The fine lumber town of Hoquiam thinks about the past and keeps up with its neighbors

Think of all the small towns you’ve passed through in your life and all the forces large and small that shaped them into that town that you either linger in or speed through, depending on the kindness of time. Any small town is the sum of many decisions, often just everyday decisions, and this is the sound that culture makes. But sometimes it’s important for the people of a town to sit back and take a look at the direction their town is taking — and think about what kind of town they really want.

Up in the Pacific Northwest is a town called Hoquiam, Washington. It was born and raised a logging and exporting town. It has maintained this identity through annual events like parades and logging competitions and an internationally popular event called Loggers’ Playday. All of which has served it well enough, but what will it do when faced with the possibility for growth?

Those changes would happen on the waterfront, a stretch of downtown running alongside the Hoquiam River. These kind of cultural centerpieces have done amazing things for cities such as San Antonio and Baltimore. Where once there was a bunch of running water, now there is shopping and dining and hotels and bars and a whole stretch of real estate just made for entertainment.

The waterfront hasn’t seen much action since its heyday in the 1980s, but now there is development interest, and so the community has to think seriously about what kind of town it may want to become. Development is obviously no guarantee of success, nor will it necessarily turn it into a metropolis, but decisions need to be made collectively, because of course growth isn’t free — tax money is the ruche fertilizer for civic growth.

One of the perhaps important factors to consider is their neighbor to the west, the larger city of Aberdeen. These two towns have had a friendly sort of rivalry, as neighboring towns will. But it bears consideration to think about how bigger towns often benefit at the expense of their smaller siblings — tax money and tourism being just two ways bigger towns get ahead. The city’s decision to grow might bear upon its rival in interesting ways.

But it’s all a balancing act. The city can’t change too much or it risks losing its heritage. On the other hand, if it gets stuck in the past, it risks fading away, like so many other small towns do. Whatever changes get made will be made as a community, so the people of Hoquiam need to make sure they surround themselves with the right people.

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