Gorge Commission accepting input on ‘Gorge 2020’

The National Scenic Area was established by congress in 1986. It covers 85 miles of the Columbia River and 292,000 acres in Oregon and Washington.

Photo by Emily Fitzgerald
The National Scenic Area was established by congress in 1986. It covers 85 miles of the Columbia River and 292,000 acres in Oregon and Washington.

The Columbia River Gorge Commission gave the Hood River County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) a status update on “Gorge 2020,” its National Scenic Area Management Plan review process, at the BOCC’s work session last Monday.

The Gorge Commission intends to finish revising the plan by late 2019, and the revision process completely finished by spring 2020.

One of the Gorge Commission’s goals with the update is to create “something that works more like a tool than a static document,” Executive Director Krystyna Wolniakowski told the BOCC. “We’d really like it to be a lot more interactive, a lot more updatable,” she said, so the commission doesn’t have to wait for an official review every time the document needs an update.

While Congress requested a review of the management plan – a set of guidelines created by the Gorge Commission and the U.S. Forest Service for protecting and enhancing the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area’s resources – every five to 10 years, the Gorge Commission last adopted revisions of the 30-year-old document in 2004.

“The ‘Gorge 2020’ process offers us an opportunity to reflect on 30 years since the country’s largest and most dynamic scenic area was established,” the Gorge Commission said on its website, “It’s been 12 years since the management plan was last reviewed and much has changed.”

The Gorge Commission will continue holding work sessions through spring 2019 with stakeholders and the public on general issues regarding the plan and the four “focus topics”: Urban Area Boundary Revision Policy, Economic Vitality, Emerging Land Uses and Development Review Process, and Recreation Resources.

“The focus topics we’ve chosen represent complicated aspects of the plan which are most in need of further discussion and consideration,” Scenic Area Manager Lynn Burditt told the News back when the topics were chosen in January, “Some of the issues we face today were not envisioned 30 years ago when the plan was created.”

Currently, they’re in the stage of identifying the Gorge Commission’s responsibilities in each of these areas, what has changed since the plan was first adopted 30 years ago, and what can be done to make the document easier to understand.

When commissioners asked if any elected government officials were involved in these work sessions, Wolniakowski said that there are not. Their intent, she said, is to hold robust discussions and document everybody’s point of view, then present that diversity of viewpoints to elected officials.

The work session also gave county commissioners the chance to give the Gorge Commission some recommendations to consider during the revision, primarily:

• Providing guidance on new and emerging uses, industries and agricultural practices,

• Simplifying review processes and providing more refined, objective standards for applicants to follow, particularly with development review and projects on the Historic Columbia River Highway and I-84,

• Establishing the ability for the county to expand Urban Area boundaries based on individual community needs.

“The existing Management Plan needs a lot of changes, and this process is a great opportunity to address many outstanding issues,” said former-Community Development Director John Roberts in an official letter to the Gorge Commission, written before he stepped down from the position last week. “Without needed changes to the management plan, Hood River County cannot improve how we administer land use within our jurisdiction.”

Throughout the letter, Roberts assures the Gorge Commission that the county appreciates its work and is in full support of the review process.

The Gorge Commission’s next regular public meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at the Maryhill Museum of Art; and public feedback on the management plan is currently being accepted at gorge2020.consider.it.

For more information, visit www.gorgecommission.org/management-plan/gorge2020.

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