Tourism needs dialogue 

 

Over the last two years, I have watched unmitigated growth adversely affect my neighborhood and community. Although I have attended literally dozens of city council and planning commission meetings, it was not until the Adventure Park issue came to the forefront that I began to see community involvement asking for change to the City’s antiquated policies—policies that probably root back to 1962 when Leavenworth was desperate to be on the map. I don’t think we are in 1960 anymore.

Fortunately, there are some council members who are beginning to understand the importance of having traffic, parking and festival policies that accurately reflect our current tourism industry. Yet still two issues thwart effective partnership development: 1) the lack of a common community voice, and 2) the absence of a forum for citizens to dialogue with city council and mayor in finding growth and tourism solutions, like currently happens with the Chamber of Commerce and other organized business groups.

We are one community, hopefully working towards unity, so why should we be approaching tourism as a diametrically-opposed struggle between the business community and its residents, with local government in between? Won’t we be more effective if we take the gloves off and engage in productive dialogue? Locals do value the economic benefit of tourism. Businesses do require the residents. And we all realize that tourists chose to come to Leavenworth not simply to visit an overcrowded Disneyland in a Box, but genuinely value our small-town, rural culture and natural unspoiled beauty. 

It can be possible to retain our character, and still be a successful destination spot. In my conversations with the City of Banff—an incredibly popular destination town not unlike our own—the city has thrived with incredible economic success, even though their land use laws are considerably stricter than any of us in the States would probably ever even want. We can have both tourism and a positive quality of life for the residents, but it will require well-thought out projects that fit and enhance our community while not overloading our limited infrastructure. We need to “spend” our resources wisely on the things that provide the best value for our community, not just indiscriminately “grow tourism.” Furthermore, the City needs judicious policies on traffic, parking and development that reflect our tourism-focused economy while respecting our small-town character. I think everyone who lives in this community agrees that Leavenworth is about much more than just tourism money.

Duane Goehner

Leavenworth

 

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