Rhododendron continues community project
Those not from the mountain might often consider the people who reside there as the entire population of the "Mount Hood Communities." But to those who live on and love the area, there are distinct communities along the Highway 26 drive up to Timberline, including places like Brightwood, Wemme, Welches, Zigzag and of course, Rhododendron.
Since 2016, the Rhododendron Community Planning Organization has worked to establish a defined identity for the community. In early 2017, the organization created a subcommittee called Rhody Rising to champion the effort.
In 2018, the group hosted a logo contest to create an image representing the community. Local artist Laurie Crabb's inclusive badge-style illustration of the Rhododendron flower, featuring prominently in front of a depiction of Mount Hood, took first place.
As of late, the group's goal has been to design a redevelopment plan. To that end, it has gained Clackamas County's support as the go-between to use $45,000 in grant funds for work by ODOT and a consultant on a design.
"The key for all of this is pedestrian safety in Rhody and slowing traffic," said CPO President Steve Graeper.
Graeper explained that in years past, it was difficult for Rhododendron to receive attention when people asked for speed studies on the thoroughfare cutting through their community because, according to Graeper, ODOT said it wasn't a recognized community.
So the CPO is hoping some design work and a plan to direct future development will better establish the community and in turn, allow the community more clout in future efforts to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety in its portion of the Mount Hood corridor.
Other communities have SDCs to direct development, but Rhododendron does not, so that is one thing the plan will address. "As development happens, we can have a unified design for Rhody," Graeper added. "We know change is going to take place, we just want to have a say in what it looks like.
Right now, a gateway sign for Rhododendron is in the works, and the CPO plans to offer time for community input on the planning happening throughout the process. "We're hoping to aesthetically bring Rhododendron up from the doldrums," Graeper said. "Aesthetically, it will improve the look of Rhododendron and eventually could lead to some economic development, which Rhododendron is sorely lacking. At one time Rhododendron was a bustling community. Though there's a faction that doesn't want it to be another Government Camp, we at least can make Rhododendron more aesthetically pleasing and safer for pedestrians and a community we're proud of."
The funding for the sign was discussed at the November CPO meeting, and a design is almost finalized. Graeper estimates the sign will be a $10,000 investment.
"I'm excited about things happening in Rhododendron," he said. "I think the community is behind this as well."
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