A River Runs Through It

The energy was contagious. Neighbors from across the Snoqualmie River Valley had gathered together on a fog-bound Monday morning to discuss the future. Some had lived in the Valley their whole lives. Others had just joined the community. They ranged from farmers to ecologists, tour guides to government officials, local business owners to foresters. But across all the differences, there was a clear commonality: a deep love for the Valley. Over the course of the morning, differences were set aside, sleeves were rolled up, and a vision for a bright future was crafted.

For the past month, more than one hundred community, government, and business leaders participated in A River Runs Through It, an eight-part workshop series, led by the Greenway Trust, to develop a vision for a more connected local economy for the Snoqualmie River Valley.

“This workshop series was the first step in creating a regional brand and identity that encourages people to engage with the communities in this magnificent river basin,” says Mark Hofman, Community Development Director for the City of Snoqualmie. “Several million people come to the Snoqualmie Valley each year to recreate, but relatively few visit the downtowns to shop and dine. Our goal is to enhance that experience and bridge that gap.”

Workshops focused on both the natural assets—like outdoor recreation—that currently draw millions of people to the Valley, as well as identifying ways to create awareness of lesser-known assets like farms, local food, cultural heritage, and art.

Students from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business worked in parallel to the workshops to create a brand and marketing plan for the region. Their primary marketing recommendations are broken down into two tactics: engagement and awareness. The engagement strategy focuses on diverting and retaining the existing traffic of visitors which come to the Valley, like finding ways to encourage more hikers to stop by town for shopping, farmers markets, or dining, before heading back home. The second strategy, boosting awareness, focuses on bringing new visitors into the Valley by showcasing existing assets, like agritourism and cultural heritage, which would strong appeal but currently aren’t well known outside of the Valley.

“This effort is working to create an environment where businesses can succeed, tourists engage, and residents are proud of their home. The valley has an abundance of unique features that must be protected and celebrated.” Says North Bend resident and City Planner Lynn Hyde.

Next steps include the formation of a regional organization that will help carry out the vision and brand and marketing plan for the Snoqualmie River Valley. Working alongside this organization will be four action teams made up of community members: Outdoor Recreation, Farms and Culinary, Cultural Heritage, and Art and Local First. Action teams will begin meeting in April to outline proposals and timelines. To participate, contact Jennifer McKeown.

“This series is the first step in coming together as a region”, remarks Councilmember Lee Grumman of City of Carnation. “The most important part for me was having business owners, farmers, and non-profits, as well as representatives from all the cities and chambers coming together in the same room, voicing the same concerns, and finding solutions that we can work on together. We are much stronger if we work together as a region.”