EDITORIAL | Heart and soul of Port Orchard is its people, not downtown

During the Nov. 12 Port Orchard City Council meeting, a former city council candidate slammed the city for a video that was produced to help promote the community.

“A very elegant, finely produced piece of film making and an excellent effort to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” replied Eric Gonnason, after the first showing of the Destination Port Orchard: Live, Work, Play video.

He was critical that there were no scenes of downtown Port Orchard included in the film and for using local author Debbie Macomber, as well as the owners of Yachtfish Marine and Elanden Gardens.

Gonnason, who settled here in May 2012, lives on a boat in a Port Orchard marina and recently made an unsuccessful bid for a seat on the city council after living in town for just one year.

Since moving from Tucson, Gonnason has been vocal about the status of downtown. During his campaign, his main focus was on downtown. He often referred to a statement found on tourism expert Roger Brooks’ promotional material — “The heart and soul of a community is its downtown.”

“I think that those two blocks of the city are the heart of the city,” Gonnason said recently. “Downtown is neglected and is a low priority for the mayor and city council.”

He wants to see 90 percent occupancy of available downtown business space and to make downtown an attractive destination for local residents and tourists alike. That’s a great idea, but Port Orchard is more than its downtown.

The heart and soul of Port Orchard is not downtown. The heart and soul of the city is its people. Its businesses. Its schools. Its churches. Its community spirit.

I have seen the heart and soul of Port Orchard from hundreds of volunteers during many food drives, distribution of holiday baskets, serving free dinners at Thanksgiving and at numerous events. Without its people, it would be like any other small city in America.

Port Orchard is the Bethel Corridor, Mile Hill Drive, Mitchell, Tremont, Sedgwick, Pottery, Sidney, McCormick Woods and all points in between.

Since arriving in Port Orchard one year ago this month, I have spent plenty of time downtown at City Hall, in restaurants, walking along the pedestrian pathway, visiting

the library and covering numerous events. I go downtown mostly because of the friendly smiling faces at local businesses and to see people walk- ing and running along the waterfront. But I also enjoy the

places along the Bethel Corridor and Mile Hill Drive, as well as Sedgwick Road and Sidney Avenue, along with the occasional trip to McCormick Woods.

While the city offers picturesque scenery, many visitors also rave about the friendliness of its residents.

While downtown is an important part of the city, we can’t throw all the eggs into one basket. There is limited growth for downtown — mostly due to parking issues and space, but the surrounding areas offer plenty of opportunities for business growth and new homes.

The improvements to downtown, new businesses and the indoor public market are great for attracting tourists, but the growth of the city will depend on areas away from down- town.

The heartbeat of the city is its people. Without people there is no growth, there is no city.


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