When a town ages, it has to change too, to avoid stalling out, fading away. Often a town has been planted in a place to satisfy some specific cultural or economic need, and if those days pass, the town has to change its game. And the way a town does this is very important, because it says as much about the times we’re all living in as about the way a town makes decisions.
Hoquiam, Washington is an interesting example of these changes. Originally a logging town, it continues to celebrate its heritage with an internationally known event called Loggers’ Playday. And every fall there is a logging competition and parade to remind the people of the town how their hamlet came to be. But where some traditions are timeless, fundamental to the fabric of a town’s culture, others have to be created anew.
Take, for example, the waterfront. This part of the city’s downtown has not been well used since a 1980s Renaissance. But with the possibilities presented by new development, suddenly there’s a chance that it can become a hub for the area. This city can’t just rely on logging contests forever — there’s got to be more to a city’s life than that.
There’s ample area on the waterfront for new amenities such as shopping and entertainment, features that make a town a good place to visit. Waterfront development has been a major boon for cities such as Baltimore and San Antonio. For those towns, like this one, this area becomes a natural place to congregate, to put in shops and dining opportunities. The river itself becomes a major draw, a natural feature that lends the downtown its own special beauty while giving people a place to have a drink.
There’s another good reason to consider its development options. There’s its bigger neighbor to the east, Aberdeen, with whom the town has a kind of rivalry. Bigger towns tend to get the better opportunities, often more money from the state, than the smaller town. Older siblings always get the new stuff while littler kids get the hand-me-downs. But so if the town thinks about what it wants to become and applies that vision in creating a lovely downtown waterfront, it can show that next-door neighbor how great a town can be.
That balance between tradition and innovation is an important one. But it’s necessary to think about making change to avoid stagnation in a community. And when small towns such as Hoquiam find this opportunity for evolution, they should take a chance or two and grow.
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