Plan being developed to revitalize town’s tourism economy

By Don Nelson

What might a “revitalized” Twisp need to look like in order to boost the town’s tourism economy?

That was the broad topic at a meeting last week hosted by the Twisp Chamber of Commerce, where local business and organizational leaders heard some ideas about how the town could possibly attract more visitors and convince them to say for a while.

The Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) last year awarded the Town of Twisp a $50,000 grant to come up with a business revitalization plan that, according to a CERB press release, “will include a feasibility and marketing study to enhance business visibility, to encourage economic development and to attract tourism to the Town of Twisp.”

To that end, the town hired the planning and engineering consulting firm SCJ Alliance to come up with some preliminary ideas about what a revitalized Twisp might look like. The local steering committee working with SCJ includes Jonathan Baker, owner of eqpd, Amanda Jackson Mott, executive director of Methow Arts, Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody and Twisp Public Works Director Andrew Denham.

Twisp will use the CERB money to develop an “economic development master plan,” Ing-Moody said at last week’s meeting.

Eric Johnston, an SCJ vice president, presented the firm’s first efforts at generating local discussion, and cautioned that the preliminary ideas will probably morph into different concepts after community participation and input. “This is a first step,” he said.

“You have a very involved community with lots of ideas. We intend to work with that,” Johnston said.

Community outreach efforts will include surveys, online information and additional public meetings. “We want to find out what works for people who live here as well as tourists,” Johnston said.

SCJ’s efforts will focus on enhancing what the community already does well, Johnston said.

The consulting firm’s goal is to begin  surveys in May, conduct open houses in June, and develop the major points of a plan by August, with a draft final report to be delivered in October.

Johnston said that potential economic benefits drive all the thinking about revitalization plans. Much of the discussion will be about how to improve the appearance and utility of Twisp’s streets, because “that’s what people see.” It’s also generally easier to get grant money for street improvements, he said.

Issues for downtown streets include parking, pedestrian safety and bike lanes, all within a confined right-of-way. “You may have to make choices street-by-street,” Johnston said.

The most talked-about idea at last week’s meeting was what could be called the “gateway concept” — that is, features clearly created to give the impression of entry into important parts of the town, such as archways over streets including Glover Street, Third Avenue and Twisp Avenue where they intersect with Highway 20. Third Avenue was selected because it feeds directly into the community center and town park across the state highway, Johnston said.

Also discussed was the possibility of a roundabout or traffic circle for the intersection of Glover Street and Highway 20, including a realignment of Twisp-Carlton Road. Johnston said a roundabout could slow traffic down without making people stop at what is now an awkward intersection.