A weekend of community building in Federal Way | Chris Carrel

Federal Way is a great place to live — that’s what this column is all about.

Last Saturday, as we celebrated Hylebos Days at the West Hylebos Wetlands Park, I experienced some of the best of what Federal Way has to offer. Walking along the Wetlands boardwalk in the sunshine, hearing the voices of families and children throughout the park, Federal Way felt like its own slice of heaven.

Federal Way often gets criticized for its lack of community. Being a young city, with a mobile population and many residents working outside the city, there is truth to that. However, it’s been changing in recent years. There is a growing self-awareness that we are a community — and a growing belief in the common future we’re creating.

Saturday brought several examples to bear. First, I have to start with Hylebos Days, which we celebrated over Saturday and Sunday. The Federal Way City Council designated the second weekend of May for recognition and celebration of the West Hylebos Wetlands and Hylebos Creek Watershed.

We invited the public to the park, offered nature tours and scavenger hunts for kids. The Historical Society of Federal Way opened the historic pioneer-era Barker Cabin and gave interpretive presentations of pioneer life in the old F-Dub. Federal Way Mayor Jack Dovey joined with his colleagues on the council, Jeanne Burbidge and Dini Duclos, along with King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer and State Rep. Skip Priest to dedicate the park’s new interpretive signs.

Crowds were coming through the park both days, enjoying the natural and social history on display. For a city that’s often condemned as not having much of either, that’s not too shabby.

Hylebos Days brings me to the second big community piece happening that weekend: The Buds and Blooms Festival. Hylebos Days was featured as part of the larger festival celebrating spring and the blooms on display at local gardens like the Rhododendron Garden and PowellsWood. Early numbers suggest just under 3,000 people participated in the festival.

When you have 3,000 people out doing one thing in Federal Way, you’ve struck gold! Congratulations to the city council for supporting this festival. I hope it’s able to continue to grow and thrive.

Wetlands, flowers and sunshine are very nice, but they don’t pay the bills. I’m excited to see the new group that’s sprung up to support our local economy. The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce has organized Federal Way First to promote local shopping. As a father of three daughters, and a victim of many forced drives to Bellevue Square, I’m all for this.

“If we increase by 1 percent, the amount of money being spent locally by Federal Way residents and businesses, that will generate an additional $22 million in sales,” said Tom Pierson, Federal Way Chamber CEO. That new money not only supports our local economy and local jobs, but the tax revenue generate supports vital government services like roads and parks — and even programs benefiting our local Hylebos Creek.

While I was basking in the sun at the Hylebos, Pierson and fellow Federal Way Firsters held a rally at The Commons mall, waved signs at S. 320th Street and had a pancake breakfast (man, how did I miss that?!). The campaign is all about changing awareness, said Pierson, and it’s already having an impact. One Federal Way business owner told him that after learning about the importance of shopping locally, she changed her buying habits, bringing $600 to Federal Way businesses that she otherwise would have spent outside the community.

Building a quality community isn’t just parks and festivals for recreation, though those are important. Pierson and fellow Federal Way First participants are reminding us all that we can vote for community with our shopping dollars.

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