Holly Jarnagin, left, and 2-year-old Frankie Rezendes of Port Townsend make chalk art in the intersection of Lawrence and Tyler streets Saturday during the farmers market in uptown Port Townsend. City staff set up a booth and distributed chalk during Saturday’s market, encouraging people to draw their hopes and dreams for the city’s future. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Holly Jarnagin, left, and 2-year-old Frankie Rezendes of Port Townsend make chalk art in the intersection of Lawrence and Tyler streets Saturday during the farmers market in uptown Port Townsend. City staff set up a booth and distributed chalk during Saturday’s market, encouraging people to draw their hopes and dreams for the city’s future. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend seeks future visions drawn in chalk

Creative prompt aims for civic engagement

PORT TOWNSEND — In this time of pandemic-fueled anxiety, uncertainty and isolation, the city of Port Townsend is asking residents young and old to imagine a brighter future.

What better way to do that than through sidewalk chalk art?

This month, the city is handing out kits full of colorful chalk with one request: Show us your hopes and dreams for the future of Port Townsend.

“We thought this would be a great way to get people engaged in a family-friendly, COVID-safe way,” said Melody Sky Eisler, director of the Port Townsend Public Library.

“And it’s not just for kids and families,” she said. “We’ve had some adults pick up kits, as well.”

On one hand, officials are hoping to get more people, including those who wouldn’t dare call themselves adults, thinking about issues facing the city and weighing in with creative ideas, City Manager John Mauro said.

On the other hand, “we’re really just trying to make all this fun,” he said, referring to the slate of 10 topics that comprise the city’s Engage PT campaign, which launched in August with the goal of getting a broader swath of the community involved in policy decisions critical to the city’s future.

Those topics range from what to do with the city’s 116-year-old golf course to how to balance the city’s recession-strained budget.

One topic focuses on plans to add sidewalks and bike lanes along Discovery Road between the Rainier Street roundabout and Salish Coast Elementary at McClellan Street.

City staff recently created an interactive online story map to better explain that project, along with an online survey.

Danny Milholland of Port Townsend makes chalk art in the intersection of Lawrence and Tyler streets Saturday during the farmers market in uptown Port Townsend. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

Danny Milholland of Port Townsend makes chalk art in the intersection of Lawrence and Tyler streets Saturday during the farmers market in uptown Port Townsend. (Nicholas Johnson/Peninsula Daily News)

That’s not the first such survey and it won’t be the last, said Mauro, who added that a recently closed survey about the future of the golf course garnered 830 responses.

During a workshop meeting Monday, Alex Wisniewski — director of parks, recreation and community services — will update the City Council on what respondents had to say along with input from more than 150 emails and more than 90 participants in virtual Q&A sessions, not to mention three detailed proposals for future management of the golf course.

And as the city prepares for a projected $1 million revenue shortfall heading into 2021, Mauro and finance staff will update the council on potential cuts to city operations, all of which will come together in December, when the council adopts next year’s budget.

“We have some fierce challenges for 2021,” Mauro said. “At the same time, what is our financial sustainability picture for the long term?

“We could easily take actions to get through this next year and still be hosed the year after that. What we’re trying to do is think about both at the same time. That’s going to require some difficult decisions.”

And that, he said, is where big-picture visions of the city’s future come into play.

The city has created rules for chalk artwork and is asking people to submit photos of their work for potential use on the city’s website and Facebook page by Oct. 31 to [email protected].

Kits full of chalk can be picked up at the library, 1220 Lawrence St. in Port Townsend, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.

Eisler, the library director, said city-sponsored chalk art events will return next year, especially as sunny, dry weather returns.

“We’re just getting this started this and hopefully it will grow into the future,” she said. “I love the idea of kids getting involved in civics and using their voices.”

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Jefferson County senior reporter Nicholas Johnson can be reached by phone at 360-417-3509 or by email at [email protected]

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