Historian: Rossman Landfill has potential to make history again
I encourage you to learn more about the exciting opportunity before us today: a vibrant North End neighborhood at the location of the old Rossman Landfill.
All cities evolve. The north end, bounded by Washington Street and Abernethy Road, started out as a wooded flat with wetlands near a Native American village. When the first tired, starving emigrants passed over the Oregon Trail, it was a place to rest themselves and their stock, get fresh meals and feed for the animals before moving on to their Donation Land Claim.
It soon evolved to small family farms and orchards and a large dairy. By the 1920s the city was trying to find space for sports fields, and although the north end was still outside the city limits, the dairy was purchased and renamed Kelly Field, in memory of Walter "Bud" Kelly, who died of influenza while serving his country in World War I.
A circular track, bleachers and sports fields were developed, hosting visiting circuses, rodeos, the early Territorial Day parades, horse races and other entertainment for the citizens of Oregon City.
But time takes it toll. By the 1960s the area had a need for solid-waste disposal, and a portion of the property was made available after a nearby space became inadequate.
In the 1990s, a piece of the property was developed as the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center to celebrate the property's history, but the majority of the old garbage dump was left vacant.
We now have a proposal to develop a vibrant mixed-use community at our north end.
This development brings back many of the historic features of this property: jobs, recreation, nature, dining and retail.
Before the first shovel of dirt is turned on any new development on that old landfill, it has to be brought up to today's rigid environmental standards. So once again, Oregon City can lead the way, just as those first emigrants did.
We can take the initiative and create an environmentally sustainable area out of that old dump and also add economic value not just to the landfill but to the whole area.
I strongly recommend development of this plan as a positive addition to our city, an improvement of one of our northern entry points, and a project sensitive to the history of this property.
Karin Morey is an Oregon City-based historian.
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