The big headline atop the last Methow Valley News issue of 2022 was “Conservancy agrees to buy 1,200 acres from Haubs.” Not very elegant, but I ran out of space to say something more expansive and momentous. Had the news broken a few weeks earlier, it might have been among the contenders for our annual list of the top news stories of the preceding year.
I even said so in this space a year ago, in the Year in Review issue looking back on 2022: “At the very end of the year came a major breaking story that was too late for the 2022 ballot, but will likely be in the running for 2023 because its story arc is just beginning: The Methow Conservancy’s proposal to buy 1,200 acres of former Sunny M Ranch property to preserve and protect. A major fundraising campaign will keep that story active for the next six months, and beyond.”
Well. How prescient was that?
Actually, it was kind of a no brainer. But I would not have been so brash as to predict, in the first week of 2023, that the Sunny M purchase — coupled with the Conservancy’s acquisition later in the year of a 144-acre parcel near Twisp — would emerge as our readers’ choice as the top news story of the previous 12 months. There were so many other potential 2023 newsmakers on the horizon, plus the events we could not predict.
Still, when the ballots were tallied — and thank you to everyone who participated — the Sunny M/Mill Hill story was the clear winner among 2022’s headlines. After that, the voting was close among the 12 stories (including ties) that made the 2023 list, which you can read about beginning on Page A1 in this week’s paper.
It was the second consecutive year that a Conservancy initiative took the top spot in the readers’ poll: the No. 1 choice for 2022 was the organization’s purchase of the former Wagner Ranch, and subsequent deeding to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
There were plenty of high-interest, valley-related events and developments to choose from in 2023, including some (like the proposed reintroduction of grizzly bears in the North Cascades, or protections for wolverines and Western gray squirrels) whose original impetus started elsewhere but have an impact here. We narrowed the list down to 25 for our ballot, and there probably could have been a few more. Every contender on the list got votes in our poll, and we had a few write-ins as well.
As usual, it’s likely that while many of 2023’s top stories were one-offs, others will continue to show up as they move toward resolution. As I’ve noted before, many local stories have a long narrative arc; we may be at the beginning, middle or end of any of them. We’ll be tracking some of them through the coming year.
Aside from all that newsy news, there was plenty else of interest going on in 2023. We give the top sports stories of the year separate attention. See page B1 for sports guru Rick Lewis’s insightful take on Methow Valley sports. Some of those stories found their way to the front page as well. Elsewhere in this issue will you find pages devoted to the year in arts, the various transitions of 2023, favorite photos of the year, and a sampling of cartoons from Len Baublitz and Erik Brooks. We didn’t have room for much else, but we’ll back up to full speed next week.
Looking ahead, does the Conservancy have else something headline-generating in mind for 2024? Will the Twisp pool and Three Rivers Hospital proposals resurface in revised forms? Will Twisp get its own police department? Will some of the valley’s proposed housing developments come to fruition? Will it start snowing again soon, or will be it be so-so winter? Will another of December 2023’s late-breaking stories blossom into something significant? We don’t have a crystal ball, so we’ll be watching and waiting just as our readers will be. It promises to be a year full of drama and surprises, locally and beyond.
New year, new prices
A reminder that our newsstand price goes to $1.50 this week. We understand that it may take some time for buyers and vendors to adjust. Also, subscription prices increase as well. You can extend your current subscription at the old prices through the end of this week.