Challenges of future call for planning now

     Predicting the future is risky and difficult, but necessary if we are to meet the challenge of tomorrow. Planning must be flexible, but always based on assumptions.
     A common assumption, persisting from World War II until recently, was that energy would remain cheap and low-density living patterns made possible by the automobile would continue. In the early 1970's, the energy crisis suddenly forced many to re-assess prospects.
     A common rule of prediction is the smaller the population under consideration (whether people or regions) the less its accuracy. We can predict the life-span of groups, but cannot do very well with individuals.
     By making predictions about a large group, we hedge estimates against some mean value.

Hard to predict regions

     It is difficult to predict the future of large areas (states or nations), but even more difficult to forecast the future of cities or regions.
     Most think of cities and regions in a political context; in terms of city limits and county and state boundaries. Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls are two independent political units. They are separated by the town government of Hallie and are imbedded in counties which form still another level of local administration.

Factors weld together

     In an economic, social and practical sense, however, urban areas function differently. Regional shopping, employment, recreational opportunities, health care and educational facilities and government services, localized in the Eau Claire area, weld these political units into a single urban complex.
     The proposed north bridge or extension of STH 29 from Hallie to Elk mound is not a traffic artery through a sparsely-populated urban fringe; each is a major route extending across the center of an urbanized area.
     Federal recognition of this organization came last year when Eau Claire and Chippewa counties were declared a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area (SMSA) by the Bureau of Census.
     Settlements do not exist in isolation. Their survival depends upon interaction with other settlements and market areas or hinterlands. Predicting the future of one settlement requires examination of the network of settlements in the Upper Midwest.

Urban system key factor

     One key idea in urban analysis is the notion of an urban system. It consists of settlements and interconnecting flows (goods, people, and information - food materials, commuters, telephone messages). A system implies that changes in any part affects all other parts. The magnitude of these effects is a function of distance.
     Financial failure of New York City, for instance, would have a very small effect on the Eau Claire SMSA, but high unemployment in the Twin Cities would have a much greater impact.
     The figure, top pg. 193, illustrates the role settlements play in economy of a region. It shows five socioeconomic variables measured along a traverse from Chicago to Eau Claire through Rockford, Madison and La Crosse.
     As we get closer to each city, several things happen: (1) more and more rural people commute to work; (2) median family incomes rise; (3) fewer families are below the poverty line; (4) farm land and buildings increase in value, and; (5) population growth increases through in-migration.

Importance reinforced

     Importance of cities is reinforced by a map of median family income for 1970 (fig. bottom pg. 193). Urban areas (light areas on the map) have high family income. Rural areas are generally below the mean.
     The Twin Cities Metropolitan Area has a beneficial effect on income in St. Croix, Pierce and Polk counties. Both figures demonstrate the economic gap between urban and rural areas. Such income differences are a catalyst for much needed rural-to-urban migration.
     Another key idea in urban analysis is the concept of a nested hierarchy of cities interlocking into a system of graduated trade areas. In the Upper Midwest, focal point of the urban system is Chicago, followed by two Milwaukee-class cities (Milwaukee and Minneapolis-St. Paul), a few Eau Claire class cities (La Crosse, Rochester, Green Bay, etc.), many more Durand-class cities and terminating with hundreds of villages such as Fall Creek.

Tied to other cities

     A city's future is ultimately tied to other cities in its network. Eau Claire lies in the hinterland of the Twin Cities. Although Madison and Milwaukee are important in a political sense to the future of Eau Claire, the Twin Cities are much more important because of economic, social and migration links.
     With these two key ideas in mind, there is a need to examine some national and regional trends with will shape Eau Claire's future.

National trends

     All life is a search for energy! All energy comes from the sun - therefore history of man is a history of a search for sunlight. We don't use sunlight directly; we use plants which do and animals which feed on plants.
     An example comes from the region's early agricultural history. The first settlers found the land would only grow hay. They were faced with two options: (1) Learn to eat hay or (2) use animals to convert hay into something settlers could eat or sell. When people were hunters and gatherers, they were spread over the earth in direct proportion to the intensity of sunlight. A hunting-gathering society requires more than two square miles per person for food supplies.
     Agricultural intensification based on new techniques reduced the amount of land required per person. Innovations making possible use of concentrated sunlight, coal and oil further increased our concentration into cities. The city is the ultimate form of human concentration and represents a radical transformation of patterns of man on the land.

Use low percentage

     We hear a great deal about urban sprawl, but settlements in the United States today occupy only two to three percent of our land area. Vast areas of the country are less densely settled than they were 50 years ago.
     Settlements supported solely by sales of goods and services to surrounding populations are very small. Primary patterns of settlement in the United States reflect energy resources (especially coal) and transportation routes (ocean, river and lake) and most settlements are highly dependent on manufacturing.
     Today all but five percent of our national population lives in a Daily Urban System - the commuting field of a large city.

