Letter to the Editor: Enumclaw is now a destination, thanks to Cole Street closures

Reader Linda Rolczynski says it’s been wonderful watching the city come alive.

This is the first time that I’ve ever written a letter to the Courier Herald, but I could no longer be silent.

My husband and I moved to Enumclaw in 1975 with our two children. In 1985, we opened the Lindon Bookstore on Cole Street and we became active in the downtown business core for 20 years.

At every merchant gathering, the conversation was mostly about two issues: parking and how to attract the people heading to Mt. Rainer, to stop, shop, and enjoy a meal. Our goal was to transform Enumclaw from a town “one drives through, to a town one goes to.” When other small communities were losing their downtowns, we wanted to do everything we could to keep ours vibrant and healthy.

During my time working downtown, I was a member, or sat on the board, of the Chamber of Commerce, the Enumclaw Downtown Partnership, and the Main Street Program. It was through the Washington State Main Street Program, and plenty of input from the merchants, property owners, and the community, that the design for the new streetscape was thoughtfully drafted. New street lights, benches, rest rooms, and local history incorporated into the Wilkeson sandstone are design elements that we enjoy today.

A huge change, made in the new, downtown streetscape, was having no curb streets. Our concept was well researched as other cities had already embraced zero curbs with positive results. We wanted to give Enumclaw business owners the opportunity and ability to transform our narrow sidewalks to areas where restaurants could have outdoor seating, and merchants could display special merchandise. No curbed streets are easily, and safely, used as public plazas for special events.

Skipping ahead, we found ourselves in a world pandemic, and our downtown businesses were struggling. Kudos to the city administration for furnishing tents and tables to the eating establishments, which was the beginning of the longer street closures.

I strongly disagree with those nearsighted folks who aren’t able to see the “big picture.” The street closures are good for the city, and must be as consistent as possible to draw the folks from Enumclaw and elsewhere. Granted, during street closures, parking directly in front of stores, on one or two blocks of Cole Street, is not possible, but there are multiple parking lots and side streets providing ample parking within a short distance of Cole Street. I am also aware of restricted parking lots owned by businesses reserved only for their own customers.

My husband and I have watched with interest and excitement as we have seen the composition of downtown Enumclaw change, morphing into a busy destination. To see streets filled with folks enjoying the restaurants, brew pubs, wine bars, and open shops, is exactly what we old-timers were hoping would be a result of the new streetscape.

Linda Rolczynski