Excellence on Main Award

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Rain Garden

Awardee: Lorinda Kay and Fred Lindahl

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2016

City: Langley

A 2014 remodel of Second Street, a key corridor in downtown Langley, included the installation of the city’s first rain garden. The Langley Main Street Association designed and planted all of the bump-out features of the new streetscape, except the 600’ rain garden, which was designed and planted by a contractor due to the technical requirements.

Rain gardens work like a native forest by capturing and infiltrating polluted runoff from rooftops, driveways, and other hard surfaces. Rain gardens can help reduce water pollution and prevent flooding in the Puget Sound.

After a year, it became evident that the Second Street rain garden had failed. The plants became too big, wilted and folded over under their own weight making the area look like an out-of-control lawn. Water from the street ran along the curb and exited without circulating through the garden. The city approved the redesign plan by the Main Street Association and agreed to cover the new plant costs.

A new plan was designed by Main Street Association intern Emily Martin, a horticulture graduate from the University of Oregon. A rocky channel for better water flow was created to meander through the middle of the garden to guide the water throughout the bed. New plants were added with a greater variety of size, color and fragrance.

With record rainfall this winter, the rain garden was put to the test and passed with flying colors – water channels throughout the garden area now and filters through the direct and sand with no flooding occurring. Residents and merchants are happy with the new design, which adds interesting character, plants, and better functionality.

The Langley Main Street Association plans to make the rain garden a center piece educational tool explaining the importance of the rain garden in filtering street runoff such as heavy metals, gas and oil, before it enters the sound. This will be a pilot project to encourage and educate building owners on storm water run-off and ways to filter and clean water before it enters the storm system and the sea.

Excellence on Main Award

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Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street board members Connie Segal and Sandy Spencer

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2017

City: Port Townsend

In 2015, Kate Dwyer and Myron Gauger, both artists in Port Townsend, were inspired to start an all-electric, short distance taxi service in their own town after experiencing a similar service in Portland.

After speaking with local business leaders and developing a plan for what they were to dub “PTeRiders”, establishing the legal framework proved to be a challenge. Because low speed electric taxi services did not yet exist in Washington, each step – including insurance, licensing, and taxes – was a first in the state. Kate and Myron crossed many hurdles to see their vision through, including amending state law to allow low speed electric vehicles on highways with speed limits of 30 MPH or less.

PTeRider hit the streets with two electric roadsters in 2016 to much fanfare and a more successful first season than expected. Kate and Myron themselves are the drivers and de facto tour guides. It was clear to the couple even in the first days of opening up the service to the public that the greatest interest was in utilizing the historic tour aspect, which Kate estimates made up 75% of their business in the first year.

PTeRider has also become highly integrated into Port Townsend’s active tourism economy, providing shuttle service for ship passengers and boaters who dock downtown, as well as event attendees for various festivals, races, and other events.

Kate and Myron have demonstrated ingenuity in every step they’ve taken since hatching the idea for PTeRiders. Significantly, they have also paved the way for other Washington communities to invest in lively and inviting forms of energy efficient transportation.

Excellence on Main Award

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Port Townsend Going Green Initiative

Awardee: Port Townsend Main Street board members Kris Nelson, Kevin Prime, Amy Howard, and Wendy Duede

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2018

City: Port Townsend

Port Townsend Main Street Program’s hosts its popular Concerts on the Dock summer music series on Thursdays in July and August, bringing over 400 people downtown each week. The event features local beer, wine, and cider – always a crowd favorite!

Inspired by Northwest Maritime Center, which uses mason jars at their own major event, Port Townsend Main Street researched options for making reusable drinkware available to concert-goers. The board invested in the program in 2017 by purchasing 1,000 stainless steel cups for beer. Steel isn’t ideal for wine and cider, so local pottery studio, LaughinGnome, was contracted to make reusable pottery cups to add to the collection. They donated 200 and the Main Street program purchased an additional 45.

Attendees can rent a cup for a $5.00 deposit, which is refunded at the end of the night when they return it. Main Street volunteers and staff rent out the cups from the information booth and the beer garden itself, and also wash the cups after each concert.

