2017 In Review: A year of fire & ice

Shellrock Mountain in flames: September’s Eagle Creek fire dominated the year’s news. This was notable, considering the months of snow and ice that clung to the Gorge starting in late 2016 and hung on through March.

Photo by Peter Marbach
Shellrock Mountain in flames: September’s Eagle Creek fire dominated the year’s news. This was notable, considering the months of snow and ice that clung to the Gorge starting in late 2016 and hung on through March.


Lucas Eaton was Hood River's first baby of 2017.

Ice storms dominated news coverage in one of the Gorge’s most brutal winters in decades, with the worst storm hitting Jan. 7. The weather prompted extended highway closures and snow days at Hood River County School District.


Snow and ice clung to the Gorge starting in late 2016 and hung on through March.

In business news, the 105-year-old Hood River Hotel was sold to a group of Portland investors who planned to remodel and upgrade amenities.

During President Donald Trump’s transition into office, Hood River’s Rep. Greg Walden was placed in an advisory role. “I am giving advice to counsel and the vice president. That is an added responsibility that I am more than happy to take,” Walden said.

Walden had been elected to serve as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in Washington, D.C., in December 2016.

The first of numerous political rallies about nationwide issues began Jan. 15, with a gathering of people demanding that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) be kept intact.

The Women’s Stand national protest took over Hood River Jan. 21, with about 200 people gathering in support of women’s rights.


Snow kept piling up in the Gorge, as evidenced by Brad Perron’s collapsed Dee building, which stored a historic carousel. Perron responded, “I can fix this.”

After years of paltry snowpack on Mount Hood, levels began returning to normal. Monitoring sites registered about 110 percent of usual snow water equivalent on Feb. 1.

A march of 240 people took to Hood River streets as part of the “Day Without Immigrants” events held across the U.S. in response to federal policies on immigrants. At Hood River County School District buildings, a total of 735 students were not in attendance.


MORE THAN 200 marchers braved the rain in February, from the Heights to downtown, to stand for immigration reform.

Plans emerged in February for a flooding project at Kingsley Reservoir that will occur in late 2018. A new county campground would be built post-flood.

UPDATE: In November, the Hood River County Board of Commissioners decided to move forward with the first two phases of the campground project, subject to available funding.

The Westside Plan, which charts out housing and transportation development for the burgeoning western edge of Hood River, was introduced at city council.

The Paris Fair building downtown, owned by North Cheatham, was sold to Key Development, who later introduced plans for condos at the property.


A plastic bag ban took effect March 1. An ordinance passed by city council in December took effect in early March. It prohibited stores from providing plastic single use bags at the checkout — starting with Rosauers, Walmart and Safeway.

“March 4 Trump” supporting President Donald Trump happened March 4 at Overlook Memorial Park on State Street, attended by about 20 people.

The city approved annexation of two properties along Belmont Avenue, which led to new housing subdivisions, by Mike Kitts and Consolidated Land and Cattle.

The city temporarily shut down Children’s Park at Ninth and Eugene streets due to repair issues and safety concerns. A committee formed in partnership with city staff to look at options for a park replacement.

A skier from The Dalles, Steve Leavitt, was found dead at Mt. Hood Meadows after eight days missing and an extensive search by authorities. Early investigations showed Leavitt, 57, died after impact with a tree.


The Columbia Gorge Community College board heard pleas in Hood River for a sanctuary designation, following similar testimony in The Dalles. The next month, the board unanimously approved a resolution declaring sanctuary status for CGCC campuses in both cities.

A highly anticipated town hall by Rep. Greg Walden drew a tough crowd with pointed questions for Walden about his support for Trump, and his positions on health care and immigration. It followed a citizen town hall that Walden did not attend.


Rep. Greg Walden’s April 12 town hall was long-awaited, and yielded vigorous debate described by some as rancorous and rude as the Hood River Republican made his first public appearance in his hometown in several months, facing intense and often loud questioning of his voting record on health care and other topics.

Hood River Police investigated two deaths of young adults in late April.

Holly Lester, a 27-year-old Seattle woman who had been missing for a month, was found dead April 24 in the Columbia River near the Hood River waterfront trail.

Edwin Charge Jr., a 20-year-old Goldendale man suspected of shoplifting from Walmart, fell to his death off a ledge near Westcliff Drive April 23 after trying to evade authorities, police said.

On Earth Day weekend, the People’s Climate and Justice March was held in opposition to the Trump administration’s environmental policies.


May began with a visit from Gov. Kate Brown to agricultural business owners in The Dalles that focused on support for local farm commodities in the export market and ways to fund agricultural research. She also stopped by the two-acre “yard” on West Cascade in Hood River, currently used by the Oregon Department of Transportation and a potential site for affordable housing.

In the May Primary election, a Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility bond narrowly failed. It would have established a 26 cents per $1,000 property tax toward jail operations. In local races: John Everitt, Ben Sheppard and Dave Meriwether were elected to Port of Hood River. Port of Cascade Locks: commissioners Jess Groves and Dean Bump were elected. School board: Rich Truax, Benjamin Sheppard, and Corinda Hankins-Elliott won contested seats. Parks board: Anna Cavaleri and Nan Noteboom took positions.

The first-ever Hood River Latino Fest was held mid-May at the Hood River County Fairgrounds, the Mt. Hood Railroad site marked the 75th anniversary of the “Train of Tears” — in which 503 people of Japanese heritage were sent by train to Pinedale and other internment camps — and the Hood River Valley Residents Committee celebrated its 40th anniversary.


Grand marshal Mark Nilsson, a Hood River artist, speaks to a crowd of several hundred in the first Hood River Pride parade, held in May 2017.

Other notable events included Hood River Valley High School theater teacher Rachel Harry winning the Tony Awards and Carnegie Mellon University “Teachers with the Excellence in Theater Education,” Hood River City Council approving the rezone of Morrison Park for affordable housing, and the reopening of the Children’s Park, which had been closed due to safety issues. And Paul Henne’s TV & Stereo closed its doors after 50-plus years on the Heights.


One year after an oil train derailment at Mosier roiled communities throughout the Gorge, hundreds gathered at Mosier Community School to remember the fiery wreck and speak out against proposed fossil fuel terminal developments. The first Pride Parade drew 600 people, including about 300 marchers, to downtown Hood River mid-month.

Also mid-month, the Columbia River Gorge Commission (CRGC) rejected a Union Pacific project appeal, thereby denying the railroad’s bid to build an extended railroad siding at Mosier. And by month’s end the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals released an order upholding several arguments launched by Hood River Valley Residents Committee against the upper valley project, DeeTour Hotel.

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