I lived in Ravalli County for 36 years from 1982-2018.  My family was raised here, I had a successful 20-year private practice in massage therapy, and still own a home in the county. 

I have many fond memories of life spent in the beautiful Bitterroot Mountains and Valley. A year ago I retired and relocated to Port Townsend, Washington, to be closer to my children and grandchildren.

A week ago I returned to Hamilton for a visit.  I was first shocked, then deeply saddened when I approached Hamilton with “fresh eyes.”  What happened?  The development along the highway is not necessarily new.

When I lived in the Bitterroot, like the proverbial frog in boiling water, I didn’t see so clearly while all the development was happening, even though I consistently voted for zoning and against large development in the county over the decades (to no avail).  What I saw with “fresh eyes” when I entered Hamilton from the north was an extremely ugly U.S. Highway 93 corridor.  It looked like so many other unplanned, run down, unattractive strips.

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 “What happened” is a long-term lack of planning, the unwillingness of citizens and county leadership to plan for future generations, a lack of respect or maybe even recognition of the natural beauty that surrounds us.

My request to you is next time you approach Hamilton, come in with your own “fresh eyes” and see what you see. Do you feel good about what we’ve collectively put together, or perhaps, as I recently did, see how we have soiled our own nest?

 — Mary Lakes, Port Townsend, WA