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NEW WINTHROP VISITOR'S CENTER

There's a new Visitor Information Center in Winthrop, it opened June 26. It offered not just a location for visitors to learn more about activities, dining, and lodging in the Winthrop area, but also a spot for locals to catch some glimpses of Methow Valley history.


The Methow Valley News reports the VIC has been operating out of the little red building at the four-way stop in downtown Winthrop for decades. But not only is parking near the old VIC increasingly difficult to find, the building itself is feeling a bit cramped in the face of Winthrop’s growing visitor numbers.


Ted Lafferty, Executive Director of the Winthrop Chamber of Commerce, says Winthrop needs to be set up for the number of visitors in the future.


It's a vision Lafferty calls “Winthrop 2050,” part of a one-year agreement the Chamber of Commerce made with the Town of Winthrop to open a new VIC in the old Winthrop Library on Highway 20, on the 12-acre parcel that includes the Winthrop Barn and Mack Lloyd Park.


Lafferty said discussions about staffing both VIC locations are ongoing, but there is not a budget for operating two visitor centers within a few blocks of each other. Lafferty mentioned proposals to generate a volunteer corps that would allow both VICs to be open on busy weekends, but nothing has been finalized.


With its larger space and public meeting area, the new VIC provides increased opportunities for community engagement, Lafferty said. But it’s also more convenient for visitors, who can access the unlimited parking at the VIC or next door at the Winthrop Barn, versus downtown’s four-hour parking limit.


Tesla is installing, free of charge, eight car-charging ports in the parking lot, too, which allows more visitors with electric vehicles to power up while they are in town.


The area will increasingly provide more resources to residents and visitors alike, Lafferty said, especially as plans for the Kiwanis Family Activity Park ramp up over a four-year period, with improvements to the ball field and pump track across the street from the VIC, as well as other proposed amenities.


Bits of Methow Valley history have been incorporated into the new VIC. Lafferty sourced historic images from the Shafer Museum, old skis from Methow Trails, retired trail signs and signs from previous VICs, and wood reclaimed from the Carlton Mall building, which burned earlier this spring.


Other reclaimed materials from an old, damaged North Cascades Scenic Highway sign were repurposed into a large bench at the VIC.


These historic features are perhaps a lure for locals as well as visitors to stop into the VIC. Lafferty said, “Most locals have never visited the VIC.”


The Winthrop VIC’s summer hours are 10 a.m.-5pm, seven days a week. Winter hours will be scaled back a bit, but Lafferty said the chamber is exploring ways to create a self-serve outdoor visitor center for the winter.


There's more on this at methowvalleynews-dot-com.

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