Even though I was “attending” last week’s Twisp Town Council meeting via a remote dial-up, I could sense the council members’ frustration as they discussed – again – whether to open the Wagner Memorial Pool, in some capacity, for what’s left of summer. You could hear it in their voices, or in conversational pauses, as they looked for some sensible way to make the popular pool available to the valley community.
The pandemic facts were against them, as they have been since the state began to take increasingly restrictive measures to constrain COVID-19. Opening the pool in any meaningful way was never going to be easy. By last week, it looked close to impossible and the town was running out of time.
Even so, that’s a difficult thing to acknowledge if you are a public servant whose constituency is up-close and personal. But you get elected to make tough decisions, as Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody gently reminded council members last week.
In this case, the council made the right call. Operating the pool, while technically possible, would not have been fiscally responsible at this point, especially given all the parameters that it would be required to meet. Important as the pool is to the community, it’s just not worth the health risks when containing the coronavirus has to be our highest priority.
The pool’s closing was just one more blow we’ve endured since the brutal impacts of the state’s COVID countermeasures began to escalate in May. We’ve lost all of our major summer events, and aside from swimming, it didn’t seem like there was much left of the summer except for a few more months of extreme fire threats.
The Wagner Pool has a powerful history of community support, and the Friends of the Pool organization has been working hard to capitalize on that as it visualizes a new facility. That’s especially important because there are times these days when it seems like we are in danger of losing some local institutions, the things large and small that help define us as a community. They can be organizations, businesses, events, personalities or, like the pool, facilities. Any of them can fall in the face of a pandemic that, astonishingly even now, many people continue to deny, underestimate or fatalistically accept as some kind of cosmic consequence that humanity has brought on itself.
From “postponed” to “canceled” to “extinct” is a scary proposition, but one we’ll be dealing with for years to come. We don’t know what’s going to survive and return in some form, or fall by the wayside and fade into Methow Valley lore. “Remember when” might reference last year, not some distant point in the past.
Decisions will have to be made, some of them from the head more than the heart. Twisp closed the pool this year with the expectation that it will be back.
So, you may be thinking, does Mr. Gloomy have anything encouraging to offer? Well, yes I do, speaking of things that could easily have disappeared. Welcome news this week (see page A1) is that the Carlton General Store has been sold and will re-open soon under new ownership but the same management (that would be Jeff Lyman).
The lower valley nexus of commerce and conviviality has been dark for two years, and it’s been missed. The entire valley needs the Carlton General Store. And it will give us a place to sell single copies of the newspaper again.
While it’s not entirely business as usual, the community does continue to function at a lot of levels, thanks to the perseverance and innovation of the valley’s crisis-hardened residents. This week you’ll find stories about Winthrop annexing the site for Methow Trails’ new headquarters, and contemplating taking ownership of Sa Teekh Wa Park from the county. The Town of Twisp and the Methow Valley School District cemented their partnership to build a new sports facility near the Twisp airport. Several local organizations found ways to offer their traditional summer camps for kids. Actual groundbreaking (as opposed to the ceremonial kind) took place at the site of the new Winthrop public library. Construction commenced on the Pavilion at TwispWorks. Interest in our local elections is heating up. Art galleries are back in business. Highway 20 got chip-sealed (we all patiently tolerated the delays, right?). Oh, and there was a comet.
Our annual summer tourism magazine, rechristened as “Methow Valley Summer/Fall 2020,” is included in this week’s newspaper and also will be widely distributed starting this week. Although it’s aimed at visitors, you’ll find it a valuable resource for locals as well.