Idyllwild is an exquisite jewel box, beautiful in itself but also filled with priceless jewels: Idyllwild Arts, Art Alliance, and a multitude of other volunteer organizations and public agencies that make the community a desirable place to live.

But the golden chain linking all these jewels and making them accessible is the Idyllwild Town Crier. There are way too many organizations to list, but one need only to open any edition of the TC to view the wealth available to all.

Since its founding in Ernie Maxwell’s attic (amid spiders and all) with a typewriter and mimeograph, it has grown into a first-rate, award-winning local newspaper, filling a unique niche for the community.

Now over the last several weeks, Becky Clark’s dire prognosis of the paper’s future raises the specter of an informational black hole. Imagine reaching for the latest edition, as suggested above, to check on the doings of the water companies, clubs, fire agencies, or any of the many jewels in the box and coming up empty-handed. Where else could you track community events?

Perhaps people don’t realize the paper is the life’s blood of the community. I can offer two examples from personal experience. Eleven  years ago, when I was president of the fledgling Mountain Communities Fire Safe Council, federal legislation was passed enabling hazardous communities to establish Community Wildfire Protection Plans, working with public input and interacting with fire-fighting agencies. JP Crumrine called me to ask if MCFSC was going to participate. I had no such plans, since we were struggling to get the organization up and running, but what could I say? I told him yes and the result was a CWPP whose most recent update was reported in the TC .

Another incident occurred around the same time when a Forest Service employee confided to me that the FS was planning a cutback in firefighting personnel for the upcoming fire season. I then phoned JP and said I had heard about a looming cutback, asking him if he had any knowledge about it. He hadn’t, but he contacted the Forest Service authorities and asked if there were any such plans. The result was that the mountain was fully staffed that season.

The TC’s value has been well established in emergency situations, most dramatically during the recent Mountain Fire with its online posts reporting the progress in evacuation and progress by the fire agencies, as well as in many other crises.

Now, Becky has informed us that she and Jack, struggling to keep the paper going, are worn out, pleading for support from the community. The danger is real. I hope the community joins me in pledging support in the Town Crier Membership program.

Further, I would suggest the formation of a Friends of the Town Crier nonprofit dedicated to volunteer help, such as going to the print shop and bringing the paper up for distribution. All the creative minds on the Hill could come up with many ways to help.

I hope this message is not an elegy, but part of a response already underway. A black hole is unthinkable.

Blair Ceniceros