‘Smart Growth’ Cascade Locks learns the tools


News staff writer

June 28, 2006

Cascade Locks citizens got creative last Tuesday while learning how to plan smartly for future growth in their town.

They brainstormed the ideas of a water taxi to transport people along the Columbia River from the eastern to the western end of town. Another idea involved placing an aerial walkway from spit to spit along the town’s shore to help access the popular marina and Thunder Island area.

The 40-odd number crowd pitched in during a state-sponsored session by the Transportation and Growth Management office. The group travels Oregon coordinating public forums as a partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

While people discussed the impact of the potential casino at Cascade Locks, they also heard from state officials how growth is anticipated with or without it.

“You know growth is coming … with or without the casino although (having) the casino would accelerate things,” said Karen Swirsky, a member of the TGM team. “Sooner or later, it won’t be a secret any longer that you are just 40 minutes away from Portland. And as the (population) pressure on the metropolitan area grows, it will look for ways to relieve that pressure.”

A key principle of the workshop was to show ways in which transportation systems and growth could be integrated. The Smart Growth principles include mixing uses throughout a community with a range of housing types, including a sense of place, and strengthening neighborhoods. Team members emphasized walkable and bike-friendly concepts as options.

“We encourage people to think proactively,” said Constance Beaumont, the team’s coordinator. “Transportation investment in projects can affect land use planning.”

She said the team has found choices, connectivity and coordination to be equally important in how communities across Oregon have handled the growth issue. They also cautioned residents on how to handle interactions with developers.

“There are people interested in making money off your community,” said architect Tim Smith. “What that means is you don’t have to let them run you over.”

The team compared the street design of Cascade Locks to coastal towns, referring to it as a backbone roads system. This is marked by the physical geography of a constrained growth area able to grow only linearly. The town’s planner, John Morgan, said they wanted to hold the session now because of rapid growth happening throughout the central Gorge.

“The word to use, to wrap all this around is prosperity, not so much dollars but viability,” Morgan said. “With the comp plan from 1980 that needs to be updated and also a very old transportation plan done as part of Hood River County but cursory at best, we need to update both to provide a solid foundation for future growth.”

Community members learned about placemaking, street DNA, site design, housing, and circulation before sitting down with two architects to work out their ideas for how to apply the concepts to Cascade Locks. They focused on how people get around town now and how more people brought into town by future development would also circulate.

“It helps to map out your own destinations pattern so you can see which local streets are most heavily traveled,” Swirsky said.

Smith’s team followed a free-form style to come up with the priorities of parks, places where children could play, and how to deal with traffic generated by future development.

“Down here at the casino site, potential development or whatever would go there would be a traffic generator,” he said. “We have at least three ideas other than the car for moving people back and forth.”

The water taxi was one idea to move people through the community while relieving congestion but also to make sure people who came to the east end of Cascade Locks made it to the downtown area four miles away.

“We had a discussion about how do you make the downtown more viable?” Smith said. “So it doesn’t become a bunch of tourists down here (at the east end) and a bunch of locals down here (at the west end) and only traffic in-between.”

Architect Matt Arnold’s team talked about several ideas, one of which looked at how marina access hinges on one tiny road under the railroad as a way to reach the site. They brainstormed the aerial walkway system as an answer to access but also a way to create value for Cascade Locks.

“You have a huge attraction; you are here because of the river but have a huge barrier in terms of the railroad,” Arnold said.

The summary of the evening’s work session will be distributed within the month. The next community session for planning and growth will take place in September. The TGM team emphasized the evening’s activity was “not a final plan” but that what happens next depends on what the citizens of Cascade Locks want to do with what they learned.

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