As we reach this milestone in the pandemic, I would like to thank my fellow Methow Valley Long Term Recovery Board Members and the incredible community partners who have joined us for regular coordination over the past 15 months as we’ve sought to bring strength, creativity and resilience to our community in the face of COVID-19 through a myriad of new programs, partnerships and collaborative actions.
Their tireless participation has been made possible by “can do” organizations including Room One, The Cove, TwispWorks, Carlton Complex Assistance Network, Aero Methow Rescue Service, Methow Housing Trust, Methow Valley School District, Little Star Montessori School, Winthrop and Twisp chambers of commerce, MethowReady, Okanogan County Electrical Cooperative, Okanogan County Long Term Recovery and the Methow Conservancy. Thank you to each and every donor and volunteer of these organizations, and to the teachers, public safety officials and other front-line workers who have served our community so bravely. You know who you are.
Sincere thanks is also due to our trio of committed mayors from Winthrop, Twisp and Pateros, the Governor’s Office, the offices of Sen. Hawkins, Rep. Steele and Rep. Goehner, who personally joined dozens of our coordination calls. A nod as well to Sen. Murray’s Spokane office for their assistance navigating it all. We are grateful for the leadership and access you all provide us.
Each challenging event in our valley highlights the work we have yet to do, but I am proud of the ways this community has come together to support one another and fill gaps with meaningful solutions and collaborations since COVID came into our lives. Onward to a stronger and more resilient Methow through working together!
Jason Paulsen, Chair
Methow Valley Long Term Recovery
Time for change
Homestream Park in Winthrop and the Methow Valley Interpretive Center have done beautiful work over the years to educate us newcomers and make sincere efforts to honor the ancestral occupants of this beautiful place. They have worked with sensitivity and integrity toward reconciliation with the descendants of those ancestors for the acts of displacement and genocide committed by our government and military during the 1800s. For the native inhabitants of the Methow Valley, life as they knew it changed dramatically long before the mid-1800s, but as we know, many were still here in 1849. All of this has been well documented by local authors, native and non-native, and it is part of the history of the Methow Valley.
Because of the positive, healing and thoughtful efforts made by so many in recent years, and through the lens of all that has led our country to 2021, I was stunned and disappointed to see a Native American “chief” portrayed by a white man in Winthrop’s recent ’49er Days event. I don’t for a moment think that any unkindness or disrespect was intended by this, but oh my goodness, in 2021 we must strive to do better than this.
I am sensitive to the amount of effort it takes to put on this event, especially in the time of COVID, and hope that the organizers were well pleased by the results. My sincere hope is that before ’49er Days 2022, effort be made to extend the authenticity of much of the event to more of it. Surviving members of the Methow Band have routinely and generously shared so much of their culture with us. Organizers from the interpretive center and Homestream also have wisdom to share. The time for use of native imagery or names in sport mascots is over, and the time for white men dressed up as Indians must be also.
We are better than this.
It just takes seconds for a child to be put in danger by a stranger. Do the mayor and Town Council of Twisp want to be responsible for the unthinkable to occur to our most vulnerable and cherished ones in our community?
I read with dismay the situation about the public restrooms at The Merc in the Methow Valley News. The digging in from the city and insistence that the restrooms be open again; the blind eye to the past history of cleaning and maintenance where they failed on their commitments to our community and The Merc; the audacity of not owning up to their responsibility of the citizens of our valley to protect our children. Our Town Council and mayor are absolutely not focused on the health and welfare of our citizens and are not serving the public interest of the Methow Valley community by refusing to use another solution. That solution is simple: Put out porta-potties for visitors to Twisp and maintenance them two times a week, Friday morning and Monday morning, for the 12 weeks of summer season.
The cost of this is nominal compared to the welfare of our communities’ children using The Merc Theater for summer camps, that could put them in danger, and at minimum cause the camp staff to have to supervise all trips to the restrooms with an adult to keep our kids safe from the “unthinkable” happening.
