Opinion

History rolls on for mill town, North Bend hotel

Our story on the former neighborhood of Riverside continues the saga of the lost town of Snoqualmie Falls.

Like many locals, I was aware that there used to be a community across the river from downtown Snoqualmie. But actually seeing the shadowy remains of that town — the steps to the now-nonexistent Snoqualmie Falls Hospital, a gnarled cherry tree planted three generations ago by a long-departed Japanese student of the Falls school — was a true eye-opener. The story of Snoqualmie Falls is an amazing saga, which really hasn’t ended yet.

Part of the old town is still owned by Weyerhaeuser, where it has been reclaimed by forest. Some parts are among the mill site that Ultimate Rally Experience is negotiating to buy from Weyerhaeuser. If the purchase goes through as planned, owners Greg Lund and Bob Morris intend to conserve and promote the history there.

It’s impossible to give much more than an introduction to the mill town’s story in these pages. For those who would like to go deeper, the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, located in downtown North Bend, is the place to go.

North Bend changes

The thought of changing communities underscores what is happening right now in North Bend. Last week, the North Bend City Council made its decision to allow a new and modern hotel on the south side of Interstate 90’s exit 31. This has been one of the most hotly contested issues in a Valley community in recent years. Meetings on the hotel plan made the Mount Si Senior Center a standing-room-only venue, and a planning commissioner resigned at the height of the furor last fall. Hundreds of people had something to say on the matter, with some folks demanding a new place for visitors to stay, others decrying the change a national chain hotel means for their community.

Local police checked out the claims of neighbors that the site will drive up crime rates, and did find that crime will rise — but with the hotel, not neighbors, as the victim. North Bend’s city planners worked to lay down design standards easing a big building’s impacts on the local viewshed, but those obviously won’t please everybody. Regardless, a decision has been made, and history moves on.

Hotel race

Valley communities have been in a race for a new hotel for some time. Four communities have a stake — North Bend, Snoqualmie, the Snoqualmie Tribe and the Muckleshoots. In Snoqualmie’s city limits, a hotel has been discussed atop Snoqualmie Ridge, at the planned new campus of Snoqualmie Valley Hospital. It’s a safe bet that the Snoqualmie Tribe will one day open a big hotel next to their casino, probably when economic times are flusher. And sooner or later, the Muckleshoot Tribe will proceed with plans to expand the Salish Lodge and Spa.

For now, North Bend has taken the lead in the lodging race.

That’s good news to folks like the entrepreneurs behind Ultimate Rally Experience, as well as other Valley businesses who would benefit from North Bend’s push to position itself as a recreation gateway. Just how bad it will be for near neighbors or the North Bend scenic landscape, only time will tell.

• E-mail Editor Seth Truscott at editor@valleyrecord.com.

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