Going Round n’ Round in Lake Stevens

If there is one thing Lake Stevens is known for, its roundabouts. Seriously there’s like a million of them, okay okay, it’s more like 5 or 6. The cars on its streets aren’t the only things going round n’ round in this city on the lake though. Residents and government, good and bad development, community feeling and growth, are all battling it out, with the future of the city at stake. So where do I stand in all of it? My most faithful followers should already know the answer to that? They would also know that Lake Stevens hasn’t exactly made frequent appearances on my blog and social media feeds, or even regular ones at that. What they, and you, may not know is that it is the city that I call home, hence my slight (or not so slight) bias when it comes to it.

In all honesty, I have a bit of a love hate relationship with the city. Why? There’s a few answers to that. The first, and most obvious, being the lack of local businesses, something I’m happy to report has begun to change in recent month and I, for one, couldn’t be happier. You have no idea how frustrating it is being me, the queen of all things local and Snohomish county, and not be able to find local choices in my own city. The second would be my own personal experience with the city government. You see, in my days of running a small business development center, it was the Economic Development Coordinator for Lake Stevens that made me realize that I was never going to get financial or any other kind of support for my nonprofit or local businesses from any city. I came to talk local and community, and all she could go on about was chain stores and the city’s bottom line.

As bad as that experience was, and as much as it made me want to live in Lake Stevens even less, I’m a bit thankful for it. Without the realization that I was never going to get support or be able to help enough local businesses doing what I was doing, I wouldn’t have chosen a different path that would let me do so. I wouldn’t have started Live the SnoCo Life, and my life would be much different today.

Last but not least, our family moved to Lake Stevens a few years ago because it was a small community, one that felt like exactly that, a community. That was what we wanted for ourselves and our children. Somewhere where people know and support each other, where there wasn’t violence and drama on a daily basis (no offense to Everett where I lived most of my life). What we got about a year after our move, however, was quite different. We found ourselves faced with a community that was divided over growth, which was occurring whether residents wanted it to or not, and the effects that followed.

Residents, like us, wanted to keep the community small, while the city government wanted it to grow and change. And grow and change it did, in very negative ways at first. Hundreds of houses went up, with hundreds more to come. Resources were stretched, traffic increased along with crime, accidents, and the sound of sirens, and everywhere you went (and I mean everywhere) was suddenly far too crowded. Then there’s the rezoning, which opened farmland and once quite neighborhoods up for strip malls and national chains. All the while, the coveted national chains were packing up and closing their doors one by one, leaving behind unemployment and empty storefronts. Residents were unhappy, and increasingly feeling like their city government didn’t care and wasn’t truly representing their constituents.

Fast forward a year or two and now Lake Stevens is facing the loss of part of its downtown historic area. The city hall building is being demolished along with other buildings as the library seeks a new home and the historical museum faces an uncertain future as a result. Why? What could be worth a city losing so much history? A park, yep a park, all in the name of more growth and increased tourism. I wish I could say that these are problems that are going away. Instead, they will continue to happen, whether the residents of Lake Stevens or anyone outside of it wants them to or not. In all fairness though, there are problems and dissatisfied residents in cities across Snohomish County. Lake Stevens isn’t immune, and why should it be.

Luckily, there is a silver lining to this story, things are coming back around. Why else would I be finally writing about the city I’ve ignored for so long. In the face of controversy and discontent, there are forces at work trying to bring more local businesses to Lake Stevens and that good old community feeling back. It now has a visitor center, community garden, and fun activities for adults and kids alike.

Only time will tell how things will play out, if the good will outweigh the bad in my not so little anymore city on the lake, but I’m hopeful and you should be too.

Hope for the future of Lake Stevens . . .

I recently had the chance to pick the brain of Terry Bockovich, the woman who has a hand in a lot of the positive changes happening across Lake Stevens in the last year. She is the leader of the local Chamber of Commerce, the force behind the Discover Lake Stevens campaign, and the organizer of more community events and opportunities in one year then there have been in all of my years living in Lake Stevens combined.

