The area around the Arch Bridge which connects West Linn to downtown Oregon City is our city’s historic center. However for decades this piece of ground and riverfront has been largely ignored. Not any longer – things are changing:

  • ODOT has restored the Arch Bridge.
  • Downtown Oregon City is being revitalized.
  • Oregon City is leading efforts to provide water-level access to the Falls from the former Blue Heron Mill site.
  • n The National Trust for Historic Preservation, One Willamette River Coalition and the Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation are working with the U. S. Army Corp of Engineers to get the 141-year-old Willamette Falls Locks restored, reopened and ownership transferred to a regional non-federal partnership.
  • The Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition is working to highlight the many Historic sites in our area to stimulate heritage tourism.
  • There is strong public interest in reconnecting to our riverfront.
  • Despite the grave concerns and dire warnings detailed in the July 31 Citizen’s View entitled “West Linn, Be Careful What You Ask For”, the facts are that our City Council asked a group of interested citizens to help envision the future of the Arch Bridge area. The council provided the funds to retain the help of a planning firm and reached out to volunteers such as me to be on an advisory committee. At this point we have done no more than look at early-stage concepts. Furthermore, we are not working in a bubble. More than 400 residents have already offered their ideas for the area at meetings and events. Two walking tours of the area (open to the public) are scheduled in August (slots filled quickly). There will be an open house and an online open house this fall for more community involvement.

    Contrary to the implications in the July 31 Citizen’s View, there are no evil developers lurking in the wings pulling strings.There are no low-wage employers lining up to exploit our children. No one has given or is planning to give anything away at the expense of our schools or other public services. Everything is happening and will continue to happen in the full light of day with robust public involvement and disclosure.

    Our City Council has shown leadership by asking the critical question: “Is the time ripe to reconnect West Linn with its historic roots and improve access to its riverfront?” As volunteers on the Advisory Committee, your neighbors are giving their thoughts on what could be. Supporters, skeptics, dreamers and the curious who have ideas about the Arch Bridge Area are encouraged to get involved by participating in upcoming meetings and other planning opportunities. No decisions will be made until all ideas and their consequences are fully vetted and all our citizens given opportunities to weigh in on plans and their implementation.

    Let’s envision a revitalized historic area of West Linn with improved access to our riverfront — a success and source of pride for us all — Don’t stop thinking big!

    Jim Mattis lives in West Linn. He is president of Willamette Falls Heritage Foundation, secretary of Willamette Falls Heritage Area Coalition, co-chair of the city’s Historic Review Board and a former chair of the city’s Planning Commission.

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