The straight skinny on curvy streets

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I love narrow winding streets.

I hope no one gets annoyed with me because of this, because my love of picturesque streets lined with trees isn’t necessarily a popular opinion. I know people like to drive quickly, efficiently and safely down wide streets. I know parking on the street in front of our homes is much easier than trying to squeeze into driveways or parking in alleys. I know when driving down a really narrow street, such as Boyer or Frankland, it can be frustrating and even scary to have to take turns when oncoming cars pass or go 10 miles per hour.

I am practical; I do tend to take Ninth and Isaacs and I appreciate their width. But I wonder what Walla Walla was like before street expansion.

My mom, Linda, talks about streets like Isaacs Avenue before it was widened. Did you know it used to be a narrow, tree-lined street? Imagine! She said Isaacs was pretty, like Chestnut.

I remember that before Wilbur was widened in the late 1980s it was also narrower and had more trees. At the time it was widened people with houses on Wilbur lost large areas out of their front yards.

Even as a young child I wondered about the logic in this. I’m sure there are many excellent, practical arguments for nice, wide streets. But a romantic like me tends to admire beauty more than practicality. I guess our world needs all sorts of people to keep a good balance.

Another type of street in Walla Walla is the car-friendly yet attractive variety, such as ones found on the south side of town. At one point I owned a lovely home on Hillbrooke Drive near Tietan Park. Our house was built in 1955 and the street represents the sentiment of that era — no sidewalks, winding and pretty, wide and practical.

I remember that in my college geography class our professor at Eastern Oregon University, Dr. Lewis, would show film slides and yell out sociology terms. One of his favorites was “Auto-Air Amenity Era!” while flashing a picture of a car-oriented society.

Our street on Hillbrooke would have been a perfect picture for the concept. Even though the winding streets of the older parts of Walla Walla’s south side are pretty, I still prefer the oldest parts of town where the streets have parking strips and sidewalks. My absolute favorite street to walk down is Palouse. Not only is it tree-lined and quiet, but the homes along it are fabulous.

When I see the new developments popping up around town I am really pleased to see a smart combination of all the practical and attractive ideas from the past.

I really like the street design in the Provenance housing development near Walla Walla Community College. The streets are rounded and have sidewalks and trees, which is attractive and encourages people to slow down and walk. And really, what are streets and sidewalks for? To travel, right?

So if we look at how the streets around us are designed, we can see what our community values. I am happy to see our community veering more toward walking and beauty. I am reassured by the positive growth of Walla Walla.

Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native and middle school dual language teacher. She can be reached at saravandonge@gmail.com.

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