No man is an island. But some counties are. And Pierce County could be.
Not too long ago my wife and I returned from two weeks on Kauai, Hawaii. What does Kauai have to do with Pierce County? Much more than you would think.
Pierce County (at 1,806 square miles) is not much larger than Kauai County (yes, it is a county) at 1,266 square miles.
Pierce County is defined by a mountain range to the east, Puget Sound (mostly) on the west, the Nisqually River on the south side and is, by some accounts, at least, feared, shunned or not fully appreciated by our neighbors to the north.
In other words, it is easy to picture Pierce County as an island. Pierce County is, for the most part, self-defined and self-reliant.
Kauai has farmers markets every day of the week most of the year. Pierce County, with its broad agricultural base, could easily support farmers markets every day and, in the summer, almost does.
Kauai has more beaches (and certainly warmer water) than Pierce County, but Pierce County has more lakes (38 suitable for fishing and recreation).
Both places have saltwater, wilderness and mountians — a varied ecosystem within reach.
Kauai and Pierce County have many of the same pressing issues: development, traffic and planning for the future.
Residents of Kauai do not have the luxury of denying or dismissing the impacts of climate change. The slightest shift in the weather, let alone long-term climate change, could mean flooding, hurricanes, erosion or the collapse of their economic mainstay — tourism.
Like most, if not all of Washington state, Pierce County depends on each year’s snowfall for its water. A mild winter, at least in the mountains, is a disaster for those of us who depend on a steady flow of clean water.
Kauai and Pierce County both live with a thriving metropolis near, but in many ways, out of reach. Kauai has Honolulu. Pierce has the city some call the Emerald City — and like the city in Oz, our Emerald City is full of promise, deception and illusion.
No matter how enamored we may be with the mythical city just beyond our horizon, we all know that real, measurable success lies even further afield than we might imagine in these cities just out of reach.
Every artist knows that success and recognition require far more than talent and determination; they require connections and being in the right place at the right time.
It is possible, but rare, for Pierce County to be the right place to be discovered. It could happen here or in Seattle, but it is far more likely to happen in Hollywood, London, Paris or New York City.
I know people in Tacoma vastly more talented than today’s crop of pop stars. But for better or worse, they have chosen family, people and place over fame and fortune.
There are plenty of famous people “from” Tacoma or Seattle, but precious few were recognized while they were here. The same is true of Kauai. Craftsmen, artists and musicians live and create there. But they all know that “success” is far from home.
I never would have thought of it before, but each of these places has their own style of paradise. Pierce County has fir trees instead of palm trees. Kauai has sandier and warmer beaches. Pierce County is more affordable, but Kauai is more laid back.
Many people on Kauai don’t leave the island. And I know many people in Pierce County who rarely, if ever, leave Pierce County. The shared secret of both places is, why would we want to leave?
And it’s just as true that the shared problem of both places is that so many other people want to make our area their home. We can’t blame them, but we all want to protect our little piece of paradise.
M. (Morf) Morford is a former reader columnist. Email him at email@example.com.