In “Taking the low road to Stafford” (Dec. 18), Andy Parker trivializes the Stafford Basin, claiming Metro’s process for selecting urban and rural reserves has fallen victim to political “bickering” between “east and west sides,” spawned in part by “well-heeled anti-growth forces in and around Stafford” with “friends, and political donations, in all the right places.”
As one who has long opposed urban density development in Stafford, I cannot let this distortion go unchallenged. Donations pour into political coffers from well-heeled developers and large landholders who have pushed for years to bring Stafford inside the urban growth boundary, not from anyone I call friend. And the “bickering” — a misnomer — goes much deeper than Parker has chosen to probe.
After building a case for urbanization drawn straight from the growth industry’s playbook, Parker asks readers to believe there is some mystery underlying Stafford’s narrow escapes from the tight-packed subdivisions and ubiquitous strip malls which characterize the surrounding region.
“It all reminds me,” he writes, “of a homemade sign I saw in a Damascus front yard back in 2004: ‘Can somebody explain Stafford?’ Five years later, we’re all still waiting for the answer.“
Here’s the answer.
Stafford is all that prevents West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin from becoming another Beaverton. Tualatin already is squeezed on the north by Tigard, on the south by Wilsonville, and on the west by Sherwood, cities which openly embrace urban density development. Tigard and Beaverton are Siamese twins joined at the hip. Imagine a megalopolis with only token “natural” areas. Is that any way to live?
The cost of providing infrastructure is mind-boggling. Oregon legislators, bowing to the growth industry, saddled the public with the costs of supplying water, sewers, police and fire protection, schools, and other necessities. Those costs are prohibitive in much of the Stafford Basin. Why should taxpayers be expected to foot the bill for urbanization, for the profit of a few individuals, when it degrades their quality of life?
Existing roads can’t handle today’s traffic. Toss tens of thousands of people and their vehicles into the mix, and you have a formula for failure. Eight-lane arterials do nothing to relieve gridlock. They certainly do nothing to enhance livability.
For these and other down-to-earth, nuts-and-bolts reasons, the three cities bordering the Stafford Triangle favor rural reserve status. For me, the driving force is love.
I live in North Stafford, in Vineland. Daily at first light I walk the wooded, winding, two-lane, roller-coaster vine roads — Sweetbriar, Clematis, Wisteria, Grapevine, Woodbine — spotting deer and wild turkeys, watching the seasons change in slow motion, clearing my mind of clutter.
Natural beauty and tranquility may not count for much among those who would pave over paradise — but they rank high on my list of what makes life worth living.
The presence of so much of both warrants preserving the Stafford Basin for future generations to experience and enjoy.
You can’t get it back once it’s gone.
In My Opinion, published by The Oregonian, December 28, 2009
[The Growth Monster controls the process and the players, so it comes as no surprise that Clackamas County commissioners and Metro councilors, after countless dreary hours of listening to citizens plead with them to leave Stafford rural, designated it as the ideal spot for future urban density development. Politicians figure no one will remember when the next election rolls around, and they have all that campaign cash from developers and their toadies to convince the electorate of their sterling worth. We'll see.]
Slaughter on Stafford Road: The Stafford Triangle Under Siege ~ March, 2009">Slaughter on Stafford Road: The Stafford Triangle Under Siege ~ March, 2009
[Scroll down for the story of Metro's culpability in the looting of Native American sites on Canemah Bluff, the cutting of 200 fir trees for regional salmon restoration projects, and the destruction of Canemah Cemetery Road and the wilderness setting surrounding Canemah Pioneer Cemetery.]
The Battle for Canemah Bluff
Essay published in Citadel of the Spirit: Oregon's Sesquicentennial Anthology, A Merging of Past and Present Oregon Voices and Stories, edited by Matt Love (Nestucca Spit Press, 2009)
“Over my dead body!”
The words explode in my brother’s brain. He’s landed a new advertising client, a developer who plans to cram 136 cookie-cutter houses onto 41 pristine acres of Canemah Bluff, and he wants me to hire on as copywriter.
