A lot has changed in Winthrop and the Methow Valley in the past 25 years, and Rita Kenny has seen much of it from the front windows of Winthrop Mountain Sports, the outdoor store she co-owns on Riverside Avenue. Still, Kenny worries that the community isn’t doing enough, that some projects are languishing, that some priorities are being neglected.
At last week’s Winthrop Chamber of Commerce meeting, Kenny spoke informally to the gathering about what she thinks needs to be done to maintain the town’s allure as a popular tourism destination spot.
Of visitors, Kenny said, “once we get them here, we have a responsibility to deliver on what we promised.”
Kenny suggested formation of an ad hoc committee, made up of representatives of the business community and other interests, to identify (or re-identify) some of the challenges and come up with ideas for meeting them.
Kenny cited a few specifics she is concerned about:
• Safety on Highway 20 (Riverside Avenue) through town, for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists alike. “From the four-way stop to the [Methow River] bridge, there is not enough room for everyone and there’s the potential for a bad incident,” she said.
While the topic has been discussed — and addressed directly through the town’s “Winthrop in Motion” study and recommendations — “nothing is changed and there is no plan,” Kenny said.
“Parking and walking are always challenges, and winter creates additional challenges,” she added.
• The RiverWalk Project for a recreational path along the Methow River. The project has been dreamed about, talked about, planned for and progressed to some extent, but remains far from realized. Kenny said she first remembers discussing the project 25 years ago.
• The need for more public restrooms, particularly of the more-permanent variety and suitable for year-round use.
“We need to provide appropriate services for visitors,” Kenny said. She also said the town can do more to emphasize its Western heritage, and not just through the Westernization motif.
Kenny cited the experiences of another, nearby tourism-dependent community that became so successful that, for many residents, it also became insufferable: “Will we be like Leavenworth and fall behind the issues? We don’t want to alienate our residents.”
Kenny, who is not known to be shy about expressing her opinions, told chamber members that she was simply offering observations as a longtime business owner, resident and participant in town issues — and suggesting that sooner rather than later is a good time to start addressing Winthrop’s challenges.
Kenny is literally invested in the town’s future, but also has deep affection for it. Her thoughts carry some weight. Her hope is that they might also engender some action.
After many years of penning editorial cartoons for this page, Tania Gonzalez-Ortega has told us she is resigning the position to redirect her creative energies. A talented artist, Tania also has what I expect is a demanding commitment to operating Sunny Pine Farm with her husband, Carl Rapp. On its website, Sunny Pine is described as “a micro dairy business” whose goal “is to continue what Ed and Vicky Welch started and that is to produce the highest quality goat milk products while providing excellent service to our local and regional customers at a price that will sustain us.”
Tania has missed very few weeks over the years, and every week I can count on her to ask about potential topics. I try to give her a list of several, and let her choose from among them. Like the other contributions on the Opinion pages, Tania’s cartoons represent her own voice and opinions.
The Methow Valley News has a long tradition of local editorial cartooning, and we intend to continue that. So I’m soliciting applications to fill the role. Tania has said she will continue to provide cartoons until we find a replacement. If you are interested, please send a cover letter and some representative work samples to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would prefer that you not call.
If you haven’t tried editorial cartooning before, be prepared for it to be harder than you might think. It’s a unique form of political expression that requires not only artistic skills, but also an inventive sense of imagery and ability to convey a strong message in a small space. Week in and week out, that’s a challenge. I look forward to seeing who is up for meeting it.