Editorial: Build a bridge to the future


February 21, 2024

The one project and institution that, indisputably, all people in our community and on both sides of the channel rallied around and supported with time, ongoing work and money, was the building of the La Conner Swinomish Library. That became a dream realized over many years. It is now a reality being shaped into our future hopes. One step, one day, one hour reached for after another brought us to it’s opening in 2022. Now with that base built, more good deeds will be realized, continuously, on into the future.

The library’s vision may be “a place of discovery, connection and inspiration for all in our diverse community.” That is repeated throughout its December newsletter.

The library newsletter is titled, “Bridge to the Future.” That offer a vision, a stretch, rather then a specific destination. Look to Anacortes and see the hard work of city Councilmember Ryan Walters. He responded – stretching – to the Port of Anacortes closing the much needed, used and loved iconic Transit Shed by taking the initiative and crafting specific plans for an events center building on the waterfront, strategically placed south of the Train Depot and the W.T. Preston on R Avenue. Read Judy Booth’s page 1 story for more.

Two months after losing the Transit Shed, Walters has a draft agreement between the City and its Port. That is reaching toward Anacortes’ sustainable future, serving the needs and hopes of its citizens and its tourist economy, which that city very much has. Note the fine fit with its state designation as a Creative District, which opens the doors to future funding.

Anacortes is a city of 18,000 with a much bigger budget and departments with full-time staffing to plan and execute projects. Still, La Conner cannot hide behind its size as a town of less than 1,000 residents. The town’s government, staff and elected officials alike, do a great job of maintaining the present moment, striping streets, painting curbs and responding to generational flooding. But figuring out how to, well, bridge, to the future? Something is missing.

It is almost two years since Port of Skagit staff and consultants presented concepts for developing 13 acres at the La Conner Marina. That Port’s staff are at the Burlington airport, not headquartered here. Their staff and commissioners are moving at the glacial pace of an institution. While there was a summer 2023 meeting between Port and Town officials, our side is not publicly advocating for the difficult sustainable future needed. Community and economic development on that site offers the promise of public channel access, working-class housing, recreation, entertainment, jobs and the incredibly hard decision to build an east-west point of entry road across farmland for a northern gateway to La Conner-Whitney Road.

That is a near literal bridge to the future. If you build it they will come is the cliche. But before that, a century ago, Carl Sandburg wrote in a poem, “nothing exists but first a dream.” Small dreams, little vision, daily maintenance keeps us stuck in a status quo present moment.

But, challenged Eleanor Roosevelt, “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” That is where we, and our children and grandchildren will all live, in the future. Our brave dreaming and hard work will make it a reality.

See its manifestation in our library. Watch Anacortes create the dream they need for themselves.

And here?

— Ken Stern


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