UPDATED — Port Angeles rated one of nation's top 10 small towns; only community in state to make the cut
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A tub full of crabs boils as crowds line up at Port Angeles City Pier in 2008. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles ranked fifth on a new list of the nation's top 10 best small towns in which to live.

It was the only city in Washington state to place on the 2014 list compiled by www.Livability.com.

“For all of us who live in Port Angeles, we know what a great place it is, but it's nice to be formally recognized for that,” City Manager Dan McKeen said Wednesday.

Port Angeles was praised for its natural amenities, specifically Olympic National Park and access to the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“A stroll along City Pier in downtown Port Angeles provides fantastic views of this city's major attractions,” the report says on the website at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-TopTen, describing both the Strait and Port Angeles Harbor and the mountains of the national park.

Livability.com staff analyzed 41 metrics of cities with populations of fewer than 20,000, said Matt Carmichael, editor of the website.

Data from the Census Bureau, the federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics and other sources were used to measure such attributes as cost of living, employment, population growth forecast, crime rate and health care spending, Carmichael explained.

Other factors considered were income growth and distribution, community involvement, natural amenities, pollution, educational attainment and cultural assets.

“Basically anything we could figure out how to measure, we measured, as long as it was something we knew had a strong correlation to being a good place to live,” Carmichael said.

Only cities listed with the U.S. Census as “micropolitan” areas were considered, he said.

A micropolitan area has at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but has a population of fewer than 50,000, according to the bureau's website.

No other municipalities on the North Olympic Peninsula — Forks, Port Townsend or Sequim — are designated as micropolitan areas.

Sequim, however, is mentioned.

“The Olympic Discovery Trail, a 28-mile pathway winding along the waterfront and through rural farmland, connects Port Angeles with the neighboring town of Sequim,” it says.

The report tells of low food costs, low crime and high community involvement — and lauds the city as a destination for crab lovers, mentioning October's annual Dungeness Crab & Seafood Festival and Sabai Thai, Toga's Soup House and Next Door Gastropub.

It says that downtown sculptures and murals tie the modern town to its past “as an outpost in the Pacific Northwest, a logging town and home for Native Americans.”

It says community and business leaders support initiatives to protect the environment, including energy conservation.

“I think it's great for the city,” Mayor Dan Di Guilio said of the ranking.

“I think it will help market the community toward attracting new businesses, [and] it will help in encouraging tourism.”

The website also praises the city's locally owned small businesses, saying “the downtown area overlooks the bay and is filled with cafes, galleries, gift shops, bookstores and restaurants.”

Nathan West, the city's community and economic development director, noted that locally owned businesses were a key factor.

“I think it's really something that speaks to the private-sector community and what they're doing,” West said.

It mentions as assets both Olympic Medical Center and Peninsula College. West also touted them as important parts of the community.

West said he hopes Port Angeles' ranking will give both residents and visitors alike reason to appreciate what the city has to offer.

“Overall, it will just be a really good thing for the community, and I'm hopeful that the community embraces it,” he said.

Port Angeles ranked just above Glenwood Springs, Colo., and just below Hood River., Ore.

The full list, from the top choice to the 10th, is Los Alamos, N.M.; Northfield, Minn.; Lebanon, N.H.; Hood River; Port Angeles; Glenwood Springs; Spearfish, S.D.; Heber City, Utah; Traverse City, Mich.; and Hailey, Idaho.

Livability.com is a product of Journal Communications Inc.

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Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at jschwartz@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 24. 2014 12:44AM
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