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Marysville has an opera house: Bring your kayak

Seattle’s growth is transforming the cities at its edges. Residents in these growing bedroom communities want things to do when they’re home.

Marysville was just 9,000 people 30 years ago. Now’s it’s over 60,000, and the fastest-growing big city in the Western Washington. It also has a broken-up downtown and a dead industrial waterfront.

So Marysville has found a plan to deal with all of it – and in a way you can only really have in Marysville.It starts with a century-old opera house. Marysville’s was built by people who had big dreams for the city. But the building had fallen into many other uses before the city leased it last year.

It has been a bowling alley, a roller skating rink and most recently Cheetah's nightclub. The city took it over last year as a cultural foothold near the city’s waterfront.

But the opera house is one small part of a grandiose plan to recreate the heart of the city. That plan starts at a dock on the waterfront, a few steps from the opera house.

“We could have more people here, using this, enjoying the outdoors and getting outside,” said Gloria Hirashima, chief administrative officer for the city of Marysville. “The plan is that this area will become an entertainment district for outdoor recreation, and with restaurants and businesses, indoor recreation too.”

From downtown Marysville, people can paddle out for days on the Sky to Sound water trail. That’s not all: The open water just south of Marysville recently got bigger.

Governments led by the Tulalips breached the dam holding the estuary back. That returned hundreds of acres of farmland to their natural condition: a tidal marshland.

“This is the second-largest estuary in the state,” Hirashima said. “And it was just created last year.”

The estuary happens to be good for paddling, including canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. There will be a small craft launching area, boat storage for people who want it and a trail around it that will connect neighborhoods to the downtown.

The trail accomplishes another goal for the city: giving people a way to move around the city that isn’t by car.

Marysville’s dreams are even bigger: it recently acquired former industrial land along the waterfront for restaurants and shops.“The opera house is right down the street so it’s all going to tie together,” Hirashima said.

Opening up the waterway took 20 years. Turning this chunk of downtown Marysville into an entertainment and watersport district could take a dozen more.

There's reason for the rest of the Puget Sound region to pay attention. The Washington Water Trails association says only about 10 percent of the region’s shoreline is public. Even less is actually accessible by boat and close to Seattle.

Marysville thinks if they build it, maybe we'll all come for the weekend.

Carolyn Adolph can be reached at Have an idea about a community or a growth issue we could cover? Tell us here.

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