It’s appalling that the mayor and Town Council care so little about our own resident community that they would put our children at risk. I urge all of us to reach out and write to the mayor and Town Council about this issue. They are absolutely not owning up the past situation, and not serving the public with their choice in this matter. It’s atrocious behavior on their part.
Thanks to school district
I want to extend my deepest gratitude to the Methow Valley School District (MVSD) for the extraordinary planning, flexibility, communication and patience demonstrated by it leadership, staff and volunteers throughout this pandemic. Our kids have been extremely fortunate to have an in-person hybrid program offered all year, excellent after school camps and Wednesday outdoor school, a safe and healthy environment, rigorous COVID protocols and now opportunities for vaccination. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson in part, “. . . to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition. . .- this is to have succeeded.” MVSD, you are a success on all counts and there can never be enough thanks.
An epic event
This Memorial Day will be the 20th anniversary of an amazing event in the North Cascades: Two men kayaked over Cedar Creek Falls!
The hike to the falls at that time of year was a long-standing tradition for me, my wife, and her sister. When we reached the falls, there were two kayaks at the lookout point. Were the two young men hovering there about to kayak down Cedar Creek? No, they said, they were going over the falls themselves.
We watched as they scouted the drop from the top of the falls. They talked, they swung their arms in imaginary strokes as if they were going over. Then they began.
One of them, Tao Berman (age 22), had spent some of his growing-up years in north central Washington. His father, Birch Berman, operated Backcountry Burro Treks in Winthrop. Tao already held the world record for extreme waterfall kayaking — a 98-footer in Canada. Cedar Creek Falls was just another day at the office, according to one of their camera people.
We watched spellbound as Tao moved out into the current and smoothly over the 40-foot first falls. The landing there is tight, with dangerous rocks and logs to avoid. It was over in a second with a beautiful landing.
Then he set up for the 55-foot second falls. It was supposedly the easier one because of a much bigger landing area. Tao hit the water very hard. For 30 seconds he did not appear to surface. The camera operator thought Tao had been pinned underwater and drowned.
Then Tao emerged from behind the waterfall. His water entry was so hard that it had snapped his paddle. He had surfaced behind the waterfall. With a broken paddle, he had trouble paddling out. He was unhurt.
We left them at the falls. At their car, we left a note of thanks for the great show, and three Cinnamon Twisps we had purchased that morning at the bakery.
Tao Berman went on to set records surf kayaking waves almost as big as upper Cedar Falls.
Not feeling the empathy
We appreciate your attempt to cover the story of the opening of the public restrooms in Twisp in a balanced way. From comments, it is not clear that most readers read to the end of your article. The Merc board members would like to set the record straight. The town has been an irresponsible partner in this contractual relationship and is opening the restrooms after a superficial clean-up, without consulting The Merc. Safety and sanitation standards in the restrooms (town’s responsibility!) have been ignored for years, despite The Merc’s frequent communications about cleaning and safety monitoring. Before 2018, numerous urgent requests, including 911 calls, were made to the town regarding drug and lewd behavior in the restrooms while children were in The Merc’s facility. In 2018, The Merc and the Town of Twisp agreed to close the restrooms to the public because of these concerns.
The parties also agreed that they should find a way to turn the restrooms over to The Merc. Lawyers from both the town and The Merc began discussing a possible solution. Inexplicably, as these talks are still ongoing, the town has backed away from its former position, placed unreasonable roadblocks in the way of an agreement and is now opening the restrooms without communicating with The Merc at all. Based on past history, we have no reason to believe that anything regarding the town’s responsibility or accountability will change in the future. We, as board members of a small, art nonprofit, are becoming increasingly apprehensive about our legal and financial liability implications, not to mention the safety of our staff, actors and patrons.
This all makes us wonder if the town really values a vibrant community theater in the heart of a future “art center?” The town motto may be “Be Empathetic to Everyone,” but those of us associated with The Merc are not feeling like that “empathy” extends to us.
The Merc Board of Directors