More than 30% of storefronts in downtown Castle Rock stood vacant a few years ago. Today, less than 10% are empty. The difference can be attributed almost entirely to the city, business owners, community members, schools and volunteers such as America in Bloom, working together to create a city they can be proud of, seen in well maintained streets, cared for store fronts, beautiful landscaping and flowers everywhere. The change started as a grassroots effort among local businesses to redo Cowlitz Street and draw people to town. This vision led to improved or new trails, parks, and boat launch, even a mountain biking complex. Stamped concrete sidewalks that resemble wooden planks and river rock at the intersections were built, street lighting was added from the trails through downtown, and everywhere there are landscape features, highlighting all kinds of northwest plants including roses, mountain hemlock, daffodils, crocus and the town’s signature red tulip. Infrastructure under the street was improved, making them bigger and installing conduit so future technology could be implemented without tearing up the roads. Owners have taken pride in this and want to be a part of the whole picture, so many have painted and made their own storefronts look good. Plus businesses sponsor planters in front of their business and take care of watering them. The hanging baskets are labeled with the name of the student who grew it, so there is a pride of ownership. Also, those involved in new construction, even along the freeway, have voluntarily taken it upon themselves to look like they belong in Castle Rock.