At point of change

     We are the beginning of scarcely perceptible, but inexorable changes in two aspects of the urban system:
     (1) Changes in the national economy are modifying the primary location factors determining major settlement patterns:
     Society has gone from an economy based on manufacturing and its need for concentrated energy sources to one based on services relying more on transmission of information than on movement of materials. This transformation has taken place since World War II.
     The manufacturing sector of the economy is becoming less dependent on heavy industry (transportation equipment, steel and petrochemicals), and more dependent on light manufacturing (consumer goods). Light manufacturing is less tied to energy sources. This flexibility is often termed "footloose".
     Major forces attracting footloose industry in the post-World War II period have been amenities (especially climate), shifting markets, tax incentives and lower labor costs. Man votes for what he considers the best climate every time he sets the thermostat in the home and American industry and population has been shifting slowly southward to the so-called "Sun Belt" from the Carolinas to southern California. This trend is likely to continue.
     (2) Increasing energy costs and lowered speed limits are limiting expansion of Daily Urban Systems:

Mass transit not profitable

     American cities, for most of this century have relied on cheap energy allowing personal freedom of movement via automobile. Rapid rise in personal energy costs are inevitable. Much federal research money is being spent on solutions to the problem. Congress is attempting to allocate millions of dollars to develop mass transit technology, but the real problem is most American cities (unlike most European cities) have population densities too low to make mass transit profitable.
     Making mass transit work will require radical reorganization of living patterns and densities. It is a massive social and political problem, not an engineering one. We often hear the phrase, "If we can send a man to the moon, we can build effective mass transit systems." Sending a man to the moon was almost exclusively an engineering problem and child's play compared to relocating millions of people in a free society.
     Because of increased personal energy costs, the nation is entering a new era in human occupation of the land. Given assumptions of the past, increased costs should eventually lead to increasing concentration of population.
     Urban futurologist Constantine Doxiadis predicted almost all Americans will be living in a few super cities by 2000. He forecasted the vast majority will be living in three "megalopoli" - Bowash (stretching from Boston to Washington D.C.), Chipitts (Chicago to Pittsburgh) and Sansan (San Francisco to San Diego). Increasing concentration reduces aggregate transportation costs and much of our planning is based on this assumption: Upper Midwest Trend.
     The past three decades have brought increasing concentration of population in this region. The Upper Midwest farm population declined sharply as farms increased in size and farmland was abandoned. Farm population declined by 300,000 between 1960 and 1970. A decline of 250,000 is forecast for the 1970's, with a loss of 200,000 projected for the 1980's.
     Of the three factors affecting population change - fertility, morality and migration - the later has had the greatest influence in the Upper Midwest. The region as a whole experienced net out-migration between 1960 and 1970, and the trend will continue. Fig. pg. 194, shows the effect migration has on sparsely-settled areas of Minnesota and Wisconsin.
     With rare exception, only urban-suburban counties had in-migration exceeding out-migration. Fertility levels, in the nation are at a near-record low, down from a near-record high in 1960. As birth rates drop and we approach zero population growth, continued out-migration will begin net population losses to the Upper Midwest as migration to the Sun Belt continues.

Assumptions in Eau Claire

     Two assumptions on which to base predictions about the Eau Claire SMSA are:
     (1) Increasing transportation costs will lead to increasing concentration in the area between Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls is both likely and desirable.
     Land use and transportation networks must be planned carefully in this area. These decisions must be made in the near future and on a metropolitan rather than city or township scale.
     The Eau Claire SMSA represents the pivot of a new kind of city emerging in the United States, the dispersed or "cluster" city. Cluster cities are products of highway systems, connecting major centers of employment, trade services and manufacturing and feeder roads tying rural areas to these centers.
     The network allowed these regions to become consolidates service and job markets. Cluster cities will become increasingly important wand will account for almost all non-farm population growth in the Upper Midwest between 1970 and 2000

Key "cluster city" node

     The Eau Claire SMSA is the key node in the "cluster city" which includes Menomonie and Rice Lake, and is one of the fastest-growing centers in the region (Fig. pg. 192). Of the 12 comparable centers in the Twin Cities trade area, growth rate of our SMSA is ranked fourth. Rate of growth for the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls metropolitan area was above the national average during the 1960's. Population reached 82,000 in 1970 and is projected to top 100,000 by 1985, an increase of more than 20 percent.
     The Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls-Rice Lake cluster city has a number of important features : (1) travel time from a center to another is less than one hour; (2) it contains multiple major shopping and service centers more complementary than competitive; (3) it contains many small centers where day-to-day convenience goods can be purchased; (4) it contains major industrial and wholesale centers; (5) it has an array of major higher education and health care facilities; (6) it contains a broad mix of newspapers and radio and television stations; (7) federal, state, and local offices and services are represented throughout the cluster; (8) it has a broad range of residential options and; (9) it includes some of the finest recreational areas in the nation.

Each has independence

     Each node in the cluster city has a substantial degree of independence from others; yet there is much interdependence-internodal commuting for employment, shopping, business, education, health care and recreation.
     This cluster will be the center of population in west central Wisconsin in the year 2000, but meticulous planning at the regional level is required to avoid problems inherent in this kind of growth.
     (1) Rural counties of the region, except those in high amenity areas, will continue to lose population through migration.
     The cluster city centered on Eau Claire will be recipient for much of this migration. Population increases will not be spectacular compared to the Sun Belt states, but losses in rural counties will widen the income gap between rural and urban counties.
     Population growth in the region will necessitate new power plants , residential developments and industrialization.

Need impact controls

     Care must be taken to control impact of these developments on quality of land, lakes and rivers. The road network will continue as the most important factor shaping patterns of economic and population growth, but increasing energy costs will necessitate wise planning of new highways and improvements.
     It is obvious we must plan growth and use resources carefully. We live in a major growth node. We do not want our urbanized area to become another Gary or Newark.
     Only foresighted planning by an informed public, responsible private developers and government agencies can prevent mistakes made in other metropolitan areas.

--A. R. de Souza and J. B. Foust
UW-EC Dept. of Geography

Extracted from the Eau Claire Leader Telegram
Special Publication, Our Story 'The Chippewa Valley and Beyond', published 1976
Used with permission.

Search this site          powered by FreeFind
   

    Cresswell Graphics   Eau Claire County Main Page

ALHN Logo
USGenNet

This page created by Susan Fanning - American Local History Network - Wisconsin Local History Network - Eau Claire County
Page Last Updated - Monday, 15-May-2000 11:33:38 CDT
All rights reserved.

Site Meter