The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Ken Graham
The Times 

A Dozen Eventful Years

 

January 3, 2019

Around the beginning of 2007 I got the harebrained idea of starting a newspaper in Dayton. It was called Blue Mountain News and it came out approximately monthly. Though I always enjoyed writing, I had no background in journalism and really didn't know what I was doing.

But with the help of two long-time and very talented staff members, Tanya and Vanessa, we cranked out 51 issues of BMN over exactly five years. We covered news and events throughout the Touchet Valley. It was great fun, but it ran its course.

At the beginning of 2013, after a brief stint at the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, again covering the Touchet Valley, I took over as editor of this newspaper. A year later, I bought it.

This week, after exactly five years of ownership, and working with three more outstanding staff members, Dena, Michele and Teeny, I am handing off The Times to a new custodian and moving on to other non-newspaper-related activites.

In the past 12 years, I've had a front row seat watching Dayton and Waitsburg grow and change – mostly for the better.

In 2007, the wind power industry was in its infancy in Columbia County. And it was very controversial. I watched as supporters and opponents argued publicly and vigorously about whether the county should allow Puget Sound Energy to great expand wind turbine presence here. In my mind the benefits to our area of having the wind industry growing here were overwhelming. And I enthusiastically shared that view with BMN's readers. Nearly 50 good paying jobs have been created, local farmers have a new source of income from their land, and taxpayers have seen property tax rates drop significantly. The wind industry is now a steady and important part of our local economy.

In the past 12 years, we covered the openings of literally dozens of new businesses in Dayton and Waitsburg. I would say that at least half of those business are no longer around. It's a sad fact that running a successful business in a small town like Dayton or Waitsburg takes heroic effort, a lot of guts, and a little luck. My hat is off to all the business owners who have been able to keep the doors open the past 12 years. Both towns' Main Streets still struggle, but they are still a draw for locals and tourists.

It seems like a short time ago to me, but kids who were starting Kindergarten when BMN debuted are now preparing to enter the world as adults. We've watched the Dayton and Waitsburg school districts both lose enrollment, but the dedicated staffs at both schools deserve all the respect and support we can give them. The athletic programs have seen ups and downs, and with the new DW combine up and running I predict many more ups than downs in the coming years.

Our local healthcare providers have made great strides in the last few years. The new Waitsburg Clinic opened on Main Street in April 2008. In 2014, voters in the Columbia County Rural Hospital District approved a major renovation of Dayton General Hospital. The hospital building has a new main entrance, a state-of-the-art physical therapy and rehabilitative services department and many other significant improvements. The emergency room also received a major upgrade in 2012.

In December 2013, The Times reported on plans for construction of the new Columbia Pulp straw pulp facility near Lyons Ferry. The 100-plus job facility was originally slated to begin operations in late 2015. Two years turned into more than five years, but the plant is almost completed, and is scheduled to begin operations in March.

With all of these developments, the economic health of the Touchet Valley economy looks to be strong for a long time to come.

It's been a great privilege and pleasure for me to be able to help report on these and many other stories over the last 12 years. I look forward to reading about many more positive developments around here, as Lane, Dena, Teeny and Michele continue to report on our corner of the world and make The Times an even better newspaper.

 

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