Selah: Let's reflect, give thanks, move forward in Oregon City
Oregon City's North End District has been a region of challenge and opportunity for nearly three decades. This area occupies nearly 500 acres of land and includes Clackamette Park, Clackamette Cove, the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, a new hotel site and the Northwest's most successful Home Depot. These areas were mostly industrial lands of the past including landfills that brought great concern due to their nature.
A shining light in this district is the Clackamas Water Environmental Services sewage treatment plant. It is one of the most modern in the West. It receives and processes nearly 50 million gallons of sewage per day, delivering that previous sewage, clean and odor-free, to the Willamette River.
Assets such as these, both public and private, are important to the district's future. It's time to take stock of where we are in this area and give thanks to those who made things happen and set the stage for opportunity now.
"Selah," Is a term often used in the Bible, (Book of Psalms), wherein early peoples were asked to "pause, reflect and look around for the blessings and opportunities." Native Americans used this word to convey "peace and favor."
Willamette Falls has taken on great importance at the south end of Oregon City, and yet the most buildable acres for development, while providing for fishing, watersports and outdoor recreation, are those flowing from the OC Shopping Center northward to the Clackamas and Willamette Rivers ... the North End District.
Govs. Tom McCall and John Kitzhaber worked hard to preserve our natural resources including rivers, farm and forest lands, while still providing for careful economic development. Kitzhaber was challenged with trying to clean up Portland's industrial and harbor lands after the death of McCall in 1974. He founded the Lower Harbor Trust Fund wherein historic WWII and more modern industries would participate in restoring damaged lands of those earlier eras.
The lower harbor became a Superfund site in the past decade, and the focus is on those lower 15 miles of the Willamette to the Columbia for restoration of fish, wildlife and economic purposes.
What does this have to do with Oregon City? Through restoration and enhancement funding, "mitigation districts" can be established all the way to Willamette Falls. Communities can participate in funding established through Kitzhaber's efforts to restore, enhance and beautify their land ... as long as fish, wildlife and people will benefit.
Oregon City's Urban Renewal Commission in 1999 "purchased every bit of riverfront property or access for times like this," says former Mayor Dan Fowler. Mayor John Willams in the early 2000s was faced with a collapse of natural dikes protecting Clackamette Cove from winter rages of the Clackamas River. He led the campaign to establish an elaborate and expensive bioengineered protective swale that makes possible today's interest in the cove, outdoor recreation and a carefully integrated development.
Upland areas along Washington Street include city-sponsored wetlands, songbird habitat and opportunities for a new "vista trail" that can link all together with the End of the Oregon Trail, the cove and a new destination hotel. This North End District can serve as an economic hub with the assistance of mitigation strategies that celebrate the area's ecology.
McCall, Kitzhaber and our mayors have set the stage for a new beginning in Oregon City. Gladstone has taken advantage, along with Milwaukie, of upper river mitigation opportunities possible through the Lower Harbor Trust Fund.
As they outlined in this newspaper in June, new Cove residents of Edgewater townhouses Gary and Nancy Spanovich have a dream. Nancy is a descendant of world-famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead and his brothers. They designed New York's Central Park, Chicago's waterfront parks and all of Portland's great Park Blocks as well as the West Hills' many-thousand-acre Forest Park. The Spanoviches also believe that a theme celebrating the Olmsteads can work here, too.
Oregon City has an opportunity to move forward, as the Olmsteads did, with park and greenspaces playing major roles with built environments that celebrate ecology and economy. The mitigation strategies others are using are available to the city and its citizens. It's time to say and act in "Selah" — pause, reflect on where we're at, look around and move forward in opportunity.
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