I first started paying attention to the Methow Valley Citizens Council MVCC) in the mid-1990s when I was editor of the Puget Sound Business Journal in Seattle, for a couple of reasons: Seattle interests were involved, and I was already a Methow devotee. By that time, MVCC was already a battle-hardened teenager standing its ground against much larger businesses, organizations and government entities in a fight over the Methow’s future. At the time, outcomes weren’t yet clear and MVCC’s maturation into adulthood was uncertain.
Now, MVCC is on the brink of middle age, but hasn’t lost its energy or forward-looking attitude.
Forty years is a long time for a nonprofit, community-based, issue-driven, volunteer-dependent organization to survive in a sparsely populated area — particularly if it was originally perceived by some as the one-issue creation of iconoclastic activists and meddlesome outsiders.
The Methow Valley Citizens Council was in fact organized to resist first an Aspen-style ski resort and then, when that idea was stymied, a massive upscale development in the Mazama area. Those efforts consumed more than half of the MVCC’s life span. If that had been the end of it, the organization would be appreciated and well remembered by many Methow Valley residents and fans.
Instead, MVCC has continued to persistently advocate for the valley’s environmental assets, protect it from overwhelming development and promote its best interests. Coincidentally, that stance has enhanced the valley’s economic well being as a popular tourism destination for all kinds of recreational opportunities. It’s impossible to calculate the economic value of aggressively preserved natural beauty and accessible activities, but we would surely be poorer in many ways without them.
Some valley folks (and perhaps more outside the valley) would argue that MVCC has stood in the way of beneficial progress and has morphed into an anti-everything litigator. However, experience has repeatedly shown that, in the face of one assault after another on the Methow’s character, lawsuits often are the only way to make ourselves heard and be taken seriously. It takes courage, intelligence and hard-won validation to take on complicated issues and powerful organizations in the legal arena.
More than that, it requires the passion, vision and selfless contributions of many people to keep an organization like MVCC vital over four decades. That understanding was at the heart of MVCC’s 40th anniversary celebration last weekend. The Methow Valley Community Center gym was packed with supporters whose contributions, large or small, long-term or recent, have made MVCC what it is and can continue to be. Its leaders have never lost sight of the “citizens” part of their mission.
Back in 1976, nobody could speculate about how long we would need MVCC or something like it. Now it’s hard to imagine the valley without it, or to contemplate a future without MVCC continuing to help define the Methow for those already here, and those to come.
The same ‘end’
Christmas at the End of the Road has always been one of my favorite Methow Valley celebrations. It’s a friendly community event that, even on a cold November evening, leaves you feeling warm.
The “end of the road” part charmingly evokes our lovely winter remoteness, although Winthrop isn’t quite there geographically (hence the Mazama Store’s epic annual holiday revel, Christmas at the Very End of the Road). But I have to confess that I didn’t quite get the connection of a day-after-Thanksgiving party with Christmas, still a month off. I never really voiced that curiosity, but it turns out other people may have been thinking the same thing. At last week’s Winthrop Chamber of Commerce meeting, it was announced that the event will get a new name with the word “Thanksgiving” in it, aligning the celebration with its actual holiday.
Some people won’t like the change from tradition, but I’m OK with it. Thanksgiving is an important transitional time in the valley. The North Cascades Scenic Highway is often closed by then, winter conditions have arrived or are pending, and this year the Winthrop Ice & Sports Rink will be open by the time turkeys are carved. We’ll enjoy the same events, including one of the most spectacular fireworks shows around. When the streets fill up, the decorative lights come on and the burn barrels start to glow, I don’t think it will make much difference what the celebration is called. It’s fun, and it’s ours.