If you can find a copy of our Methow Valley Winter magazine for 2019-20, you will encounter just one of the many things that Mary Kiesau will be remembered for. Mary took the powerful photo on the magazine’s cover. Her pictures enhanced the pages of our magazines and newspaper many times over the years.
Mary died on April 15 of cancer at the age of 45. As were many others in the valley, I was stunned by news of her death. As a tribute to her, this week we are using another of her extraordinary photographs in the banner across the top of Page A1 — this one of Slate Peak. She submitted the shot along with about 190 other photos, not that long ago, for potential use in the Methow Valley Summer 2020 magazine (more about that later). My last communication with her was a “thank you.”
That hardly seems adequate for all the things Mary contributed to the valley, or to acknowledge how many paths she crossed in her amazing range of activities. In this small community, where we treasure our own, such a loss resonates beyond grief. You can read more about Mary’s eventful life on page B5.
Do some lifting
Voting is underway for two property tax levy requests that require some forward thinking.
Okanogan County Fire District 6 is asking for a levy lid lift to support the construction of a new fire station and training center in Winthrop. Three Rivers Hospital in Brewster (technically, Hospital District 1, which includes the Methow Valley) is asking for a one-time levy of $750,000 to support operations.
The timing of both requests may be problematic for people who are afraid they can’t afford even small increases in their property tax burden. That’s unfortunate, but it doesn’t have to be the determining factor in how people vote.
Hard as it may be, voters should think about how things will be, or how we would like them to be, in the future when we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.
There is no question about the current need for a new fire station, and no better time than now to make sure that it’s not delayed another several years. If you want to keep quibbling over things that have already been decided, that’s your prerogative. But the fire hall is not going to be in a different place, and it’s not going to cost less. Ever. I think the only question that really matters is, do we need to settle this issue now and get on with it? I think so.
The Three Rivers Hospital levy hasn’t gotten as much attention, but it’s also crucial for the near future — which may be nearer than we think. For a look at how our rural hospitals in Okanogan County are struggling and what they are up against to survive, see the story on page A1. It’s pretty evident if you don’t invest in your own local health care system, nobody else is going to do it for you.
Another major event dropped off the calendar this week when it was announced that the annual Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival, about to hit its 33rd year of bringing world-class music to the valley, has been canceled for 2020. Then I learned that the Methow Valley Memorial Day Rodeo is also canceled. We already lost ’49er Days, although organizers haven’t dismissed the possibility of staging the event in the fall. I think we aren’t through with cancellation and postponements.
Which brings us to the Methow Valley Summer magazine for 2020. The “summer guide” is our largest annual publication and our biggest moneymaker. It’s important for our survival. But we have put its production on hold until we can figure out what summer will look like, and how to best serve our visitors and the tourism industry they support. We’re considering alternatives that will be workable for advertisers and useful to the people who visit us, with the intent of being ready for a quick production process when the opportunity presents itself.
I always feel that there is a pent-up demand to be in the Methow Valley that builds while it is essentially closed because of fires, smoke, or now, a pandemic. If people can safely come here and our businesses can be ready for them, before summer and fall rush by, I want to believe that we’ll see folks headed our way. And they will be looking for useful information.