Recreational opportunities help Cascade Locks get off the mat

MAy 14, 2011

It hasn't been an easy few years in Cascade Locks.

The housing bubble burst and hammered planned developments in the town.

Five grades in the school are gone.

The proposed casino is still awaiting a decision from the federal and state governments.

Given the circumstances, it's an easy and safe position to complain about how terrible things are and look for someone to blame for the problems that have befallen the town.

Some have done that, but in the town that calls itself the Gateway to the Gorge, others are rising to the occasion to make it worthy of its moniker.

In a little over a week the Collegiate Sailing National Championships will descend on the town with hundreds of the best sailors in the country taking to the waters of the Columbia.

Cascade Locks has become known as a sailing Mecca, with its prefect wind and just-choppy-enough water.

If the event turns out to be anything like the International Moth sailing championships two years ago, it should bring a big crowd to town.

The sailing community is a steadily growing presence in Cascade Locks, and the town is taking steps to ensure its continued growth.

There are already some kids from the town who I hear are beginning to rival their counterparts from established sailing communities in California and Washington and it will be fun to track both their progress, and of the community as a whole.

Sailing is not the only way the town is making progress when it comes to recreation.

Next month is the inaugural Cascade to Crown ride, the baby of Port Commissioner Jess Groves and Pedal Nation, a Portland-based cycling group.

The hope is that the event, which will run from Cascade Locks to Crown Point and includes a family ride to the Bonneville Dam, will become an annual event as part of a reinvigorated Sternwheeler Days.

In the coming years a mountain bike trail is planned in the forest near the town, again hoping to fill another recreation niche.

Hood River is already a mountain biking haven, with many people coming from Portland to ride on the weekends. With a mountain bike trail of its own, Cascade Locks will give riders another option that is convenient between Portland and Hood River.

Between the sailing and biking options, not to mention the newly created Blackberry Beach windsurfing site, some of those nearly abandoned developments may find occupants.

The hope was that Cascade Locks would serve as a commuter town for Portlanders. Now if the town is going to be the base for people's recreational activities on the weekend, perhaps it is more worth it for people to move there.

And if more people move in, that means more students for the school and more dollars in the local economy.

With all the bad that has happened in the last few years, I suppose I couldn't blame the citizens of Cascade Locks for cursing the wind that blew their figurative house down.

However, I do applaud those who have set about building the community back up and seeking to fill a bevy of niches in the local recreation scene.

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