By Rachel Arst McCullough

Welcome to a new column, “Owl Post,” where I will dish on a key part of being a bona fide Truckee/Tahoe citizen — signing up for the right email newsletters. Yes, I know, for many of us, our inbox is a bane of life, but hear me out. You can be the wise owl of your circle with the modern version of the post — email. I promise it’s worth it.

Being an informed citizen means knowing what’s going on locally. Yet it’s just the first step to becoming fully engaged, which is the part that gives you all the “feels.” When you stay abreast of local goings on and take action, you feel like you are woven into the fabric of the place you live. You enjoy the comfort that comes with knowing who to call for what, who to lean on for support, and where to go to get what you need.

To reap those benefits, doing some newsletter reading is essential. You’re probably thinking something like, “I can’t read yet another newsletter … My email inbox is overflowing.” Well, I get it. I used to think that too. But I don’t anymore. Here’s why.

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There is a huge cost to not being an informed and engaged citizen, both to you and to the community. As for the cost to you, you’ll miss out on meeting a lot of amazing people and the mental health benefits that stem from true connectedness and volunteering. You also may not be as safe as you can be from wildfires, smoke, blizzards, or whatever nature decides to throw at us next.

As for the cost to the community, they are just as big. If only a small number of people engage, they get to determine the direction for the rest of us. But what if that direction isn’t right? What if your voice could have helped the community be a better place for you and many others?

Let’s be realistic. No one has time to read every email, attend every community meeting, or solve all of our community’s problems. I certainly don’t. But making time to understand the issues and engage on the ones you are drawn to does make a difference. Here are a few examples of things I read about in newsletters recently that are very doable:

Fill out a survey about what our new library should look and function like.

Drop off gently-used home goods for new Artist Lofts residents.

Fill out the Placer County survey about changing the names of three roads in Olympic Valley to remove the word “Squaw.”

Go see the Forest Fire exhibit at the new rec center to learn about the impact of wildfire.

GET A REAL SENSE of the lay of the land up in our mountains. View of the Martis Valley and Truckee from Northstar California. Photo by Rachel Arst McCullough

Now that you know what it means and why it’s a good idea to be a bona fide citizen, here’s how to go about it. In this installment, I cover what newsletters to sign up for to get an overview of how the community works — to get the lay of the land and stay connected.

The best place to start is with local news outlets, such as the paper you’re reading right now. Community newspapers are the perfect way to get a birds-eye view of what’s happening day-to-day and on larger more ongoing issues. Lucky for us, we have a few options in the region. Since you are reading this right now, you are obviously already acquainted with this important resource; here are a few others you might not have thought of:

Truckee Town Council member Anna Klovstad runs a weekly email list of her own. This is an absolute gem. Each newsletter is jam-packed with local information you won’t want to miss. Every week Anna picks a local charity to feature. Most recently I learned about Close to Home Truckee (C2H), which is committed to ending gender-based violence, transforming social norms, and creating a safer community for all. Anna is known for her care of the environment, and always includes a Green Tip of the Week. Did you know you can again bring your reusable mug to get coffee? Covid had put that on hold for quite a while but now it’s back on! You’ll also get information about upcoming elections, opportunities to go talk to local elected officials in person, notices about agency meetings, and ways to engage in the local art scene.

The Visit Truckee-Tahoe newsletter may be aimed at tourists, but let’s look beyond that. It provides ways to spend your dollars locally. This newsletter is where I learned about the Sustainable Truckee Gift Card. This gift card can be used at dozens of local businesses and Visit Truckee-Tahoe will donate 25% of the card value for things we can all appreciate like trail work, graffiti cleanup, and wildfire prevention. That’s a win-win. Since retail therapy doesn’t quite do it for me, I eagerly look for the links to the Tahoe National Forest snowmobile grooming updates, just one of the resources on their Truckee Travel Alert page. More than 200 miles of trails are groomed and many of these are a perfect place to spend a quiet weekday morning. Get out and connect with nature and literally learn the lay of the land of our place.

The chambers of commerce on the North Shore and Truckee keep your fingers on the pulse via their monthly community forums, respectively the First Tuesday Breakfast Club and Good Morning Truckee. Join them on Zoom and get to know our community leaders, ask them questions, and connect. You can be assured that the topics are always timely and on point. If it’s November, the GMs and CEOs of the local ski resorts will be on a panel. If an election just happened, our new elected officials will be introducing themselves. If a global pandemic has just descended, you will be certain to hear from the hospital CEO. Wildfires? The fire chief will be there. This kind of up-close interaction with our leaders is not an opportunity you’d easily get living the big city life, so don’t pass it up.

Happy reading! Stay tuned for the next Owl Post installment in April, in the quarterly Think Local section.

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