Waterfront plan: a work in progress

What started out to be a simple matter of drawing up a plan for a 31-acre piece of property has turned into a 10-year clash of wills and visions, with no apparent end in sight. Many people have devoted time to the project, only to find themselves essentially back at square one.

The Port of Hood River had always intended to develop the parcel and has amended their original vision along the way to reflect the public’s changing wants and needs, but their main goal has always been to improve the economic opportunities for the area by bringing in new businesses.

Toward this end they had signed an agreement in 1997 with D.M. Stevenson Ranch to develop an upscale hotel complex adjacent to the Event Site. The contract gave the company two years to build RiverFront Lodge. But at the end of that time there was a slight changing of the guard in the port commission, and the new commission voted not to extend the contract’s deadline, causing the company to eventually withdraw from the project.

The demise of the hotel project and putting up for sale of the Nichols Boat Works property meant it was time once again to review the master plan and factor those changes into the zoning considerations. The port and city decided to hold off on addressing zoning issues for three to six months and bring in a consultant to come up with conceptual drawings. They also decided that it would be helpful to have city representation at the port’s land-use planning meetings so three members of the city council volunteered for that duty.

Recreational use of the waterfront area continued to rise and in 2000, kiteboarding arrived on the scene, bringing with it safety issues and other new factors to consider during the planning process. The Gorge’s fame resulted in even more tourism, bringing more focus on the fate of that 31-acre piece of land.

In September of 2000, the port selected Leland Consulting Group of Portland to design a blueprint for the waterfront; one that would improve land use, create more family-wage job opportunities, provide recreational use attractions, and link the waterfront with downtown Hood River and the surrounding area.

To prepare for the first work session with Leland’s company the port interviewed representatives from downtown businesses, area hotels, the commercial and residential real estate market, community and civic organizations and local leadership and visitor associations, as well as a few individuals, for their input. Leland took these varied perspectives and drafted a composite design for the waterfront.

The new waterfront design caused a mild sensation, with its bold changes in the streetscape and park-like atmosphere. But the concept was produced before cost estimates had been worked up, and the estimated cost turned out to be prohibitive — $12 million or higher.

The port hired a local architect, Carl Perron, to downscale Leland’s plan and the resulting $5 million plan was unveiled in November, 2001.

But getting everyone to agree on it is the problem — since that time debates have still raged concerning the same issues as ever: amount of park space, amount of setback, types of businesses, height of buildings, and the economics of it all. To those have been added new ones such as windshadow effect. The Waterfront Plan is still a work in progress.

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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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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