Every once in awhile, it’s good to sit back and take stock of your life. Take a little time to reflect on either how good, or maybe not so good, life is.
Our contention is life in the Lower Columbia region is pretty darn good.
From an economic standpoint we have a ways to go, but things are generally much better now than they were just a year or two ago. Unemployment rates are still too high, but have improved, in Cowlitz County.
The current Cowlitz County unemployment rate is 5.4 percent, Lewis county 5.7 percent, Wahkiakum 6.3 percent, Pacific 6 percent and Grays Harbor 6.1 percent.
The Washington state unemployment rate stands at 4.6 percent, which is an improvement from 5.3 percent at this same time last year.
Local housing prices continue to rise, which is generally a good thing. Home prices were depressed during the eight years of recession, so increasing home values indicate an improving economy.
If you talk to local realtors, properties are selling at a pretty fast rate. The trouble is there aren’t enough homes in the inventory to sell, so realtors are always looking for good listings. Some homeowners have agreed to keep their home as a “pocket listing,” meaning the home isn’t for sale, but if a realtor comes across the right buyer the homeowner would entertain an offer.
From a parks and recreation standpoint, life is good as well. The city-owned Mint Valley Golf Course is in good shape year round and is a great outlet for people of all ages and skill levels to play. The Port of Longview took over management of Willow Grove Park in 2014. This year the port had new play equipment installed and boy is it cool.
The jewel of Longview, Lake Sacajawea, continues to be in great shape and gets significant use. Tam O’ Shanter Park in Kelso is as good as it gets. Kids and families use Tam O’ daily because it’s such a great park.
And don’t forget the great skate parks for kids.
The restaurant scene in the area has gotten better and better of late. While many longstanding restaurants are still serving great food and fun, many new eating establishing have popped up too.
Whether you want some good local pizza from Vernie’s, Bruno’s or Pie@Trio’s, a great local burger at Nips, sandwich at the Cow Deli or a little spice at Junior’s Tacos, there’s something for everyone.
If you want something new, several tap rooms have opened in the last year, which give beer and wine drinkers the chance to sample local craft spirits and food.
It seems new restaurants are opening every month. What used to be Topper’s is now Red Knife, an upscale diner-type experience. Anyone who’s tried the new Kyoto Japanese Steak House may have been surprised by its popularity. On a recent Friday night, Kyoto was packed with customers enjoying great food and fun.
For those who love to shop downtown, Longview has seen a revival. On a recent sunny weekend the parking spaces downtown were filled with people window shopping, enjoying food and buying products from locally-owned businesses.
The Columbia Theatre has numerous great shows throughout the year including music, comedy and plays. The upgraded sound system is just amazing. Stageworks Northwest also offer wonderful performances for those who enjoy the arts.
While many of us love to go to a Blazers game, the local sports options are great too. LCC Red Devil basketball, baseball, softball and soccer are awesome to watch. Boys and girls high school sports all over the area are good.
The area offers “crafty” minded people the opportunity to create and paint pottery, paint portraits, buy beads and other crafting materials, and of course, a variety of quality and fabric related stores and shopping.
Life could always be better, but it’s really pretty good now.
We’re fortunate to live in such a wonderful place.