Opinion

WALLY'S WORLD: Not wrong, just different

By Wally DuChateau

A number of residents in our region labor under the misconception that Enumclaw is still the relatively self-sustaining, isolated, small town I described last week.

Take for example: a woman approached me about a year or two ago when the state Department of Transportation wanted to change the intersection at Chamber’s Corner (the Stop ‘n’ Shop corner). She complained that the state didn’t care what local people wanted. “To the State, we don’t know what’s good for us,” she exclaimed. “We’re just a bunch of hicks out here in this little town.”

Well, I don’t wish to argue pro or con about her contention that state government thinks we’re a “bunch of hicks.” Rather, it was her supposition that Enumclaw is an isolated “little town.”

Wrong.

Another example: a few weeks ago a fellow approached me at the main downtown traffic light. He somewhat woefully pointed out that, between Griffin and Initial, there were four empty Cole Street storefronts, formerly occupied by the antique mall, Leo’s, Lindon Books and the party store. “Big operators like Target and Lowe’s are squeezin’ the small guy out,” he said. “Little town’s like this can’t compete with them.”

Here again, I don’t wish to argue his observations about economic competition. Rather, it’s his contention that Enumclaw is a “little town.”

Wrong.

In the last 50 years, our local population has nearly tripled. The number of Enumclaw residents is now more than 11,000 and this census year will undoubtedly kick that figure higher. Of course, most of this growth is due to people moving here rather than our local birth rate because most of our children leave town.

Though these new arrivals take some pride and interest in their homes, neighborhoods and our schools, they don’t really identify with the region. In other words, they aren’t employed here, don’t shop here (with the possible exception of grocery stores) and don’t pursue recreational activities here. Their daily routines involve a morning one- or two-hour commute to employment in Seattle, Everett or Redmond, four hours of work followed by lunch in Bellevue, then another four hours of work after which they might celebrate happy hour in one place or another, before starting the one- or two-hour commute back to Enumclaw, where they have dinner with their families, watch some TV and crash. On weekends, they might take in a movie at one of the malls or go to dinner at the Olive Garden.

Many of them don’t look upon their homes as permanent residences, but rather as temporary housing until they find something better in a location they prefer. Though I haven’t the time nor desire to dig up the actual statistics, I suspect half the people who moved here in the last 30 or 40 years have now moved somewhere else; but, in turn, those leaving have been replaced by other newcomers.

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the suburban complex we’ve become. It’s just different, that’s all. We used to be a small, sort of isolated, town in south King County. Now we’re just another blip on the greater Seattle, suburban sprawl.

It’s like comparing the Ski Inn, one of the last remaining icons of small-town Enumclaw, with the martini bar, newest arrival in the suburban onslaught.

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