North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

ABC leaders prepare for end of contest

 

Christopher Andersson

Arlington IT Manager Bryan Terry is given a leadership award by Mayor Barbara Tolbert on Feb. 2 for his work implementing a Wi-Fi hotspot in downtown Arlington as part of the America's Best Communities competition.

America's Best Communities teams from Arlington and Darrington had their final meeting together on Feb. 2 before the national competition comes to a conclusion on April 19.

The competition is designed to highlight small cities and communities working to revitalize themselves.

The team for Arlington/Darrington advanced to the final round last year, along with seven other communities across the country, and were awarded $100,000 to begin implementing their presented plans.

On April 19, three winners will be chosen at an event held in Kirkland, Washington. The winners will receive up to $3 million for their communities.

Arlington and Darrington's plans included a mix of infrastructure, business improvement and citizen involvement, and team leaders met for the final time on Feb. 2.

Leaders were recognized for their work across the last year.

Beautification efforts, as well as merchandising consultants, helped improve the Arlington downtown area.

"We've seen an overall increase in the amount of businesses on main street as well as the sales tax," said Carla Gastineau, a board member of the Arlington-Smokey Point Chamber of Commerce.

A community tool chest got off the ground to give local businesses the equipment to help keep their storefronts clean.

"These are very small ideas at the beginning and you don't know if you're going to achieve them, but ABC has helped us implement them," said Mike Britt, owner of Britt Sports Cards.

Bryan Terry, Arlington's IT manager, led the project to put in a Wi-Fi hotspot in the downtown area.

"[Arlington Mayor Barbara] Tolbert's got a big vision for a smarter city. We want to light up all of downtown," he said. "I see this growing into something much bigger than what it is."

Improving tourism was a goal after the SR 530 mudslide in 2014, said Tolbert, and the America's Best Communities competition has helped enable that.

Amy Lucas, senior planner with Snohomish County Parks, led the team that created an asset inventory for the region for tourism.

"What do we have and what do we need for like a mountain bike tour, for example," she said.

"We're hoping this will be a tool for people to use to explore the valley before they really get here. We want to generate that kind of tourism with this tool," she said.

Annique Bennett, tourism coordinator for the county, also started seminars to help build a network for tourism events.

"How are we going to work together as a team?" she said.

Sarah Lopez, recreation and communications manager for Arlington, helped implement a "pop-up park" which could provide a small play and relaxation area to gather feedback about small parks that could be part of the community.

"The public was really excited about it," she said. Design work has now begun for a pocket park that could fit in the city's downtown parking lot on Olympic Avenue.

A youth council in Arlington and one in Darrington were created to improve youth engagement.

"We have seen real work in the community, like developing trusting relationships with the Boys & Girls Club director," said Will Nelson, Weston High School principal and one of the advisors for the youth council.

The Arlington Youth Council has started projects like trying to create a team park, supporting and promoting the teen center at the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, creating an art wall competition and supporting the Arlington Drug Awareness Coalition.

One of the final projects is the Oso memorial bike ride scheduled for March 19.

"This is an original dream of a father who had lost his son in the slide. He wanted to come back to the area and do an event with his friends, some sort of bike ride," said Mark Everett, owner of Arlington Velo Sport bike shop.

"And he asked me if I could help put something together, and in my imagination I never though something this well put-together could be done," he said.

For more information about the upcoming event go to ridetorememberoso.com.

Tolbert said that work with the ABC competition began after the SR 530 mudslide, as Darrington and Arlington were working to revitalize the valley and used many of their plans to inspire their work in the competition.

"As great as this contest is, we've already won because we've already moved the needle," she said.

After the competition is done, Tolbert said work will not stop, but will continue as part of the "Stilly Valley Spirit" campaign.

"It's how we're taking ABC and all our commitment to the valley, and moving it forward," she said, "to utilize the ideas and energy that comes out of these communities."

She also said that any money won from the competition will be used collaboratively between the communities as well, towards the economic revitalization of the valley.

"Rather than splitting it up and each community going their own way, we're going to continue working together," she said.

For more information about the national competition, go to americasbestcommunities.com.

 

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