No-Bad-DaysBy Don Nelson

The splendor that is Paris, the grandeur that is Rome, the (fill in the blank) that is Twisp — the valley’s largest community seems continuously in search of a marketable identity.

I think Twisp already has one. The challenge is how to capitalize on it.

Not to off-put the Winthropians, whom I like lot, but the most common characterization I hear, offered with fondness, is that Twisp is the “real” town in the valley. Not too plain, not too fancy — grounded, hardworking, friendly, accessible, generous, sociable, low-key but also a bit quirky and surprising at times.

And all too often, town and business leaders worry, bypassed.

Highway 20 is the healthy arterial, but Glover Street is the affection-starved heart. Traffic theoretically slows to 25 mph through town on the highway, but that doesn’t necessarily encourage a one-block-over reconnaissance. Thus, the hard-wired civic concern is how to keep that heart beating strongly enough to, as the buzzword suggests, “sustain” the Twisp-and-environs economy.

Of course, people do find their way into the core area and its eclectic attractions, which invite repeat visits. It’s only a few blocks from end to end, but I always find a stroll along Glover Street interesting and engaging.

How is the typical elsewhere-bound visitor to know that?

It’s not that the town hasn’t tried — informational signage, out-of-market advertising and well-executed promotional materials are all being utilized.

Now the town is poised to up the ante with the help of a $50,000 state grant that will be used to develop what’s broadly called a tourism-centric economic revitalization plan — which is basically code for “get them in here!” With the help of SCJ Alliance, an engineering and planning consultancy which has worked on several Methow Valley projects, the town and chamber of commerce are beginning to scope out ways to do just that.

SCJ representatives were in town last week to present some very preliminary ideas about how Twisp might conceivably become more inviting without going all Vegas on us.

It quickly becomes evident that boring old infrastructure, with a bit of appropriate glamor, is what the plan must necessarily be all about. Plainly put, Twisp has to look better — its streets, sidewalks, bikeways and public areas have to be well-designed, well-landscaped, well-coordinated and well-situated to create a sense of downtown unity.

That’s why SCJ’s folks spent so much time last week talking about streets, roadways and pedestrian corridors, and how they all tie together. Like it or not, pavement matters. As SCJ’s Eric Johnston noted, that’s what vehicular occupants see, at any speed.

So, how to get them to pay attention? One suggestion is to create “gateway” structures — arches over the street at several intersections, for instance — that say “enter here.” Which, I suspect, will raise a question in some Twispians’ minds: How “real” is that? There are effective examples. The one I’m most familiar with is in Anacortes, and it works because it delivers on the promise: pass through these portals and find something special.

Another idea — and don’t get all lathered up, it’s just an idea — is to create a traffic round at the dicey three-way intersection of Highway 20, Glover Street and Twisp-Carlton Road. The intent would be to slow traffic down without stoppages while mitigating the crash potentials.

However you feel about such suggestions, and others that are being developed, you’ll get several chances to express yourself in community-wide surveys and at open houses. It’s all going to start happening soon, so pay attention.

I expect the usual intense community involvement. You gotta love how much Twisp residents love Twisp, and how much they want to make it even more lovable while keeping it real.

 

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