Neighbors, the great outdoors keys to quality of life in 'Little' Washington

Posted October 31, 2019 5:00 a.m. EDT

With the second largest estuary in the United States, children in Washington can't help but to grow up learning about marine life and being in tune with the environment. (Photo Courtesy of Washington Tourism Development Authority)

This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

In Washington, N.C., you won't find anyone camping out for the opening of a new grocery store or see people zooming down the streets of downtown on a scooter. What you will find is a lot of southern charm and hospitality, and a community that embraces a laid back way of life.

That's because Washington isn't worried about being the next Greenville, Charlotte or Raleigh, and doesn't feel pressure to keep up with the latest big city trends. This All-America City Award recipient town is more concerned with ensuring the preservation of an immense quality of life for its residents and making visitors feel welcome.

Located on the Inner Banks in Beaufort County along the Pamlico and Tar Rivers, Washington is a town filled with history dating back to the Revolutionary War. In fact, the town is named after George Washington and is often known as "Little Washington" or "The Original Washington."

Approximately 10,000 people call Washington home and its maritime culture, emerging arts scene and recreational opportunities all add to the town's unique charm.

Friendliness is a town staple. Natives especially make sure to help each other out and are often the first ones to welcome visitors and new residents.

"[Washington] has true southern hospitality," said Jonathan Russell, city manager. Russell, who relocated to Washington from Wilson, has been nothing but impressed with everything the town has to offer.

When he moved to Washington with his wife and two children, ages five and two, he didn't have to worry about his family not being accepted.

"The people here really make the difference. People go above and beyond to make you feel welcome." he said.

Washington residents love living there because it offers a great quality of life. Locals say the town is an ideal place to raise a family and has plenty of opportunities for families to engage with nature. With ample ways to enjoy the outdoors, you'll often find residents biking around town, fishing, spending time at the local parks and cruising on the water.

In addition, with the second largest estuary in the United States, children in Washington can't help but to grow up learning about marine life and being in tune with the environment.

The slower pace of life makes living in Washington more enjoyable than other congested cities come rush hour. There's hardly any traffic congestion thanks to well-planned development, and work commutes are easy and non-stressful. The town is also walkable and bike friendly, which makes up for the lack of public transportation.

Locals find Washington safe and affordable, and its lower cost of living has made the town attractive for newcomers. Lately a hotspot for retirees, Washington has plans to increase affordable housing in efforts to also attract young professionals.

However, residents need not fret about older properties and businesses being torn down to make way for high-rise condos. City and town officials are aware of the importance of maintaining Washington's ambiance despite its growth.

Officials have made it a point to reassure residents about the positive aspects of development and assuage concerns about the town's growing popularity.

Russell explained the "pace of growth is appealing" and "not overwhelming." He said one reason Washington is such a great place to live is because it's able to keep that small, southern feeling while still offering large-city amenities.

Additionally, personal service from the town's emergency sector is one way Washington sets itself apart from larger cities. To make sure residents stay safe and maintain enjoyable lifestyles, police and fire services engage with the community as much as possible.

Stacy Drakeford, director of police and fire services for the City of Washington, said his unit handles on average of 75 community outreach programs or events per year. The events range from hosting a community day in the park at Havens Gardens for kids, to National Night Out where staff from Vidant Health and the domestic violence shelter speak to residents about the importance of health and safety.

The police department also provides individualized services like Christmas shopping with an officer. And nursing home residents receive personal visits from the police and fire department on Valentine's Day to make sure that sector of the community does not feel neglected.

For Drakeford, one of the most rewarding programs implemented by emergency services is the "I Live Alone" program. "I Live Alone" is dedicated to routinely checking in on elderly residents who live by themselves as a safety precaution. Created five years ago out of tragedy, the program helps give the elderly and disabled residents, and their families, peace of mind.

The free program currently has 80 participants and all elderly and physically disabled Washington residents are eligible – enrollment simply requires filling out an application at the police station.

City telecommunicators reach out at least once per week to see if anyone needs food, medicine or medical treatment. Individuals in need are put in touch with local nonprofits that help provide assistance. Officers and firefighters also make house calls to check on participants and make sure people's basic needs are being met.

"It's a collaborative effort between Washington police and fire services to make sure this program is successful and that we reach each individual that [the program] needs to reach," Drakeford said.

The participants of "I Live Alone" consider the program a great success, and Drakeford pointed out that by engaging with police and fire services, people feel like they are an active part of the Washington community.

Making sure every individual knows they are a vital part of the fabric of the town is one reason why members of the police and fire departments spend their own money to keep the "I Live Alone" program going.

While Drakeford stressed the safety and well-being of every member of the community is instrumental to Washington's nurturing character, the personalized care that participants of the "I Live Alone" program receive is just one way the town tries to provide a great quality of life for a portion of the population that is often overlooked.

Drakeford explained that the program is really what a town like Washington is all about.

"[Here in Washington] it's about people taking care of each other," he said.

This article was written for our sponsor, Washington Tourism Development Authority.

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