Why Payette is not doing well:
The side loop lower right of the river is Buttermilk Slough.
The Payette River is wrapped around Payette on three of four sides, drastically limiting its draw area. The desert bluffs complete the south side of the box, although present day Payette is now sprawling across its boundary. Note how tiny this area is in comparison to every thing else. Anything on Oregon side of either the Snake or Payette goes to Ontario. Everything on south side of either of the rivers above Payette goes to New Plymouth or Fruitland.
This limits the towns draw area. All the area outside of the box go elsewhere to shop, to school, or for whatever, taking with it the revenue the town needs to survive.
There is directly in the middle of this map the “slough area” between the two rivers — this has only been drained and made good land long after Payette city’s rise and when a bridge goes from it right to Ontario — draining all this area’s commerce away from Payette. The location of the railroads worsens everything for Payette. However, the railroad access is really what put Payette on the map at all and kept it there — both a blessing and a curse.
The railroad is like having a truck in your living room. The truck is a huge asset only if it can be used for its purpose. However, it is a detriment when it constrains everything that you do. In early times the railroad made Payette a power house. Being the county seat also gave it power. The railroad could again bring Payette back into better times. But, only if the city is smart enough to take advantage of it. That means prevent valuable access areas close to the rail from being squandered on housing or wasted in other ways. Industry will come to the railroad providing it is easy and there is space reserved for it. For years Payette had stockyards. However stock yards are best kept away from close city environs. Having stockyards close in is a past century strategy, not a current winning strategy.
You can spot the rail corridor — it is the direct line between the map dot names of Ontario and Payette.
In my view, Payette still has a chance to survive. It took a century of existence for the town to move up and over the barrier of the sand hills. Now that it is up there, now it can grow. But only if it finds water. Were I Payette, I believe that I would acquire the bare hill land within 5-10 miles of the city out to the landfill, and even all the ranches of Little Willow Creek. LWC’s head waters is Paddock Reservoir–Payette needs Paddock–there is where all the water they need can come from! The situation is similar to LA’s where LA was forced to buy up all of OwensValley in order to take its water for its residential use. Payette needs to acquire all of LWC and do likewise. Payette can also drill wells tapping the Snake’s underground water–but it must do so before the water crunch to come, because then everyone upstream and downstream will be screaming for water. Water engineers will surely cry foul if Payette wants to tap the Snake via underground means.
Find water, and claim all the bare hills for farm/ranch land, move factories up there that need little water, but need space, and put in info structure. Boise Basin is filling brim to brim with housing–it needs close mfg and industrial land–someone will get that. Will it be Oregon-side? Vale? Mountain Home? Out back of Nyssa? If Payette plays its cards right it could be Payette instead. It really, really needs access to I-84 where all the Boise Basin future will come. I-84 could be split, a road continued along the Palisades (from Ontario bridge) across the Payette at the southern bridge (washoe) and straight to Payette–or any of many other scenarios. If they are smart then it would be routed so it goes on top of the sand hills and avoid the congestion of old Payette and the way-too-narrow flood plain like Buttermilk Slough.
Forward thinking some more: The old stages used to come from Boise direct to Emmett and direct to Weiser– no reason why Payette couldn’t use that very same pathway (now paved) put in road and bridge to jump Payette in Emmett Valley–and then directly over the bare hills back door to Payette up on sand hills! Straight shot from East Boise. Boise is within 10 yrs of being in Horseshoe Bend. Payette is really only 15-20 miles via this backdoor! In California people will drive a whole hour in horrendous traffic all their adult life. What is 10-20 miles in open land? Stage coaches showed us the way a century ago!
From this perspective, New Plymouth is sitting right in the middle of an alluvial plain — has huge drawing area — and that is reflected in its huge school population. That also was the reason for it outproducing the rest of the county in apples in the early days.
The only reason, New Plymouth was not the Queen of Payette Valley was because the town’s main business owners were all myopic dinosaurs, with zero foresight. Had they had just a tad of foresight, then they could easily have out competed Ontario because they were local and much easier to reach — keeping the spendable cash at home. This was a mere handful of guys that sealed New Plymouth’s fate to die a slow death and be populated only by retired.
