Tag Archives: Columbia River

This is how you convert a warehouse

WENATCHEE, Wash. — The building pictured with this blog post used to be a warehouse. It contained items to be shipped somewhere else.

Then it was emptied out. It sat vacant for about a year, maybe two … according to what I understand.

Then a wealthy resident of this central Washington community ponied up a couple of million bucks to get started on a repurposing of the former warehouse.

This is what they produced. A sign out front hails it as a “Public Market”; the sign mimics the one along Pike Street in downtown Seattle, the district that features the salmon flung around the “flying fish” market.

They don’t toss salmon at the Wenatchee market, but they do sell a mean cup of mocha, along with sandwiches; they have a deli in there; there’s a brew pub, a Mexican food joint, crafts and assorted other attractions.

They even use the rail line that runs through the building when they want to play host to musical entertainment acts; they wheel the bandstands in on the tracks, clear out the kiosks to create a dance floor and then put it all back together when the evening is over.

The indoor mall that once was a warehouse sits on the Columbia River that winds through this part of the state.

I fell in love with the place.

Communities all over the country are converting warehouses in warehouse districts into places just like this. They also include loft apartments and assorted other uses.

When I see examples of this kind of urban planning, I am filled with hope that our mid-sized and larger cities are not necessarily doomed to rot their way into oblivion.

Sure, it’s nice to have wealthy residents willing to invest in their cities’ future. All cities should be home to someone like that … shouldn’t they?

This kid is going to pay for the rest of his life

A 15-year-old boy from Vancouver, Wash., decided in 2017 to toss a firecracker into a forest along a scenic Oregon hiking trail.

What happened next was stunning in its scope. The kid started a fire that roared through the Columbia River Gorge, one of America’s true scenic wonders.

Well, there’s justice. The boy has been handed a $36 million fine by a judge. He has received a sentence that he’ll never pay off, but he damn sure should be forced to contribute money for the rest of his life for restitution to the damage he caused.

The blaze became known as the Eagle Creek Fire. It torched tens of thousands of timber land along Eagle Creek, which becomes Multnomah Falls, one of the Gorge’s scenic jewels. Wind blew embers across the Columbia River and into Washington, scorching more valuable land.

The kid who started the fire won’t be identified in the media, because he is a minor. A part of me wishes to know the kid’s name, but I understand why we won’t know — at least for the foreseeable future.

The fire choked the sky with smoke and ash, which blanketed Portland about 40 miles west of where the blaze began.

I have a keen interest in this story. I grew up in Portland. I have hiked along Eagle Creek. I have peered over the top of Multnomah Falls, which cascades more than 600 feet into an estuary pool next to the mighty Columbia River.

It sickened when I heard about the fire. I ventured to Oregon this past October, but was unable to see too much damage, given that it never stopped raining while I was there; the weather restricted a lot of local sightseeing.

The fire starter’s mother said the event produced a lot of “trauma” for the boy. Good. It should have.

According to the Washington Post: “Every day I think about this terrible decision and its awful consequences,” said the boy, who was identified by the judge only by his initials, A.B. “I know I will have to live with my bad decision for the rest of my life.”

And now, he must pay.

His attorneys have said that the $36 million restitution amount is steep, arguing that such a number violated the U.S. and Oregon constitutions, believing the amount to be “cruel and unusual punishment,” according to court records. But (Hood River County Circuit Judge John A.) Olson in his opinion wrote the restitution was “clearly proportionate to the offense because it does not exceed the financial damages caused by the youth.”

I happen to agree with the judge on this one. The kid has to pay for what he did.

Let’s learn from Tillamook Burn recovery

I have received a chilling message from a friend of mine who lives in Portland, Ore., the city where I was born … a very long time ago.

“We’ve lost the Gorge,” my friend wrote. The wildfires that have consumed much of the Eagle Creek region east of Portland and have jumped the Columbia River into Washington, according to my friend, have consumed much of the Columbia River Gorge. I’ll take his word for it, that the Gorge — one of America’s true scenic treasures — has been scarred deeply by the fire.

The Gorge forms a significant portion of the border between Oregon and Washington along the Columbia River — which the U.S. Coast Guard has closed to all traffic because of the fire.

Oh, man. This is heartbreaking in the extreme.

The picture I’ve attached to this blog shows the fire as seen from Stevenson, Wash., across the river from Eagle Creek.

My friend, though, reminded me also of that the damage need not be permanent. It might last a long time. However — as the saying goes — time can heal the wounds.

Eighty-four years ago, a huge fire broke out along the Coast Range of Oregon. It was the first of a series of blazes that burned near the town of Tillamook, a coastal community. The fires took out many thousands of acres of pristine forestland. The final blaze in the series occurred in 1951. It came to be known to us as The Tillamook Burn.

I remember driving to the beach with my parents and sisters and passing through many miles of scorched timber. The photo below is of the Burn in 1951.

That changed over time. I am proud to say that I played a teeny-tiny role in the recovery of the forest. I was a Boy Scout and my fellow Scouts and I would venture many times in the early 1960s into the forest to plant trees. We were not alone. Other groups did the same the thing: churches, civic organizations, even large families would make an outing of tree-planting in The Tillamook Burn.

Today, I am happy to report — as my friend noted in his message to me — that the forest is back. My friend wrote: “On our way to the coast we often stop at the Tillamook Forest Center. That’s inspiring to me, the way that Oregonians … came to fix a destroyed forest that we enjoy today. We might have to do that again.”

When the fire is extinguished, I believe there will be a concerted effort to do precisely what occurred along the Oregon Coast Range.

The Columbia River Gorge might be “lost” today. One must not bet that it will stay lost forever.