Sky Valley Visitors Center president Debbie Copple made the case for more lodging along U.S. Highway 2 and nearby towns during last Wednesday’s Sky Valley Chamber of Commerce meeting.
Lodging is an untapped asset for the local tourism industry, she said. The cabins, bed and breakfasts, hotels and motels peppered throughout the Sky Valley are often full. The demand is much higher than the needs being met, she said.
“It is the one weakness in the area,” she said. “We have to have the infrastructure.”
Bill Corson, owner of Outdoor Adventures and the Index River House in Index, came to represent the town at the sky valley chamber’s annual State of The City address series at Sultan City Hall on Feb. 1. He agreed with Copple.
Corson said he’s turned away groups from Amazon and Eddie Bauer that wanted to come out to the Sky Valley for recreation and stay somewhere overnight. There simply weren’t enough rooms to house all of the participants on short notice, he said.
Copple said accommodations can usually be found if an event is planned in advance. Still, Corson said if someone wanted to host a large wedding with hundreds of family and friends flying from across country, attendees would have to stay as far away as Everett or Monroe, which is an inconvenience.
During his presentation, Corson talked about what in the way of lodging is moving forward in Index.
His own son and daughter-in-law, Blair and Kathy Corson, are renovating the 9,000-square-foot historic Bush House Inn, which will have 10-15 rooms when finished, he said.
Hopefully construction will be complete by this summer, Corson said. The building will also include a bakery, restaurant and venue for large events, such as weddings, he said.
The city also had to do a little groundwork of its own to clean up a mess left over by Skykomish River flooding, Corson said. Riprap — loose stone formation for breakwaters — had to be replaced along the banks in the northern part of town, which were tousled by high waters last winter, he said.
A long-awaited project to fix the flood damaged Index-Galena Road may finally come to fruition this summer, Corson said. The street was washed out in 2006 and has had a negative impact on the town’s general store and other businesses, which have held on, but just barely at times, he said.
Gold Bar had also completed some badly needed projects, and has some lined up for the near future, said Mayor Lee Hodo on Wednesday. Sidewalks and curbs were installed along Lewis Avenue, which is heavily traveled by children walking to and from school. Radar signs were installed around town for law enforcement to better monitor what areas are most necessary to patrol during specific times of day, he said.
Hodo said the city is looking at ways to address the vandalism and theft that sometimes occurs heavily on May Creek Road, and increase parking options in the area for hikers who come to visit Wallace Falls State Park. Those visitors are greatly appreciated and needed in Gold Bar, he said. They bring good business into the area.
Hodo said he is concerned for future of the state park. The Singletary timber sale, which would clear cut a very visible swath of forest, could compromise the aesthetics of the falls and take out trails in the process, turning some of the city’s visitors away permanently, he said.