A family fishes at the convergence of the North and South Fork of the Stillaguamish River near Twin Rivers Park in Arlington in October 2015. (Ian Terry / Herald file photo)

A family fishes at the convergence of the North and South Fork of the Stillaguamish River near Twin Rivers Park in Arlington in October 2015. (Ian Terry / Herald file photo)

Editorial: Darrington, Arlington still winners in many ways

By The Herald Editorial Board

It might sound like a rationalization, but Arlington, Darrington and the Stillaguamish River Valley that connects them didn’t have to come out on top at Wednesday’s announcement of America’s Best Communities competition to be winners.

Selected as one of eight semifinalists last year for the community revitalization competition from an initial pool of 138 entries, Arlington and Darrington’s joint entry fell short of earning one of the top three places, behind Huntington, West Virginia; Lake Havasu City, Nevada; and Statesboro, Georgia.

That’s not to say that the prize grants of $3 million to $1 million wouldn’t have been appreciated, as would have been the distinction of being named a winner. As a semifinalist, Darrington and Arlington share in $150,000 in grants from the competition’s organizers, but their prize is greater than that.

In participating in the competition, the north Snohomish County communities already have much to show for their efforts. And we’re not sure how the towns’ leaders, businesses, organizations and residents could have found place to display any more pride in their accomplishments than already shown.

And there’s more to come, promised Kristin Banfield, Arlington city spokeswoman, who headed up a live video viewing at the Arlington City Hall of the announcement from Denver, as reported Thursday by The Herald’s Kari Bray.

“We are not stopping,” Banfield said. “You can’t get in front of this train.”

Participation in the competition was borne out of the ongoing economic downturn in the region from a loss of logging jobs and the tragedy of the March 2014 landslide that killed 43 Oso residents south of Darrington and wiped away Highway 530, for months closing the main link between the two Stilly Valley communities. But community leaders who pursued the competition, including Darrington Mayor Dan Rankin, Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert and former Snohomish County Executive Bob Drewel, never made this a play for sympathy, instead emphasizing the Stilly Valley’s strengths, innovation and resilience.

The centerpiece of the effort was the North Stillaguamish Valley Economic Redevelopment Plan, assembled through an effort of elected officials, county and state staff and business, economic and educational representatives, that outlined scores of projects to rebuild and expand infrastructure, support workforce development, enhance educational opportunities, quality of life and tourism and create and attract jobs.

Those projects, to date, have attracted more than $91 million in support from federal, state and local governments as well as private donations and countless volunteer hours, Tolbert estimated.

Among many accomplishments in just the three years since the effort began:

Darrington’s Glacier Peak Institute connects youths with in-the-field environmental and STEM education exercises. Among its programs, the institute is working with students from Darrington’s middle and high school students to develop a riverfront park along the wild and scenic Sauk River.

Darrington and Arlington have set up free Wi-Fi hotspots to improve internet access for businesses, residents and visitors, and Darrington opened a co-working office to provide reliable connections for students and local businesses. The office space proved its worth earlier this month when a mudslide again closed Highway 530 for five days.

Arlington in partnership with Marysville is building out and promoting a 4,091-acre manufacturing industrial area, now host to 170 companies and more than 4,600 jobs, with more to follow in the years to come.

Darrington continues its work with state and federal partners on projects to develop the capacity for new wood products and markets to revive the timber industry. And the Darrington Collaborative is working with the U.S. Forest Service to expand forest jobs.

Youth councils in both towns seek the ideas of each community’s youths, with the goal of getting them invested in their hometown and seeing the potential for returning and helping build their communities when they complete college or vocational training.

The Whitehorse Trail, a 27-mile pedestrian and bike trail that connects the two towns, reopened this spring after a mile-long section was lost in the 2014 landslide. The trail recently hosted a memorial Ride to Remember Oso to mark the third anniversary of the slide.

That’s in addition to highway and airport improvements and ongoing investments by the state in the region’s Boys &Girls Clubs, parks and recreational facilities, natural habitat and more.

Arlington and Darrington were winners long before Wednesday’s announcement, and both mayors have admitted as much. Residents of Snohomish County and the rest of the state can take pride in how both towns continue to meet the challenge before them to rebuild and revitalize the region.

That’s the grand prize.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

FILE - In this file photo taken Jan. 6, 2021 at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., two men stand armed with guns in front of the Governor's Mansion during a protest supporting President Donald Trump and against the counting of electoral votes in Washington, DC, affirming President-elect Joe Biden's victory. The open carry of guns and other weapons would be banned on the Washington state Capitol campus and at or near any public demonstration across Washington under a measure that received a remote public hearing Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021 by the Senate Law and Justice Committee. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Editorial: Protect ballots, meetings from armed intimidation

Two proposed state laws would bar firearms possession at election offices and public meetings.

toon
Editorial cartoons for Friday, Jan. 21

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Editorial: Keep ‘Mockingbird’ on Mukilteo ninth-graders’ list

Concerns about the 1960 novel are legitimate, but allow students to learn from those criticisms.

With long-term care insurance, It's important to look at how the benefits are structured. (Dreamstime/TNS)
Editorial: Fix WA Cares and let it resume its important work

The long-term care program needs modest changes to fairly provide a valuable benefit to seniors.

FILE - Elementary school teacher Carrie Landheer protests for stronger COVID-19 safety protocols outside Oakland Unified School District headquarters on Jan. 7, 2022, in Oakland, Calif. Officials across the U.S. are again weighing how and whether to impose mask mandates as COVID-19 infections soar and the American public grows weary of pandemic-related restrictions. Much of the debate centers around the nation’s schools, some of which closed due to infection-related staffing issues. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
Editorial: Keep guard up against covid’s omicron variant

As much as half of the county could be infected by the variant; and hospitalizations are surging.

Schwab: Deranged? You might be too if you’re paying attention

When blatant lies and attacks on democracy are accepted without question, madness is all we have left.

Everett School District deserving of support for levies

As a graduate of Everett Public Schools and a parent of three… Continue reading

Provide more detail on covid numbers

It might be nice to have a few more details about hospitalizations,… Continue reading

What’s to come when some can’t accept a loss?

Growing up hundred years ago (or so it seems) it was always… Continue reading

Most Read