The stainless-steel cups and pottery cups were hugely popular! Port Townsend is an environmentally-minded community, and in previous years, thousands of plastic cups, which are not recyclable in this county, were used at the concerts. While free plastic cups are still available, the majority of the public chose to participate in the rental program.

Darby Huffman, owner of LaughinGnome, also expanded on the concept by providing a portable water system every week. This effort further reduced the event’s reliance on plastic cups and water bottles. The Main Street program plans to continue the successful program in its coming seasons of Concerts on the Dock.

Port Townsend’s ‘going green’ initiative capitalizes on a Main Street principle that incremental projects can make a big difference.

Excellence on Main Award

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Sustainable Connections’ Community Energy Challenge

Awardee: Sustainable Connections

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2015

City: Bellingham

In 2010, Sustainable Connections started outreach to local businesses and property owners about the Community Energy Challenge (CEC) and encouraged them to sign up for free energy assessments. Over the past five years, 471 businesses and property owners have participated, 84 of which are in downtown Bellingham. These 84 business and property owners represent 91 buildings in the downtown core and include a variety of spaces, many of them historic.

By performing the free assessments, Sustainable Connections was able to identify the most impactful upgrades and retrofits for each space, providing a personalized action plan and assistance with financing options, including access to incentives and rebates. They recommended vetted contractors to do the work and provided ongoing support and monitoring to ensure that energy saving goals are met.

Energy retrofits reduce the environmental impact of those that work and live in the downtown core, and facility upgrades, coupled with energy savings, give property owners a competitive edge in leasing spaces. Businesses are able to enjoy a reduced environmental impact as well as highly desirable spaces with increased comfort and lower energy bills.

The impact of the CEC is substantial. Over $6,000,000 and more than 6,000 tons of greenhouse gases have been saved; over 80 jobs have been supported, and over $16,000,000 in economic activity has been generated. A 2014 study found that every dollar of public funds spent on the CEC projects yields $5.27 in local economic activity. Additionally, Sustainable Connections is currently helping beta test “America Saves!,” an energy efficiency pilot program through the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

“The Community Energy Challenge has, to date, exceeded all its participation goals to realize the massive energy savings potential in historic downtowns,” said Sarah Hansen, former Washington State Main Street Program Coordinator. “Sustainable Connections has incentivized energy efficiency retrofits within the context of historic preservation and the needs of small businesses, creating a model program that will have a lasting impact on the community.”

Excellence on Main Award

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Northwest Maritime Center

Award: Sustainable Future

Year: 2020

City: Port Townsend

Operating out of the first LEED Gold building on the Olympic Peninsula, the Northwest Maritime Center views environmental stewardship as integral to its mission as a nonprofit organization that awakens a sense of wonder, connection to, and understanding of the Puget Sound and the Pacific Northwest. From their buildings and interaction with the ecosystem to their programming and practices, Northwest Maritime Center walks the talk.

LEED designation in and of itself denotes a commitment to our shared sustainable future. The Northwest Maritime Center campus,

located at the intersection of downtown Port Townsend and Point Hudson, was designed to minimize impact on the environment, reduce energy and water use, lower operating costs, and make the most efficient use of materials and resources. The campus includes solar panels, a super-efficient water pump system, and electric car charging stations. The Center’s dock – which is often used by historic vessels, recreators, and students – was part of a coastal restoration initiative to protect the Port Townsend bay ecosystem.

The Center hosts an extraordinary number of programs, events, and educational opportunities each year, including Marine Thrift, which takes usable boat parts out of the waste stream; the renowned Wooden Board Festival; and hands-on environmental education opportunities known as the Salish Sea Expeditions Program – just to name a few. Northwesterners of all ages benefit from the Center’s programming that connects us to our maritime heritage and a strong sense of place.

The local community is also buoyed by having Northwest Maritime Center as a neighbor. In addition to the beautiful event facility, educational offerings, and waterfront access, the Center is also leading a community-wide charge to adopt sustainable approaches to operating venues and events. They look at all aspects of their business practice – down to the use of plastic cups and other single-use products – and continually strive break down barriers and find creative solutions. Their example and their willingness to mentor others benefit and inspire fellow organizations, the city, and residents to do the same.