Friday, November 25, 2011
The economic, and political, health of the west end of Hood River County is good for the Gorge.
That's why it is heartening to see a variety of positive developments occurring at the city and port of Cascade Locks, and between those two important agencies.
It was the proverbial breath of fresh air to witness the open and inquiring tone of the City Council meeting on Nov. 14, with new Mayor Lance Masters presiding. Council members on that extensively revamped board, new and continuing, are demonstrating a willingness to learn and to acknowledge that they do not yet have the answers. The Sept. 20 recall vote was decisive, and also divisive, and time will tell if the community will see a return to participation by the regulars who were declared supporters of the previous council. The fact that the audience included Don Haight, one of the councilors who was recalled, was a good sign.
The council's decision to engage its neighbors, namely the City of Hood River, in repairing its fire and emergency services, is another heartening sign. It comes after months of outright resistance, by some leaders and city officials, to outside help. The temporary mutual aid agreement signed by both cities, and the hiring of Hood River Fire Chief Devon Wells to provide technical and management advice were both needed in order to get Cascade Locks' emergency services back on the most basic footing.
Meanwhile, the city and the port are engaged in a critical sphere of cooperation, the Joint Task Force on Economic Development. The task force is something that was encouraged by interim city administrator Paul Koch and enacted by former mayor George Fischer and the previous council. Its membership is in transition on the city's end, since the new council is just getting its feet on the ground, but the spirit of cooperation seems firmly in place. City Council members want to take their time in sorting out where city projects fit into their order of priorities before deciding how to participate in the City-Port Task Force, but the understanding is there - the two agencies wield twin paddles in the same boat.
Of further encouragement is the new trail system the port has created just east of town, off Industrial Way. People from throughout the Gorge, including the mayors of Hood River and Cascade Locks, have helped in work parties to create the first trail, "Easy Climb," a partnership with the Northwest Trails Alliance that yields excellent public access for riders and hikers of varied abilities. The trail is the first of several planned in the area, and all told the complex is an inviting amenity. It has great potential for drawing users from the community, and from the rest of the Gorge and beyond, especially paired with the newly built Blackberry Beach windsurfing launch site. It points to the larger possibilities for the Port as a regional draw for river users, bicyclists, and hikers.
The views of the Oregon and Washington sides of the river are spectacular. Go out on the trail and you see a different western Gorge vista than the one you're likely used to. It's an eye-opener that comes into being at a time when new views seem to be emerging in west Hood River County.