Think of all the small towns you’ve passed through in your life and all the forces large and small that shaped them into that town that you either linger in or speed through, depending on the kindness of time. Any small town is the sum of many decisions, often just everyday decisions, and this is the sound that culture makes. But sometimes it’s important for the people of a town to sit back and take a look at the direction their town is taking — and think about what kind of town they really want.
The town of Hoquiam, Washington is in the middle of these considerations at the moment. Historically a logging town in the lumber rich Pacific Northwest, the town has preserved its heritage through a variety of events. There’s the annual, and internationally famous, Loggers’ Playday, as well as logging competitions and parades in the fall. Now it has to consider whether it wants to grow.
There has been discussion in town of developing the waterfront, a piece of downtown that runs along the Hoquiam River. Development has been proposed, but the future of the area is not yet clear. Now is the time for the community to decide what it wants to see when it visits its city center. A developed waterfront did wonders for big cities such as Baltimore and San Antonio, but could Hoquiam have as much success bringing dining, shopping and entertainment to its riverside real estate?
The waterfront hasn’t seen much action since its heyday in the 1980s, but now there is development interest, and so the community has to think seriously about what kind of town it may want to become. Development is obviously no guarantee of success, nor will it necessarily turn it into a metropolis, but decisions need to be made collectively, because of course growth isn’t free — tax money is the ruche fertilizer for civic growth.
As a small town, it has to decide whether it wants to stay small or make some growth decisions. It’s already got a rivalry with its larger neighboring city Aberdeen, and friendly competition often spurs some of the best kinds of growth, personal and otherwise. Sometimes the bigger towns get all the tax money, all the tourism, so if the town decides its identity is as a larger town, it may suddenly make the rivalry that much more interesting.
So as it moves forward, it has to think about how it can preserve its history but stay modern. How it can have a heritage that informs its future. It’s a question all small towns at some point have to face, and while it doesn’t mean Hoquiam has to become a metropolis, it at least has to face some grown-up decisions.
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