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Opinion: Westside Economic Alliance's Economic Development Bike Tour cycles through Wilsonville

Every autumn WEA invites members and other friends to don their Lycra, strap on their bike helmet and slip their clips into their pedals as we embark on the Economic Development Bike Tour of our region. After all, how often do people get to wear Lycra to a business event? Well, they did during the fourth annual WEA Economic Development Bike Tour, which rolled along the streets and trails of Wilsonville.

In years past, we have toured Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard, and Tualatin, gaining perspective on planning and development at a street level or closer. Not only does this tour provide a closer and slower vantage point than one might normally see by car or bus, it also lets participants experience transportation issues in the area too.

This year, the Economic Development Bike Tour marked the end of a full of month of events focused on transportation and what better place to travel to than Wilsonville. Historically, Wilsonville has been a "transportation crossroads," where the Boones ferry linked trade and commerce between Portland and the Willamette Valley.

Fortunately, for this tour riders were escorted by local law enforcement, which provided a protection most bike commuters don't normally enjoy. Another added factor we had on this tour was having mechanical support. When a participant had a flat tire, a loose chain or any other issue, two technicians from the Bike Gallery were right there to fix or give attention to whatever ailment a bike or helmet might have.

Wilsonville Economic Development Manager Jordan Vance mapped out this year's ride, and we were not disappointed. Mayor Tim Knapp welcomed participants to the city during the tour's kick off at the historic Stein Boozier Barn in the Murase Plaza Park. The barn was actually restored as part of an urban renewal project. It now serves as a meeting space or venue for several events and meetings each year.

As we pedaled off with motorcycle police officers in front of and behind us, we left the park and headed west to Boones Ferry Park, where the old ferry once operated for 107 years, transporting people and commerce back and forth across the river. This location is now where a proposed bicycle/pedestrian bridge may go. City staff showed us plans for the French Prairie Bridge project, which would provide the missing link to a seamless, non-highway connection between Portland and Eugene. The bridge would link the metro regional Ice Age Tonquin Trail with the Champoeg Trail and to the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway.

After meandering through the Graham Oaks Nature Park, we arrived at community of Villebois, which was a development inspired by a European village. Villebois is located on about 500 acres and on what was the former Dammasch State Hospital that served the mentally ill. During our time at Villebois, Rudy Kadlub, the master developer of the community and the CEO of Costa Pacific Communities shared with us how 73 units of housing for the mentally ill have been integrated into this diverse village of 7,000 people. It's the first community of its kind in the whole country to integrate housing for the mentally ill from the onset.

The Villebois community has been under development for nearly 15 years, and is about 70 percent complete. It has a variety of housing types with park space and retail development. The Piazza at Villebois where we were meeting is at the heart of the development and will serve as a community meeting place.

Shifting gears, we headed out Grahams Ferry Road, grinding uphill to our next stop at Republic Services. The company's fleet of trucks run on compressed natural gas. The staff at Republic Services let us see the interesting process for fueling their trucks, and we also took a tour of their recycling process for construction materials.

Our last stop was at the urban campus of Oregon Institute of Technology (OIT). This Wilsonville campus serves students and employers in the Portland area by offering high demand bachelor and master degree programs. The programs are designed to provide an industry-focused, urban university experience at the core of the "Silicon Forest." We even toured one of the laboratory classrooms and spoke with an OIT professor, who shared examples of research his students were doing on light and airport landing areas.

As we made our way back to the Stein-Boozier Barn, we rode parallel to I-5, where commuters and freight hummed by. The day ended with toasts and boasts to this year's event and ones to come.

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Pamela Treece is the executive director of the Westside Economic Alliance. Her column appears monthly, addressing issues that are critical to the economic health of the Westside. Learn more about the WEA at: westsidealliance.org

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