Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lucky Town

Sometimes I go rather far afield for my job, like this past July when I rode all around the state. Today, I got to stick close to home, representing the Bicycle Alliance at the official opening of the Issaquah-High Point Regional Trail connector. You have to come up with something to say at these things, so I got up early and jotted a few notes. I knew I'd be talking after the mayor and the council people and the various transportation folks had said their pieces and pretty much thanked everyone. I wanted to keep things brief but still say something. This is what I said.


A couple of weeks ago I was at the opening of the new REI here in town, chatting with a fellow. Most of the time he's working at one of the REI stores in the southwest but he'd come to Issaquah to help open the new store. "You're lucky to live here," he said to me and when he found out I'd lived here for the past 14 years he added, "I bet it's changed a lot."

And I found myself telling this fellow how the space where the REI and the Safeway and the Target store are now had all been an open meadow and how old-timers remember back to when the 12th Avenue Cafe was on 12th Avenue and how there used to be cows grazing right across the street from my kid's elementary school. But mostly I told him how we still have salmon in the creek, and while some of the old farms are becoming condos, others are becoming parks. I told him how Rainier Boulevard was changed to better manage run-off, how abandoned rail lines have been turned into trails, how folks are working to clean up litter on the roadsides.

And I told him about the trail to High Point and the path under the freeway and along the shores of Lake Sammamish. How folks can walk and bike to places instead of driving and how the pieces link together in a greenway. How folks who never set foot or wheel on these paths still get value from them, for when you or I are hiking or walking on these paths, we're not sitting in a car stuck in traffic on Front Street. How every bike trip that's not a car trip helps keep the air just a bit cleaner.

We all make choices. How we vote, how we spend our money, how we spend our time, all these things really do matter. Ultimately, as Gandhi said, "actions express priorities." These trails and the bits of green we all share and enjoy and depend on are here because good people have put in a lot of work to make sure these things are not only here today, but here for our grand-kids and for the salmon, the heron, the frogs and all the rest of the world.

A lot of non-glamorous work goes into making a livable town. Lots of boring meetings, a lot of argument, a lot of compromise. To actually do things takes money, time and lots of good old-fashioned heavy lifting. It's really amazing that anything ever gets done.

But things like the Highpoint connector do get done and we owe a huge debt of thanks to the people who have put in all the work to make this happen. And now is when we roll up our sleeves and pitch in somewhere. Issaquah is a great place to live, but there still is plenty of work to do.

We are lucky to live here but it's the kind of luck Bruce Springsteen wrote about and I'm going to take the liberty to paraphrase the Boss just a little bit:
"When it comes to luck, we make our own
we've got dirt on our hands, but we're building a home."


Anonymous said...

Hey Kent, can you post a link to the route of this new trail?

Kent Peterson said...

It's still too new to show up on any maps. I may get around to creating a map at some point but that might be a while. In the meantime, while looking to see if anybody else had mapped it, I refound Dan Crawford's super nifty trail site here:

Check it out, it's really cool. I'd be willing to bet that Dan will have the Highpoint connector in his database soon.

jeffy said...

I faked up a route on google maps. It's a pretty nifty trail.

Thanks for posting your comments, Kent. It was a nice speech.

Tarik Saleh said...


That was a smooth speech. Well done.

Peter McKay said...

Hi Kent,

We are lucky to have you in our broader community! While I don't I know what the other dignitaries said, I cannot imagine that they were half as eloquent as you. We love you!

Anonymous said...

I like that your comments focused on the nature of change. As I think you know, I often work with rural communities and Indian Tribes that are in distress as a result of some change which they may not have seen coming or may not have had the power to influence. Occasionally I tell stories of other community’s successes in hopes of inspiring them to work to create the change they seek. Almost always someone will say “those people were really lucky”. My response is that luck often has a way of finding those who are prepared for it. (i.e.: success can be one result of planning)

I think back to my youth when Issaquah was really ‘out there’; when it was a place where Darigold processed milk, the area surrounding was fields with black and white cows and the occasional abandoned out building covered with 23 foot tall blackberry bushes. Then came brightly colored parachutes and the skydiving craze. Stopping in Issaquah for what ever you needed before heading over the pass afforded an opportunity to watch those parachutes describe lazy circles as they descended towards the big bullseye on the grass runway, probably about where Costco now stands.

It could have changed to be like the Mukilteo Speedway and hwy 99. All things considered I think Issaquah has developed about as well as could be expected. Nice that the salmon still call it home.

Yr Pal DrCodfish