This spring's downtown Walla Walla beautification project is a winner.
Keeping the downtown area looking great does more than boost civic pride, it also serves to promote tourism and the local economy. We believe the more than $50,000 spent on fresh paint, beautiful flowers and extensive cleaning will prove to be money well spent.
The city government and the private Downtown Walla Walla Foundation worked together on the project that included sidewalk and street sweeping, gum removal and fresh paint on a number of city fixtures. Officials say 112 light poles, 23 benches, 32 trash cans and 23 bike racks will have been painted from Main Street between Fourth Avenue and Palouse Street as well as the side streets.
The final touch to downtown is $20,000 worth of hanging baskets filled with flowers -- petunias, superbells, impatiens, calypsos and ornamental grasses -- that serve to brighten the city.
The flower baskets add "an incalculable value" to the ambience downtown, said Jennifer Northam, the downtown foundation's events and public relations manager.
"Tourists are not going to come to Walla Walla just to see flower baskets. But when they get here and see it, it makes them want to stay," she said. "And it's not just for tourists. It adds this ambience that makes our downtown a fun place to be."
Investing in downtown Walla Walla through this public-private partnership is no different than homeowners investing time, energy and money in keeping up their property. It's why people all over the Walla Walla Valley paint their homes and plant trees and flowers.
The city and the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation don't have to spend $50,000 or more every year, but an overhaul as was done this year is necessary.
The work is the first concerted effort to refreshen the downtown area since property owners funded a massive infrastructure update nearly two decades ago.
It is important to keep on top of routine maintenance, including occasional fresh coats of paint.
The hanging flower baskets, however, should be an annual addition to downtown Walla Walla.
"It adds more color and vibrancy," said Jim Dumont, Walla Walla parks and recreation director. "It's a good investment."
It absolutely is.