ENTIAT — One of the striking aspects of this year’s North Central Washington Success Summit on Thursday was that participants came face-to-face with how many positive things are happening in this community and around the region.
The theme of the conference, sponsored by the Initiative for Rural Innovation and Stewardship, was “Entiat Rocks,” in reference to both the famous rocks painted by high school graduating classes and the sense of community that exists here.
Dave Spies of East Wenatchee, who is involved with the Columbia Fire Breaks Interpretive Center here, struck a chord when he pointed that he always feels like he’s a part of Entiat — that people treat him no different than if he had spent all of his life in the community. That’s unusual.
It’s also a place of quiet volunteerism where needs are identified and people step up without any fanfare and find a way to help their neighbors. You see this in the work of Entiat Valley Community Services, which provides more than 30 programs with a scant budget of less than $2,000, but with thousands of volunteer hours and countless donated items.
The sense of community is apparent in the significant projects that are being worked on here. The riverfront development project, which will help this relocated town develop a new core on the riverfront, has been patiently worked on for more than two decades. A new fire station is being built. People here just keep plugging away and are undeterred by obstacles.
You also see the sense of working together in what has happened with the Entiat Valley Watershed Planning effort, which pioneered collaborative efforts to provide healthy fish habitat while meeting the water needs for agriculture and development.
The theme of pitching in and helping was underscored by Janet Flanagan, the district ranger for the U.S. Forest Service. She detailed the efforts of local individuals to help support the firefighting efforts during this fall’s conflagration.
The spirit was demonstrated by the students who helped out at the conference, gave tours, and by the girls basketball team that had done the setup for the meeting in the gym after basketball practice and were helping clean up the area so that they could resume practice on Thursday.
When this town was relocated after Rocky Reach Dam was completed, it struck a heavy blow. But the people of Entiat have made a community by looking after each other in their quiet, low-key way.
This town is sustainable and innovative because of the character of the people and the focus on long-term success rather than short-term economic hits.
There’s much we can learn from this community.