What's in a Name?

When people ask me to explain what I’m talking about when I use the words “North Creek,” I have a pretty standard go-to line: “It’s an area specific enough that if you hover over it on Google maps, North Creek pops up, but vague enough where if you ask anyone if they live in North Creek, there’s a good chance they’ll say no.” The challenge of forming community in this 13.6 square miles of unincorporated Snohomish Co. might be as simple as deciding on a common name.

“For the longest time, this area was just Thrasher’s Corner” said one resident recently. “North Creek is a newer name.” And a quick look at the history of Snohomish County reveals that indeed, this was once an area of Corners. Thrasher’s Corner is where 208th St intersects Bothell-Everett Hwy and around 90 years ago it was home to the Thrasher family who owned a home, a gas station, and a grocery store at the spot. Go a little north to 196th and B-E Hwy and you’ll be in Kennard Corner, where the Kennard family farm and service station once stood.

But as the area has developed, new names have taken root. Some refer to the area where they live as Mill Creek. You’ll even find that the Lombardi’s near 196th refers to itself as the “Mill Creek Location.” Others call it Bothell or North Bothell, even though the city of Bothell doesn’t extend past Canyon Park. When I spoke to one friend who grew up in the area, she lovingly referred to the whole area as “Unincorporated South Snohomish County” without batting an eye.

“That’s what you call it?” I asked.

“That’s what we always said.”

So where does the name “North Creek” come from? Of course, you have the actual North Creek which flows through much of this area. And you’ll notice names like the North Creek Trail which follows the creek. And it seems like there is a concentration of businesses from 164th down to 208th with “North Creek” in the name. But you also have the North Creek Business Park and sports fields, which are located almost in Woodinville, several miles south. I’ve even seen businesses with the North Creek name as far north as Silver Lake and Everett.

But what may tip the scales of the “What do you call this place?” debate is the new high school. When deciding on the name, there were a few finalists including Pacific Crest, after the nearby trail, and Tambark, after another nearby creek. But North Creek won out, and in doing so, established a name and identity that will tie this area together.

Ultimately, the name of this area isn’t as important as what we put into it as a community- our behaviors, patterns, and ways of life. But there is power in a name- power to unite an otherwise disjointed bedroom community. And maybe it will still be a few years until the North Creek name truly takes off. And there’s still a chance that we remain perpetually in this multi-named state where we each refer to this community in different ways. But a name is only the start of forming an identity for our community. The values, gifts, and benefits of North Creek will be the true indicators that a community has formed. So that years down the road someone will say, “Oh yeah! North Creek- I’ve heard of that place. That’s where…”