Scappoose and St. Helens are inexorably connected, yet each community has a distinct, defining identity. And both Scappoose and St. Helens are currently in a period of transformation that could set the tone for how each grows and develops together over the next decade.
In part, that's why this week's 7 Mile War football game between the St. Helens Lions (2-2) and the Scappoose Indians (3-1) — the latter having been bumped up to the 5A Northwest Oregon Conference with St. Helens this year — is so intriguing.
More than just an opportunity for bragging rights and some good-natured ribbing, the game is a reminder of just how close the communities are and how the fortunes, or misfortunes, of one affects the other. When the St. Helens Boise Inc. mill closed down in 2008, or even more recently the closure of Armstrong World Industries, the effect was felt across Columbia County, just as when the Steinfeld's sauerkraut plant in Scappoose shut down in 2001.
That's why it can be disappointing when divisive territorialism comes in to play on the side of either community, and equally why some endeavors appearing in this week's Spotlight are so encouraging.
The best of the 7 Mile War matchup can be seen in Nicole Thill's story on A11, "Trees, student athletes thrive via 7 Mile War soccer rivalry." Community members from Scappoose and St. Helens, working collaboratively, developed a fundraiser that brings student athletes from both school districts together in friendly, productive competition. As a result of the fundraiser, trees provided by the Scappoose Bay Watershed Council — a convenient middle ground — will be planted on the Crown Zellerbach Trail, a perfect symbol for how communities working in unison can grow and prosper.
Regarding the Crown Zellerbach Trail and county unity, reporter Courtney Vaughn this week explores a new approach to county tourism, one just getting off the ground that will ideally identify those countywide assets such as the trail and the miles-long Columbia River waterfront that could yield real, sustained tourism in Scappoose, St. Helens and other parts of the county. Funding for the effort originates from state transient taxes allocated by Travel Oregon. Columbia County a beautiful area, with wonderful natural assets, and it couldn't hurt to get the word out.
Arguably one of the most unifying recent developments is the emergence of the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center near the Scappoose airport. Over time, and through its development, we can anticipate positive manufacturing growth to ripple out from the OMIC core. In fact, we're already seeing some of that. Dongchun Co. Ltd., a South Korean-headquartered maker of magnetic car bumpers, is looking at a Columbia City location for a new manufacturing plant partially due to its proximity to OMIC. As envisioned, Dongchun, which would start out with a foothold in St. Helens, and would ultimately employ as many as 200 new workers at the plant.
We would be remiss when discussing the theme of unity between St. Helens and Scappoose — countywide, really — without mentioning our port district's recent name change, from Port of St. Helens to Port of Columbia County. Not only does the new name more accurately capture the port's focus, it's inclusionary and helps reinforce Columbia County's branded presence as a place to do business.
Who knew war, as in the case of the 7 Mile War (which, incidentally, is a phrase first coined by a Scappoose history teacher and basketball coach), could be such a great reminder for kindred interests? As in the examples above, we like to think the "bitter" historic rivalry between Scappoose and St. Helens sports teams, as some have recalled, is a thing of the past. As for the future, it is whatever the communities, working together, decide they want it to be.
And lastly, while we're in the business of mulling the future: Scappoose 34, St. Helens 20.