“But—but—” he sputters, groping for a handle on my rage. His client’s a nice guy with a sterling reputation who builds quality homes. Besides, development is inevitable, so why not do it right?
“Because it’s wrong!”
I see our ancestors turning over in their graves at the south end of the bluff, in Canemah Pioneer Cemetery. Cap sees the names of brothers Absalom and Joseph on a plaque in front of a fence built to keep snot-nosed brats from tumbling off the cliff.
It’s March 27, 1997. Already sharpening my arguments, I ask when the public debate will begin.
It’s practically over. The historic review board signed off after voting to remove its chairman, who opposed the development. The planning commission’s final hearing is April 15. I can read about “Canemah Ridge” in the April 4 MetroSouth section.
“Final! Why weren’t people informed?”
Rhetorical. Ever since the Oregonian balkanized Portland’s suburbs, news of one community rarely trickled into another. I live across the Willamette River in West Linn, covered by MetroSouthwest. I drive to Oregon City to pick up the paper.
“Canemah, from as far back as I can remember, was this funky little sleepy burg,” muses Cap, “the great-great-grandnephew (one “great”) of pioneer boat-builder Absolom (Absalom) Hedges.” He’s also billed as “a Portland advertising executive” and “ally” of developer Don Oakley. No mention of their business connection.
“We’re living in the 1990s, not the 1890s,” blusters former Oregon City mayor Howard Klemsen, another Oakley ally. “If you want history, go to England. If you want newer history, go to New England.” This from Canemah’s self-appointed historian.
I know Howard from his years as caretaker of Canemah Pioneer Cemetery. I stop by his place on the bluff. He says the subdivision will strengthen the tax base and bring in a better class of people.
Wouldn’t it be better left natural? When voters approved the 1995 bond measure enabling regional authority Metro to buy greenspace, Canemah Bluff topped the wish list.
Metro approached Oakley, but no deal. Besides, Oakley is going to spiff up the cemetery. Put in lights and running water. Pave an asphalt parking lot. Build a concrete maintenance shed and restrooms. All this in exchange for a deed to the cemetery road.
Howard descries the damage done by bikers who broke headstones after chugging a few too many beers, and Satanists who burnt offerings, drew cabalistic symbols in the dirt, and once tried to dig up the body of Sam Barlow’s second wife, Elizabeth.
But he sees nothing wrong with trashing the wilderness surrounding the oldest American cemetery west of the Rockies, blasting outlandish rock formations, draining wetlands, and obliterating a narrow bedrock and gravel road that had morphed from deer trail to wagon track before the 1830s.
He’d rather steer visitors through the streets of a sterile subdivision to a plumbed and electrified enclave surrounded on three sides by cheesy houses.
On April 10, Planning Manager Tamarah DeRidder conducts a walk-around for planning commissioners and the media. I show up with a placard that reads DON’T DESTROY CANEMAH! in big red letters.
“Why the road?” I plead, hand cupped in supplication, as Oakley glances back. This thin slice of time is caught by photographer Samantha Hoff and splashed across the front page of the Oregon City News.
DeRidder rushes up. “No ex parte contact!” Too late.
I’m wound tighter than Paganini’s E string when I enter the Carnegie Center on John Adams Street to face the Oregon City Planning Commission. Thoughts are on my grandfather, Joseph Eugene Hedges, who, with novelist Eva Emery Dye, saved Dr. John McLoughlin’s house after forces of righteousness condemned it for having once served as a brothel. His spirit rises in me as I speak.
“A subdivision on this site is an abomination to anyone who loves the beauty of Oregon and the Willamette River.”
A smirk. A raised eyebrow.
“Eventually the area is going to be developed,” says Cap. “It should fall into the hands of someone who could do it justice.” Again he fails to mention his financial stake.
“It will be a wonderful development, bring a fine grade of people, nice homes, walking trails,” says Howard, ignoring the agreement his son Scott, as president of the Canemah Cemetery Association, signed with Oakley on June 11, 1996, deeding the road in exchange for five thousand dollars up front, and 13 thousand after title is conveyed.
Commissioners rubber-stamp DeRidder’s recommendation.
