A PITCH FOR TOURISTS AND A HOPE FOR PAYROLLS
– Richard Hanks, President SAHS
With a new resort, Cama Beach, about to open on Camano Island and local business still digging out from the Depression, Stanwood made a bold bid for tourists in 1934.
Knowing the lure of the river, the beaches, and fish to be caught, the kick-off was a plea for better roads and naming the road through the Twin Cities to Utsalady “The Playground Highway.” The drive even went as far as agitating hard surfacing the road from Snohomish County line to the Utsalady ferry, all of which the community was pleased to call the Playground Highway…officially or otherwise.
The agitation won approval from Governor Martin and the County Chamber of Commerce, both of whom also gave assurance of completion of Marine Drive from Warm Beach to Tulalip, per request of local leaders. Both projects were included in highway appropriation for 1935 and were completed, or nearing completion, come the 1935 tourist season.
Beautification was next in the playground promotion. Through the efforts of Kiwanians, the Stanwood and East Stanwood Chamber of Commerce, evergreens and ash trees were bought at bargain prices from Mt. Vernon Nursery. Club members contributed $1 each to the project and got down to the nitty gritty of planting them along the highway between the two towns (now Main Street.)
Beautification included the re-do of Ravenna Triangle off of Pioneer Highway, which filled an open ditch and planted shrubs to make an attractive green spot at the entrance to the two towns.
A pay-off on the highway hard surfacing to Utsalady came in mid-summer 1935 when Olson Bros., who operated the Camano-Whidbey ferry, announced a cut in fares. The tab one-way over the shorter, oiled road was reduced to 50 cents for car and driver, and 15 cents per passenger. According to the Olsons, the Stanwood-Utsalady trip had been shortened to six miles and thirteen trips would be made daily.
See The Stanwood Story by Alice Essex, Vol.2, p. 84
In August 21, 1954, the Seattle Daily Times wrote: “Travelers drive under green canopies of shade trees on narrow lanes leading from the island-circling Playground Highway to the beaches. Quiet country roads are bordered by wildflowers and weathered buildings, contrasting sharply with streamlined farms.”