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Foothills Campaign victory shows us what we can accomplish together

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The Chelan-Douglas Land Trust and the Trust for Public Lands had a big party Friday night to celebrate one of the region's most extraordinary capital campaign successes ever that is transforming our valley and creating momentum for the future.

The Foothills Campaign, which permanently protected a swath of land in the foothills of Wenatchee for wildlife habitat and recreation, raised an astounding $8.67 million, exceeding their goal by more than $500,000. Accomplishing that in a tough economic environment shows the widespread community support for the Land Trust and this project. More than 600 individuals and business contributed to the effort and 80 percent of the funds were generated locally. 

How this much enthusiasm and support was built is no mystery.  This campaign began with a community dialogue about where development should occur in the foothills and where it shouldn't. Everybody was invited to build a strategy and, as we consistently see, people will support what they help to create. Creative public engagement works brilliantly in building a shared sense of purpose. 

Campaign co-chair Todd Kiesz told the crowd that our community has created a legacy that will benefit generations to come. There are plans on the drawing board to connect the trails in the foothills with the nearby public lands. That will create an incredible opportunity for the valley to be a mountain biking mecca and elevate the local economy. 

Only great communities have the vision, courage and audacity to do what has been accomplished by TPL and the Land Trust. This achievement will one day be looked upon with the same reverence that people remember our predecessors who dared to create public utilities and take the risk of building dams on the Columbia River. 

The future of the entire valley is bright. If we can continue to enhance our quality of life and think strategically rather than incrementally about opportunities ahead of us, this valley and this region can be a model for the west. Let the politicians in Olympia and Washington D.C. argue and fulminate. We'll continue to leverage our local resources and show how things can and should be done. 

Paul Kundzt, the executive director of the Trust for Public Land in Washington, said the Foothills project has become a shining example of communities working together to achieve great things. 

This is only the beginning. We must continue to think long term and build communities that are resilient by leveraging the best of what we can provide. 

Some of our current political institutions may not be up to this kind of challenge because they seem to focused on parochial interests and problems. They can't seem to see the possibilities. Leaders like Kiesz, Shiloh Schauer of the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and a growing number of other talented and visionaries are showing what inspired leadership can accomplish.  The chamber, which was sleepwalking for years, is now right on the money in pushing this as one valley, one voice and one future. Schauer and the board see the future as working together rather than in isolation and with an "I win, you lose" attitude.  

We can create an extraordinary future in this area if we only stay alert to the possibilities and work together. You can almost feel the momentum building for a leap forward but one that maintains a strong sense of community, which is the right approach. The worst mistake would be to sell out and lose that sense of community in the rush for economic development. 

Let us dare to be great. As Russell Wilson would say: "Why not us?"