In August 2014, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a grant to Economic Alliance Snohomish County to support an economic redevelopment plan for the North Stillaguamish River Valley after the Oso landslide that March killed 43 people, destroyed 36 homes, blocked the North Fork Stillaguamish River and buried a stretch of Highway 530.
The plan is intended to address long-term socioeconomic challenges and the economic disruption caused by the slide. The plan contains six goals:
•Develop infrastructure to connect residents to social and economic opportunity
•Create, attract and retain jobs in traditional and advanced industry •Support community and workforce development and address human services needs
•Tailor regulations to encourage sustainable, productive and efficient development, and protect natural resources
•Create vibrant spaces that enhance the quality of life, draw visitors and strengthen businesses
•Become a model for asset-based rural economic development planning.
We used these goals to create our strategy for the America’s Best Communities competition, for which Arlington and Darrington are one of eight co-finalists. We have made good progress in each of the six redevelopment goals:
•Infrastructure: Installed a free public Wi-Fi hotspot in Arlington and Darrington.
•Industries and Employment: A merchandising consultant met with businesses to suggest improvements on how to create foot traffic. Also, Arlington is creating a makerspace in Arlington and a co-worker space in Darrington. Nineteen Arlington businesses participated in these workshops.
•Community and Workforce Development: Arlington has its first-ever Youth Council. With its input, the Arlington Boys and Girls Club has included teen-specific amenities in its remodel, including recording studio and graphic arts equipment.
•Resilience and Sustainability: Darrington’s Glacier Peak Institute, a Science-Technology-Engineering-Math learning program, is using the river valley’s natural resources and recreation opportunities to teach advanced scientific concepts to high school students. •Place making: We have enjoyed our Olympic Avenue beautification projects, including holiday lights, additional tidiness and cleaner sidewalks, storefronts and awnings. The Downtown Arlington Business Association now has a tool-lending library, so merchants can stay on top of maintenance at no additional cost. Over the summer, many residents enjoyed our Pop Up Park. We used public input to refine our design for a proposed permanent pocket park.
•Rural Innovation: These four outcomes focused on what we do best: celebrate our quality of life. First were Rural Tourism Studios, where business owners and recreation providers learned how to build a common vision for sustainable tourism. Next, Snohomish County has inventoried the recreation assets of the valley and has created a new Whitehorse Trail Regional map and on-line guide. Third, we’re using a social media blitz on Facebook to interact with our citizens. Finally, we hope you’ll join us March 19 for the Ride to Remember Oso, which culminates at the Darrington Community Center for a Celebration of Strong Communities.
The economic redevelopment plan also includes goals that were not a part of ABC, and if we win we will use the $3 million prize to continue working with Darrington to meet other goals from the plan. For example, we might invest in lengthening the runway at Arlington Municipal Airport, or we might work to expand winter recreation options in the east valley.
Whatever we choose, we will do so with our citizens in mind, both in the present and for the future. My goal is development that respects our history, provides workforce and youth engagement in our present, and ensures a future where our families can flourish for generations to come.
Barb Tolbert is the mayor of Arlington. Her city column runs monthly.