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A community treasure
I recently had a quick tour of the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center (CRC) on the Stone Quarry Road between North Bend and Snoqualmie. One word can describe my amazement and the potential for the new facility: Wow.
I have echoed the sentiment that a key to economic development in the Upper Valley is the railroad many times. With the construction of the CRC comes the opportunity to rehabilitate and restore many of the artifacts the museum has in its collection. Regular maintenance of the highly used rolling stock, engines and the restoration of the ultimate gem, a steam locomotive, are all now possibilities.
The museum has battled through disgruntled neighbors, uncooperative city permitting processes, missed funding opportunities and extremely stringent building inspections to bring new economic life to the Upper Valley.
So are we, the business community and residents, ready to embrace this opportunity? Could a highly revitalized museum be the golden egg that city economic development commissions have been dreaming about?
I know there are some disgruntled business owners in North Bend who are concerned about the amount of parking the train can take up. I know the Santa Train has an impact to downtown parking in North Bend. But is there a way that downtown businesses, specifically in North Bend, can embrace the thousands of riders the train has each year? Is there a way to market impacted businesses? The goal is to motivate riders to indulge in downtown activities.
For Snoqualmie, it's a matter of increasing funding through the lodging tax. The museum is working on three monstrous capital projects. In addition to the CRC, it is also working on a storage facility and a library - with only partial funding. Permitting fees, delays due to misinformation and subjective building requirements have all added additional costs.
The city and benefiting developers, such as Quadrant, PWI Construction and others, all have an interest in moving these projects forward in the name of economic development, but only the city has really made an effort to get things going. With the amount of money Quadrant has made and will make off the Snoqualmie Ridge development, it would seem wise for the corporation to assist the museum in some of these large capital endeavors. After all, a revitalized downtown is in the best interest of the city and I would assume Quadrant is concerned about the long-term economic vitality of the city.
If you would like to make a donation to these projects, go to the museum's Web site at www.trainmuseum.org.