Terry’s efforts, combined with recent and upcoming additions of local businesses, are what give me hope for the future of Lake Stevens. Not to mention the relief I feel in knowing that there is one more crusader joining me in the battle to promote local businesses and create strong communities.

What is Discover Lake Stevens, and what does it do?

Discover Lake Stevens combines the best parts of a [visitor] information center and chamber of commerce. We are a one stop shop for all things local and for businesses that need information and support as they navigate the process of becoming a part of the Lake Stevens Community.

We stay up to date on all new businesses coming to the area. We have excellent relationships with the City , Parks & Recreation, the Arts Commission, Food Bank, Senior Center, service clubs, the Family Center, Boys & Girls Club, school district, LSPD/LSFD, [County resources], and much more.

[From our] central location at Lundeen Park, we refer [residents and visitors] to local chamber member businesses 10,000 x per month and respond to over 30,000 social media requests for information monthly. We have brochures and welcome packets that we give out to 72 new residents each month, [helping them] to get settled into their new community. If you have a question, we he have the answers and resources to help you.

The new Visitor Center isn’t the only thing going on at Lundeen Park, I’ve noticed a lot more activity there lately as well. Tell me a bit about what has been going on.

During good weather, we share sidewalk chalk, hula hoops, color crayons, and more with kids at the park. We offer monthly reoccurring events including luncheons, after hours mixers, workshops, and community education classes. [There is] a free Farmers Market in the summer and fall as well. If folds are interested in renting or buying kayaks, we can help with that too! We also provide assistance with larger city projects including Music and Movies on the Lake, Aquafest, Halloween, and Winterfest.

Anything special coming up for the Holiday season?

Our city-wide Holiday Scavenger Hunt begins November 1st and ends December 31st. We provide a list of fun things to do while visiting local businesses [and participants can win] a weekly giveaway of $25 gift certificates from participating Chamber Members.

[To participate], grab a Discover Lake Stevens Passport from the Visitor Center at Lundeen Park and then take it to the businesses where they can do, say, or see something to complete the passport. When it is complete, the passport [can be] returned to the Visitor Center to be entered into one of the weekly drawings.

You are Director for the new community garden in Lake Stevens, can you tell me more about it?

Down to Earth Community Gardens is an educational and community organization run solely by volunteers in partnership with the Parks and Recreation Department of the City of Lake Stevens. Our mission is to provide space and education for community members to successfully grow their own food and [food for] area food banks.

The Eagle Ridge Community Garden [in Lake Stevens] is our first and most ambitious project. When it is complete, it will be the largest and most inexpensive community garden in Snohomish County. We offer 4x8 raised beds for $40 that can be rented through City Hall for one year. We offer power, water, tool storage, tools to borrow, and seeds available for free. Ten of the beds are set aside to grow food exclusively for our Lake Stevens COmmunity Food Bank. We encourage other gardeners to grow an extra row to share as well. This year we grew and raised over 21,000lbs of food for our local food bank!

Can you provide a sneak peek of what is to come in 2018?

More community education classes, an expansion of the Arts Commission advisory role, more options to be offered by Parks & Recreation, quarterly mega mixers with the Chamber in addition to the reoccuring events we already offer. Frontier Village will have a total redesign to make it mroe walking friendly and offer boutique shops.

[There will also be] many park improvements, including a massive expansion of Northcove park and Cavelero Park. At Northcove, we are expanding from 1 1/2 acres to 4 1/2 acres and will be installing a splash park, covered area, swimming beach, [and more]. At Cavelerao a new skate park and BMX park [will be] coming soon.

Anything else to add?

If you have quesitons or are in need of resources, contact Discover Lake Stevens! Be sure to visit Lundeen Park throughout the year [for activities, including] baking contests, free swap and shop, tailgating parties, seed sharing and more. There’s always something fun to do and new to learn in your own backyard.

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Awesome locally owned options in Lake Stevens . . .

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