining prison, but there are not enough positions for everyone and houses all over town are already for sale as Susanville citizens contemplate moving on. In the meantime, this town is facing the eventual loss of 1,500 jobs, many houses for sale, and the release of prison inmates in their community.
We had interesting discussions of Susanville’s fate in its recently moved visitor center, our motel, and the Elks Lodge. Every local is worried. The 2 women operating the visitor center that day were clearly distracted by events and the lack of tourist attractions to visit. The only attractions of interest to us were some town murals and The Nobles Trail. One of the lady’s son had recently done a school project on it. The man cleaning and repairing rooms at our motel wanted to talk about events. We stopped at the Elks Lodge because it’s in an interesting, historic mansion we had noticed at 400 Main Street. Ruth and I talked to the Elks and their wives who welcomed us to their current home in Susanville that was once the scene of weddings and community parties and may eventually return to that function.
The Nobles Trail was in operation between 1852 and 1859. It came into existence as an alternative. Thousands of immigrants to California used Nobles after gold was discovered in 1848 at Sutter’s Mill near what is now Shasta City. The Nobles Trail went through Susanville and was a better alternative to the trail that went over notorious and often difficult Donner’s Pass. Sixty-one trail markers now identify Nobles. Beginning in Black Rocks Hot Springs, NV, the Nobles Trail had more gradual assents, avoided 40 miles of desert, had water, and provided deep-forest sections. The coming of the railroad caused its decline.