ANOTHER VOICE Landscape architects urge Gorge scenery protection

Another Voice



Special to the News

Will just one more building ruin the view from Rowena or Cape Horn? Maybe, maybe not. Will five? Will 10? At what point are the views changed so much we lose the Gorge landscapes we all love? When is the landscape bucket full? This incremental change, called “cumulative effect,” currently is not considered when developments are reviewed.

A group of landscape architects are assisting the Gorge Commission and Forest Service with scenic issues, such as cumulative effect, during Management Plan Review. The American Society of Landscape Architects Oregon Chapter, University of Oregon Landscape Architecture Department, Columbia Gorge Institute, and private practice landscape architects make up this group. We are assessing proposed Plan changes and recommending alternatives.

While the Plan has worked relatively well, monitoring reports indicate problems. Problems range from development compliance, no cumulative effect analysis and inadequate highway scenic design standards. Right now, the Plan does not allow denying a project based on scenic protection. We strongly feel this provision needs to be removed. At times, mitigation measures just will not result in a project meeting scenic standards. In those cases, the only option should be to deny the development.

Our group recognizes that cumulative impact assessment, while mandated by the Scenic Area Act, is difficult to determine. However, some areas, such as Underwood Mountain and Dodson-Warrendale, are already at or over the scenic threshold. We are developing a landscape analysis using computer simulation to define cumulative impact.

Additionally, a Commission staff proposal would eliminate the requirement to “minimize visibility” of projects. This will only exacerbate the problem. Rather than eliminating the “minimize visibility” requirement, new protection measures are needed. Measures like project cumulative effects analysis, a development cap on areas already at the scenic threshold, and using natural topography screening when possible.

And yet another proposal would relax road project standards further impacting scenery of this beautiful Columbia Gorge. We recommend adopting design guidelines that require any road project fit the natural and cultural landscape, while meeting safety standards.

Key viewing areas (KVA) are an important analysis tool in determining a project’s impact. Planners assess building location requirements based on views from KVA travel routes. Proposals to eliminate some KVAs based on low route usage will result in landscape impacts. As a National Scenic Area, the number of people using a travel route shouldn’t be the criteria. We feel rather than eliminating KVAs, additions should be considered. Recommended KVA additions include: The Dalles Mountain Road, Highway 197 and Corbett Hill Road.

Fire hazard reduction, such as thinning around houses, could result in increasing scenic impact. While thinning certainly is needed, removing trees around buildings in sensitive landscapes should be mitigated by painting structures to blend into the landscape.

Our group will continue to work with the Gorge Commission and Forest Service in a spirit of cooperation. Our recommendations were presented to the Gorge Commission Scenic Resource Committee and can be viewed at the Commission website:


Brian Bainnson, American Society of Landscape Architects, Oregon Chapter, and Jurgen A. Hess, Columbia Gorge Institute, are part of the Landscape Architects Group.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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