Since my last post covered a bit about rural planning, I thought I’d write up another related topic I’ve been considering recently. The U.S. Postal Service announced last month their intention to close a large number of post offices in a consolidation attempt. This could affect as many as 3,700 locations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It does make some sense, as more customers are able to use online services or self-service machines, and have less need for a physical, staffed post office.
Over at one of my favorite blogs, The Daily Yonder, Carol Miller wrote this piece on what post office closures mean for small communities. Her own, in Ojo Sarco, New Mexico*, was shuttered when the USPS undertook a round of closings in 1995. Now, the USPS list includes post offices in cities, suburbs and small towns alike, but the impact on the rural areas will be most significant, as she explains.
I hadn’t thought about it previously. My family had P.O. boxes for our mail growing up in my lovely hometown, and I suppose I took for granted what they offered: a climate-controlled and protected place to gather mail, a retail outlet to buy postage and such, and a community node. I still remember the numbers; my grandmother’s was 365 and ours was 131. We occasionally received mail intended for the next box over, 132; that belonged to the Garcias, and it was fun to tell them we’d gotten a bill or birthday card intended for them and had handed it back to a mail clerk for “re-delivery.”
When I was a kid, an old man manned a candy and newspaper stand in the lobby of our post office. We used to buy our daily paper from him if we hadn’t picked it up at a vending machine, and it came with the additional advantage of shooting the breeze with him.
Below are photos of a few of the rural New Mexico post offices that may be closed. The 54 locations in the state include five in Albuquerque, and just about all the rest are in very small communities so the rural impact will be disproportionately felt there, even if only some of these closures occur.
These photos were posted by Flickr user JimmyWayne, and are reposted here under a Creative Commons license. His (very nifty) set of New Mexico post office photos is located here.
* I grew up in New Mexico and have driven through Ojo Sarco. It’s a tiny speck in a beautiful setting, and I encourage you to visit the northern New Mexico mountains if you have the opportunity. This is especially true in winter if you like to ski.