Editorial: Yea to Naito cable park

October 30, 2011

One is a wild run, the other a controlled cycle.

Two local water routes are in the news (page A1) this week.

The first is the White Salmon River, newly-freed after the dramatic breaching of Condit Dam on Oct. 26.

The second is a unique recreational attraction known as a cable park, proposed by Naito Development Corp. as a feature critical to its plans to develop a hotel complex on Nichols Boat Basin by 2013.

The dam removal renews the remarkable potential of the White Salmon, already beloved by anglers and regarded by many as the best kayaking river in the Gorge and one of the best in the country.

Exposing its channels and banks in new ways will yield a fascinating new phase for people who use the river. While many anglers are concerned about the impacts on known and reliable fishing areas, in the long run it will be a positive development for the overall economy of the Gorge, considering the number of area businesses that provide direct and indirect services to people who come to the area for recreation.

Meanwhile, plans for a quiet lagoon on the Hood River waterfront saw an important step this week. As Adam Lapierre reports on page A1, the Port of Hood River Waterfront Recreation Committee voted to officially support a proposed cable park within the former Nichols Boat Basin.

The committee has an advisory role, but its views carry plenty of weight with the Port Commission. "The recommendation has significant value to the commission," said Port executive director Michael McElwee. Naito Development must acquire permits from the Port and U.S. Corps of Engineers.

The cable park is a good idea, and should be approved, as long as the Naitos can prove it can be safely operated as well as work out access concerns for other uses on the boat basin.

The cable park would be a unique and attractive feature on the waterfront. Along with the hotel it could invigorate the entire waterfront. The hotel grounds will be designed to not only preserve but improve pedestrian access between the western areas of the Port including the Event Site and The Sandbar, and The Spit, marina, and County History Museum to the east.

The cable park and hotel are proposed for a prominent - and long-disused - piece of waterfront real estate. The project would fill the missing link for those 200 yards between The Spit and the Event Site

The cable park will be fun to use, fun to watch, and could be an economic boon for neighboring businesses. People will need lessons, equipment, a meal after their workout, and a place to stay for the night.

So as 2011 gives way to 2012, taking away something manmade revives a wild river, and building a human invention could add new life to a dormant waterfront parcel. What the Naitos have in mind at the Boat Basin would help meet the great potential in our Columbia shorefront.

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