Talking and Walking in Kittitas County

Two days of conversation with leaders across Kittitas County and one day of hiking. For the last few months and particularly over two concentrated days, we met with business leaders, advocates, planners, developers, farmers, elected officials and tribal leaders; to name some. The ‘we’ in this case are Gigi Coe, Forterra Board member, and Forterra employees Tory Laughlin-Taylor, Adam Draper and myself. The conversations only barely scratched the surface of course—of the richness of the place and the challenges it faces.

Forterra has been working in Kittitas County and eastwards for 17 years and it’s a good time to sit down with our partners and explore how we continue to serve and collaborate across Central Washington. While the strong bones of community and landscape are there today just like in 2000, there also has been great change. No surprise about either, really.

 

View from the pass just below Iron Peak's summit knob.
Photo by: Paul Jewell

Ellensburg pulses, Roslyn is taking control of its destiny, and workforce housing is in short supply across the county. Development booms and there’s farsighted proposals for town to Teanaway trail access, taking full advantage of the 50,000 acre forest conservation project we worked to conserve for over a decade and finally succeeded in 2013. The Swiftwater Yakima Corridor is being recognized as a stunning natural asset and upper county land has never been converting at a faster rate.

Timothy hay, grapes, stone fruit continue to drive lower county agriculture, which is challenged by all the national trends that make farming damn hard, and also a few special to Kittitas. Central Washington University continues to grow in stature and student population, which it so aptly serves, while available housing stock strains to meet the ever growing demand. And, the tech world is discovering the county is a fine place to live and locate. Mind you, this is only a partial listing.

 

Forterra has been working in Kittitas County and eastwards for 17 years and it's a good time to sit down with our partners and explore how we continue to serve and collaborate across Central Washington.

So, much to think about as we look towards the next 17 years. And then there’s the drop-to-your-knees-breathtaking eastside Cascades. Yes, it’s the same chain, but after saying that, the east and west Cascades are worlds apart in weather, geology and ecology. I visit these mountains often, including the Friday after our two days of conversations.

I was lucky indeed. Kittitas County Commissioner Paul Jewell was my hiking companion. I’ve learned a lot from Paul over the years about eastside life, politics and culture. I’ve also learned we can agree and—maybe the polite phrase for it is—robustly disagree, while we continue to be colleagues committed to making the PNW the best it can be. We hiked up Iron Mountain and solved every problem known to human kind, and then another half dozen, from the hyper-local to the extra-global. At least we thought so at the time. Hiking does that. As for breathtaking, take a look.

Maybe best of all, Paul gave me a list of insider recommendations for the way back home on what to buy at the famous Owen’s Family Meat Market in Cle Elum.

  • Gene Duvernoy

    Gene Duvernoy is President of Forterra. He’s spent more than 30 years working on land conservation and building community, founding Forterra in 1989 in his attic. Since then he’s led the organization to national prominence by creating bold, innovative and successful programs that improve the quality of life for all residents.
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