Were it up to me, then about five-ten million (and perhaps a redevelopment loan) could turn New Plymouth into a thriving town again. Route the highway around the town, instead of stupidly right thru it. Block off the main block to all thru traffic — routing that traffic around the business center, making the road into a covered mall (cover over the street), put all parking for cars at back of stores, or under in covered underground parking, bring shoppers up to main street to beautiful mall-like setting with no cars in view via escalators in numerous spots so never far to walk).
Clean up and renovate back end of stores as attractive as the front (make pretty!), so that shoppers could park right at the store they want to patronize. Shoppers want covered parking so they do not have to get into a hot car in July heat–so give them shade! Attract boutiques who would draw all Fruitland and Ontario’s starved-for-boutique-shoppers, and after-hours shopping — a vibrant place to shop. Keep grocer and other businesses where they are — out of the mall. Clean the place up and get rid of old folks and welfare look. Put in a many space movie theater to use all the infra structure at night — giving the county a place to go at night–and more hours for stores to be open. Open good eating places — also to draw from other towns and use the infrastructure.
In effect make the one block of main street a covered mall (beautify the block of Plymouth Ave)–covered you could have mall-like indoor plantings. Malls are dying around the US because shopping has dramatically changed — killed by Walmarts, Costco, and myopic city management. But a mall arrangement is exactly what New Plymouth needs. If the town is to survive then the shopping must be brought back.
Ontario has zip class, very poor mentality of where to put stores, very inconvenient intra-city traffic — just a hodge podge — have to cross large areas of town to get anything. It is the very picture of inefficient poor planning. And, Ontario is stuck with K Mart and Walmart–where all profit is sucked out of state, dinging local merchants who cannot compete. Now, its city center is dying — out competed by Walmart and Kmart. But, my suggestion for New Plymouth would not compete with Walmart at all — let them have all the mass marketing stuff. Its only benefit for locals is the real estate and sales taxes.
(In 1998, I had a Ford dealership in Lemon Grove–down by San Diego. The city staff said that between me and Walmart we provided over 80% of the city taxes!)
New Plymouth has something going for itself–its huge draw area and its schools. That is the real magnet for the future. If you study the land around NP to south and east it is becoming a bedroom community for Caldwell and Ontario. From area between Sand Hollow Road to Hwy 30, poor farming ground, but many bigger houses are going in there. Very cheap land, very private areas, tucked away with canal barriers, and hills and distance between them and neighbors. To me this means that Ontario and Caldwell’s the “more affluent” are buying “homes in the country.” To live outside the bustle of closer in, and a way from city crime and drugs. However, if you look at the map, it is an easy 10-15 minute commute. Hop onto I-84 and it is straight shot to Ontario–ten miles–in a unique way almost as close as Fruitland. Or the other way, is almost same distance to Caldwell and Boise Basin. To city dwellers 10-15 minute commute is nothing! They benefit from NPs country personae, brand new big schools, and small town attitude. What is not to like? Were I in NP I would also suggest they put in golf course!
Note that Fruitland is also choked by the river, just like Payette – its fate is entirely bedroom. Its commerce and future will become choked by highways and traffic. And Fruitland’s real center has moved to Gay Way Corner. They have allowed the old town center to become like New Plymouths. City management has ignored the lessons learned since the freeway system began in late 50s. Thousands of examples of what not to do and what they should do.
Some more demographics if you want it: look up the service area for the area’s canals. The very lifeblood of the flood plain. Noble, Farmers and Black Canyon. See how many acres each service. The huge preponderance is New Plymouth – like 80+%, These are same source the apple growers got their water. You can also look up the Payette Canal to note its amount of water and serviced acres. Lack of irrigation water was major factor in why Weiser lost its original lead in apple production. In fact, my grandfather settled in Weiser in 1913 and the canal he was on folded, and he bought another farm down on Monroe Creek as replacement. His first spot is still unoccupied and no water available.
The dry hills around Weiser share a fatal flaw. No water is under them. Wells are not finding any water. All water must come via rain or canal. So the future is the hills will stay bare. I believe it is impossible to sell homes without potable water.
The future will find that water is more valuable than oil. He that has it will succeed. He that does not have it will decline.