Editorial: Plans get legs with community engagement

Scott Swanson

Hearing the City Council and staff discuss their plans for the future stirs … hope.

Planning is a good thing, and the city’s planning efforts are pointing, we think, in a good direction for Sweet Home. But, of course, that depends on how much progress is actually made.

Progress is definitely being made on the Mahler water reclamation plant, which has become a pressing necessity, and consequently, a high priority. It has to be. We can’t continue to pour effluent into the river.

Quarry Park is another topic the council talked about last week in our report that begins on page 1, and that was good because it should be a priority.

As was pointed out by one councilor, the layout there is almost without parallel, at least in our region. Sure, it’s in pretty rough shape now, but it would be a crime to let that diamond slip away.

The quality of planning certainly makes a difference in the outcome, but there’s also something else that often plays into success, especially at the civic level: energy, determination, savvy, vision and other qualities that make bright ideas actually happen., usually through individuals.

The late Alice Grovom typified some of these – enough of them that things got done under her direction.

She decided that Sweet Home needed some beauty and she used her persuasive skills, her drive, her vision and her organizational abilities to get it done.

That’s why we have a median that overflows with floral beauty each summer, giving our city a deserved reputation among travelers who see it as they pass through. It’s something to be proud of (even if it makes left turns a little more inconvenient).

The same qualities have contributed to the continuity and success of the Oregon Jamboree, something else the community can be proud of.

This year is the annual country music festival’s 29th. It was founded by a small handful of people with vision, energy and guts.

It’s still here, which is an accomplishment, considering the hurdles that have been overcome – local business leaders digging into their own pockets to keep it alive in the early days, the challenge of a rival well-financed festival right down the road, COVID, etc.

Why is it still here? Because behind it has been the kind of drive, vision, commitment, refusal to take “no” for an answer – the necessary attitude to make things happen.

If Sweet Home residents want all the things the City Council’s been talking about – Quarry Park, a new library, developing a pestrian- and community-friendly downtown, and, of course, that sewer plant, well, community-based drive and energy from the populace will help make that happen.

Because, as city leaders themselves admit, these are large undertakings that will take “many years” to accomplish, especially when the driving forces are individuals whose strongest motivations often are the will of the voting masses, which often is not very focused.

It takes more than that. It takes commitment on the part of one or more people determine to get it done.

Those two examples of local focus indicate that is realistic, but to move beyond good thoughts to reality will very likely require the engagement of non-elected, non-professional local residents who refuse to sit around and wait for dreams to come true.