Sorry I couldn't make the city council meeting this past Monday, but had I been there I probably would have said the following: Sunnyside is about 20 years too late to start tourism.
In 1990 when I returned to the Lower Valley after a 30-year absence, the area had a much lower crime rate than it does today, and Toppenish was well established with the murals and Prosser was starting its wineries. Sunnyside had a winery when I was growing up here, but nothing was ever done to keep it going or to start new ones in the interim.
Sunnyside has lost the cycle shop that was here in the early 60s to Prosser, as well as that tax base and income to local people. Downtown stores are vacant and buildings are empty or just gone.
The RV park was never built east of town, but Prosser put in a very nice clean one to help their tourism. Some of our high school class uses that park when we have a reunion.
The Prosser Airport is built on rock, a riverbed, as is Yakima's airport, while Sunnyside has sand under its runway. It already needs to be redone as it was in 2004, so that small planes can land. Our city engineer seems to not understand this. Nor did the drilling of a well on Sulphur Creek seem to run up a flag, so now we have undrinkable water. Hmmm...sulphur, a rotten egg smell, ugh!
Prosser's airport is more viable for larger aircraft and is in a better position to do what Sunnyside wants to now do. Short-sightedness seems to be what the city has been about for many years. This includes keeping in the parking meters after everyone started moving out of downtown.
Neither Prosser nor Toppenish has built an over-abundance of Section 8 housing that pays no taxes, i.e. revenue, into the city. The local port district pays no taxes and is supposed to attract more industry to the area, but gangs and drive-bys keep it out. Remember the Big 5 store almost didn't come in because of this.
Perhaps being this far behind the curve has made an unreal mountain to climb and an unrealistic tax burden on the few that are left to keep Sunnyside a growing, healthy community. We have few stores for shopping and nothing for tourists to visit, unless you really think that tours of low-income housing, a few factories and Wal-Mart will do the trick.
/s/ Patricia Richards