Opportunities & Choices

Integrating sustainability into transportation planning

At the beginning of the Sustainable Thurston project, the Thurston Regional Planning Council, Sustainable Thurston Task Force, and other stakeholders articulated a strong message: “We don’t want this plan to sit on the shelf.” These visionary leaders recognized that full implementation of Sustainable Thurston required long-term full integration with other activities, plans, policies, and projects.    

TRPC moved that alignment forward strongly with the update of its regional transportation demand model and update and adoption of the What Moves You — 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) in July 2016. Throughout the three-year update process, the Council ensured that the model and RTP built on the vision and actions identified in the Sustainable Thurston Plan.

The revised transportation model now enables us to explore a wider range of multimodal options, look beyond our borders at the impacts from and on surrounding communities, dig into future conditions, and develop and track clear and meaningful performance measures.

The Thurston Region has always viewed transportation broadly — knowing that planning for transportation includes land use and economics. For this update, we incorporated Sustainable Thurston’s more diverse considerations — health, human services, energy, climate change, and local food systems — into the equation.

The Council also reviewed each goal and policy, modifying as necessary to reflect new insights about the policies and actions needed to reach regional sustainability. In updating the RTP, regional policymakers and other stakeholders explored the disconnect between our 2040 goals and our likely achievements in mode split and vehicle miles traveled reductions. They asked, “What can we do better — both regionally and at the local level — to reach our goals?” 

Not only did we align the RTP with the Sustainable Thurston plan, we also outlined next steps and renewed our commitment to making it happen. TRPC interim Executive Director Veena Tabbutt summed up this important work:

“This successful effort will shape the region’s future for generations, ensuring that transportation planning fosters a healthy environment, robust economy, and thriving society.”  

By promoting one another, businesses and farms are able to strengthen their relationship with both customers and each other. Such businesses learned how to build upon each other’s strengths rather than viewing each other as competition. 

STEDI’s strategic partners have discussed ways to help agricultural producers grow their businesses and add value to their products. The Thurston County region is missing some key facilities to make that happen, however.  

A food hub could help various producers aggregate and distribute their products to local businesses, school districts, and other institutions. A co-packing facility would help agricultural businesses package their products for sale. Cold storage could keep products fresh before they are brought to market. A commercial kitchen would allow entrepreneurs prepare food to sell.  

Having identified what’s missing, the EDC is now seeking funding to develop an agricultural industrial park and agricultural business center in the South County. Conversations at STEDI meetings have also identified the need for farmers’ market vendor trainings.  

The EDC and the Visitor & Convention Bureau hope to build on the success they had with ‘Team Bountiful’ and do the same for the vendors that make the markets a weekend tradition. Rainier is hoping to establish its own farmers’ market next year, and vendor training will go a long way to helping a new market hit the ground running.

As a group, STEDI members have identified the need to develop a buy-local campaign in partnership with the local chambers of commerce. What’s incredibly exciting about this is that they’re talking in terms of not just a single community such as Rochester; they’re talking in terms of South County as a whole.  

The STEDI group has identified ways to strengthen this idea of cooperation. For example, field trips will allow business owners the opportunity to find out what’s available in other South County communities. If something isn’t available in Rainier, perhaps it’s available down the road in Tenino.  

The most exciting thing to come out of STEDI this past year has been a sense of camaraderie and cooperation, some say.  

“That’s the reason I joined STEDI,” added Signature Service Real Estate’s Foster.  “I want to do everything I can to help our community grow.” 

Momentum is building in our rural communities. Don’t worry, folks — South County will continue to be pastoral and laid-back. With a focus on cooperating and strengthening one another, it will become even more friendly. And that’s good for business. 

Implementing Thurston Thrives

May 2015

Building on the work of Sustainable Thurston, Thurston County initiated Thurston Thrives to improve the health of all residents.

In 2013-14, the Board of County Commissioners (Board of Health) selected the project’s advisory panel and action team leads. The teams — Child & Youth Resilience, Clinical and Emergency Care, Community Design, Community Resilience, Economy, Education, Environment, Food and Housing — started with a review of Sustainable Thurston’s data and strategies. The teams then mapped strategies, set measures, and continued action strategies already underway. 

In 2015, the Thurston Thrives Coordinating Council — backbone structure for the initiative — is moving into its implementation phase. This public/private partnership will support Thurston Thrives’ various action hubs in communication, measurement, and promotion. The Thurston County Chamber Foundation will serve as fiscal agent for the coordinating council.

Thurston Thrives also will continue to align within strategies and across teams. There are several examples of progress so far, including the Community Investment Partnership. Local Jurisdictions and the United Way of Thurston County combined social service funding and are asking applicants how their projects/programs further the work of Thurston Thrives. For more information, visit http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/thrives/

Solving problems with voluntary stewardship

May 2015

Sustainable Thurston set a number of priority goals, including: preserve resource lands; protect and improve water quality; create a robust economy; support local food systems; ensure a clean and ample water supply; and, maintain air quality. All of these goals play into the work of Thurston County’s Voluntary Stewardship Plan.

This grassroots initiative, spurred by the Washington State Legislature and non-profit Ruckelshaus Center,
challenges communities to explore new ways to protect critical areas while maintaining and enhancing the viability of agriculture. Rather than a one-size-fits all regulation, a more site-specific cooperative venture is envisioned. 

Last year, the Voluntary Stewardship Advisory Group reviewed agricultural and environmental data, discussed historic interactions and frustrations, and considered barriers and opportunities. Technical and agricultural subcommittees formed and deliberated. This year, the group is moving to draft the plan, identify roles and responsibilities, develop outreach strategies, and work with the State Conservation Commission, which will approve the plan. To learn more, visit: http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/planning/vsp/voluntary-stewardship-home.html.

Local food system council takes root and grows

May 2015

The Thurston Food System Council is a grassroots organization composed of a diverse group of community stakeholders committed to fostering collaboration and active engagement in the local food system.  Comprised of members from the Sustainable Thurston Thurston Thrives food groups, and other stakeholders, the council meets monthly to explore ways to build a thriving local food system. 

Over the past several years, the Thurston Food System Council has sponsored several community gatherings and food celebrations and joined forces with the Asset Building Coalition Food Hub. In 2015, the council will update the Thurston Thrives Strategy Maps, and focus on preserving resource lands and making connections between institutional buyers — such as schools and hospitals — and local growers and processors. To learn more, visit http://thurstonfoodcouncil.org/about-us/.