Bark Bay is a small town in the northern United States. The majority of the town’s population of 8000 live within a few miles of the intersection of the Indian and East rivers (the East River continues downstream of the town). The intersecting rivers form a fairly deep inland river bay that has served several purposes in the town’s history.
The town received its unusual (some, especially the town’s younger residents, would call it unfortunate) name at the time when it was a booming lumber port in the early 19th century. To feed the town’s mills, tree logs were cast into the Indian and East Rivers, and would partially erode by the time they reached their destination; the shedded bark floating at the top of the bay quickly became the town’s distinguishing characteristic.
Archeological evidence and surviving oral history indicate the area around the intersecting rivers was home to several different Native American populations for at least three hundred years before European traders arrived in the early 1800s and quickly drove out the natives (some through land purchases, others by force, but most by disease). The lumber industry brought the town instant wealth, but suffered a devastating financial collapse by mid-century; wealthy sportsmen then swept in and transformed the town into a sailing port. The Great Depression of the 1930s caused another transformation; most of the wealthy who weren’t ruined soon left, and a hydroelectric dam erected upstream of the East River nearly emptied the bay. Several companies set up factories in the town during the economic boom after World War II, but nearly all have abandoned Bark Bay and relocated to more profitable areas.
Evidence of the town’s numerous transformations can be found everywhere. Upstream of the Indian River is an abandoned Native American village that has remained virtually untouched for two centuries. The rotting remains from the bases of wooden piers, exposed after the East River dam emptied the bay, can still be seen. Buildings and roads, many thrown up quickly during one of the town’s many spasms of economic growth, are arranged throughout the town with no seeming plan, as if they were scattered by giant children abandoning their toys.
The town realizes it is heading towards another transformation. Population has slowly but steadily decreased since the last factories departed, and the town’s steady stream of summer tourism revenue is being threatened by a proposed bridge which, if built, would create a route that avoids Bark Bay. The town has faced many crises in its history, and has always emerged stronger. But there is concern that this time, the town may be facing a situation similar to that of the original Native American inhabitants, that the forces closing in this time are too powerful for the residents of Bark Bay to overcome.