When local residents formed the Stafford Hamlet in 2006, they had two primary objectives: to create a plan for their grassroots effort, and to build a community around their shared vision.
"Unfortunately, what happened was that we found ourselves immediately embroiled in this land-use conflict, this tug-of-war between us and the cities versus Metro and Clackamas County," explains Stafford Hamlet Vice Chair Dave Adams. "That was finally resolved in a way most of us find acceptable, so what is really exciting is that next piece we're looking forward to — building community."
To start that next phase, the people of Stafford Hamlet will celebrate their past, present and future at a Stafford Hamlet Family Fest set to take place at Fiala Farms (21231 Johnson Road, West Linn) on Saturday, Sept. 16, from noon-4 p.m. The event will boast games for children and adults, local talent providing live music, farm-fresh foods, tours, cider press demonstrations and discounted access to the Fiala Farms corn maze.
Several Stafford Hamlet businesses and community groups will also host booths with information and products for festival-goers to peruse.
"What better way to start building community outreach than throwing a party?" Adams said. "(We've) been working on outreach to give exposure to all these small businesses that operate out of homes here. That's one part of our community, the commercial aspect. The other part is all the Century Farms, so we're thrilled (Fiala Farms) has offered up their farm to host this thing."
Richard Fiala, a third-generation farmer and Stafford Hamlet resident, says he and his family were honored to take on the task of hosting the festival at their 56-acre farm, which is wedged between Johnson Road and the Tualatin River.
The bucolic setting where rolling hills meet urban boundary is the perfect place for Stafford Hamlet residents and their bordering neighbors in Lake Oswego, West Linn and Tualatin to learn more about the hamlet, the farms, the businesses and the people that make it a special place to live, work and play.
"As a family that's been in the area since 1906 and now active in the hamlet itself, it made perfect sense (for us to host)," Richard Fiala said. "We've been talking about this celebration for over a year, so it's exciting that it's finally happening."
For Stafford Hamlet board member Bill Markt, the festival is the high note of a tune that hasn't been all that pleasant for Stafford residents and the surrounding communities over the course of the past decade. That's how long it took Clackamas County, three cities, hamlet residents and the Metro Council to agree on how they will shape the future of the Stafford urban reserve.
The agreement — which was signed by all parties in June — broke a looming impasse between the county — which was under regional pressures to resolve the status of the 6,230-acre area as an urban reserve open to development in 50 years — and Tualatin, Lake Oswego and West Linn. The cities argued that extension of streets and other services into the area, much of which is hilly, would be too costly.
The agreement commits the cities to come up with a city concept plan, which will determine the timing of development of any part of the area that goes inside Portland's urban growth boundary.
Markt believes the family fest will be a welcomed celebration of the community's tenacity and of the support from their neighbors to the north, west and east.
"The land-use issues are what brought us together," Markt said, "but this event is to give the community a sense of an identity, and a little piece of that will occur with people coming to this fair and realizing what we have and what's going on here is precious.
"Although we're unincorporated, we're no less of a neighborhood than any of our surrounding communities," Markt added. "We're reaching out not only to people within the hamlet, but also the people of those neighborhoods surrounding us. Whatever happens here, they're impacted, too. Everyone has a stake in this, and as much of a voice as we can get only benefits how it will turn out in the end."
Adams and Markt hope the Family Fest will also prove useful in recruiting the next round of locals to join them and eventually take over in the ongoing battle surrounding land use in Stafford Hamlet. With a few young leaders joining the board in recent years, they're confident incoming residents who share their vision will be compelled to get involved and speak up for what they believe in as the struggle between development and preservation continues in the years to come.
"I'm hoping this begins the opportunity to pass the torch from some of the older folks like Jay Minor, Bill Markt and I to younger people who are moving in and encourage them to move the ball forward to define the Stafford character," Adams said. "How do we brand our community? These are some of the things we hope to come out of this effort so we can promote what we've got here between businesses, farms and residents."
Jana Lombardi joined the board this past December after living in Stafford Hamlet for just two years. She's one of those younger members Adams is hoping takes the reins in years to come.
Lombardi said her initial intentions in joining the board were to get invovled in the community, but it's led to creating connections with neighbors and community members who she might not have met otherwise. She hopes the Family Fest serves as an introduction to more friendly faces within her neighborhood.
"It has been so contentious for so long. That's the nature of what's gone on here. It has tired everyone out. But in times of need, everyone has drawn together," she said. "Let's come together, honor (Stafford), celebrate it and, in the larger sense, the more we relate to each other the stronger of a community we are in the battles ahead. I hope there aren't more battles, but who knows what's coming down the road?"
IF YOU GO
What: Stafford Hamlet Family Fest, featuring food, music, games, a cider press demonstration and discounted access to the Fiala Farms corn maze
When: Saturday, Sept. 16, from noon-4 p.m.
Where: Fiala Farms, 21231 Johnson Road, West Linn
Cost: Most of the activities are free, although there is a charge for the corn maze ($5 for adults, $3 for kids 5-17; free for youngsters 4 and below).
More information: http://www.staffordhamlet.com