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Give it time: DeeTour has merit, but so does the call for added comment time

Plans are afoot to give the quiet community of Dee, one of the shortest place names in Oregon, some long-sought notability.

First, let’s be clear about the benefits and drawbacks of the proposed DeeTour concert venue.

Traffic will be a significant issue with this project, and locals are justifiably nervous about the influx of hundreds, and potentially thousands, of vehicles carrying people attending events at DeeTour. You literally can’t get around the fact that there is only one road to the site, and one road serving other local attractions. DeeTour would be located at the pinched junction of those two roads.

As historic and scenic as this place may be, getting to it and through it can be a major headache.

On the other hand, “This used to be an actual town,” is typical of the refrain heard about the community of Dee.

Currently the main draws to Dee are Lost Lake, 12 miles up the winding road, and other trails and recreation opportunities, as well as extensive farming operations including blueberry stands, on the beautiful Dee Flat.

To get there you drive past the ruins of the old Dee Mill, past the former Dee School, closed in the late 1950s and for decades a private home, and past the old Dee Fire Hall. The building is still there but the department was integrated with Parkdale Fire Department a few years back.

Remnants of these and other community are still there, and this is not to suggest that the farms and homes of Dee constitute anything less than a real spot on the map.

Yet DeeTour, on the face of it, has the potential to become a major destination for the Gorge. Maryhill, an hour east of Hood River, is the only entity like it between Portland and George, Wash. The riverside location, next to the former industrial site, would provide an attractive mix of natural and manmade features that lend themselves to musical and other events.

The rail runs right by the site, and the potential for partnership with Mount Hood Railroad looks especially promising. Dee Highway is already a popular bicycling route, meaning active concert goers could be drawn by the idea of an invigorating hour-long pedal from Hood River to Dee Tour and a good concert.

The list of partners in drawing down the vehicle impact could also include the underappreciated CAT bus service, which would be a short shuttle from Hood River or Odell.

As a community we should be concerned about added traffic on Dee Highway and on Lost Lake Road, and the potential impact on local services.

But it is worth remembering that when the Dee mill was a going concern until fire shut it down in 1996, it was the source and destination of all kinds of traffic of the car and truck kind.

While the overall traffic impact factor is undeniable, DeeTour is a concept worthy of careful consideration, for the benefits as well as the concerns.

In that light, we urge one of the stakeholder agencies, or the proponents themselves, to ask the county to extend the comment period by three weeks. (Such action can only happen if the proponent or identified stakeholder requests it.) That will give all concerned more time to register their views in an unhurried, constructive manner, without completely clamping down on the proponents’ development timeline.

With enough communication and cooperation, the access-related concerns can be addressed, and rural Hood River County obtains a destination that will help revive the identity of Dee.

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