The Oregonian‘s MetroSouth reporter, Dennis McCarthy, plays up the family feud: “The controversial proposal even pitted brother against brother.” Older brother Joe, patriarch and preacher of familial harmony, is distraught.
The Oregon City Commission meets May 7. I throw myself into contacting every soul I can think of who might sway the five men holding Canemah’s fate in their hands.
Governor Kitzhaber begs off. It’s a local land-use issue. Representative Darlene Hooley’s hands are tied. No federal involvement, land or dollars. Metro Executive Mike Burton needs a willing seller. He’ll write a letter saying Metro is interested. Oregonian columnists Steve Duin and Jonathan Nicholas ignore my calls and letters.
Cultural Resources Director June Olson of The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has no standing on private land, unless bones are disturbed. Local tribes didn’t bury their dead. She’ll write a letter mentioning village sites.
May 7 rolls around. I plunge in. “Plop this development down on top of Canemah and you might as well turn the Clackamas County Historical Museum into condominiums and the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center into a hamburger stand.”
I wave the city’s Comprehensive Plan, which mandates protection of scenic and cultural resources. City attorney Ed Sullivan says Goal 5 protections are “advisory” under a new ruling by the Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission: If it’s not in the City Code, it’s not binding. The change was proposed by Oakley’s attorney, in his role as vice chairman of LCDC.
Cap talks of breathing new life into sleepy little Canemah. Again, no mention of personal gain. Howard Klemsen submits a letter for the record. I enter letters from June Olson and Mike Burton. The latter speaks to the fact that Oakley was unwilling to sell.
Commissioners turn a deaf ear to Chief Johnny Jackson of the Cascade-Klickitat Tribe, and to Michael Jones of the Cascade Geographical Society, both of whom say the development will wipe away thousands of years of native culture.
My parting shot: “Do any of you care?”
Commissioner Jack Lynch, face flushed, clenches his fists and shoots back: “We care about Canemah as much as you do!” He moves to approve the subdivision.
I vow to carry the fight to the Land Use Board of Appeals, despite a new state law written by homebuilders and rushed through by the Republican majority: If your appeal is deemed “frivolous,” you’re liable for the developer’s legal fees. LUBA referees tend to be land use attorneys employed by developers.
The following night, on KBOO’s The Talking Earth, I preach Canemah and read poems about brother Joe’s escapades growing up in Northeast Portland and Lake Grove. Host Walt Curtis tapes the show so I can spring a surprise. The next morning, I learn Joe died of heart failure the night of the hearing. He was 62.
To prepare my appeal, I need a copy of the city’s final findings. DeRidder assures me I’m on the mailing list. While I wait, I canvass Canemah. Indignation has turned to resignation. Oakley has his permits and his financing. It’s over.
Cascade Geographic’s Michael Jones tells me DeRidder is known for pulling fast ones, so I drive to City Hall. It’s July 3. The findings were mailed June 20. She fumbles in a file drawer and pulls out the mailing list. My address is wrong. So is Michael’s. She blames the “errors” on student help.
The LUBA deadline is July 10. Too little time. I spend my Fourth of July, sunup to sundown, writing an impassioned article for the Oregonian. Op-ed Editor Glen Davis accepts it.
My appeal, “A Sacred Place,” appears on July 11, the day Joe’s headstone is installed. People wander in, and the “Save Canemah Cemetery Society” is born. I open a bank account, crank out a news release, and connect with land use attorney Mark Reeve, whose name was given me by Mary Kyle McCurdy, attorney for 1000 Friends of Oregon.
Our line of attack: The self-appointed, unincorporated cemetery association lacks authority to sell the three-quarter-mile-long road. The road splits Oakley’s property down the middle. No road, no subdivision. On July 17, Mark fires a shot across Oakley’s bow.
Oakley’s attorney, a rising star at a lofty Portland law firm, the one that represents the Oregonian, drops out, possibly because my article blew the whistle on his conflict of interest. I picture the publisher and the senior law partner breaking bread at the Arlington Club: “Now, Fred, about this unpleasantness....”
A week later, Glen Davis prints a diatribe by an Oakley associate, and won’t let me to set the record straight. He sends me a form rejection letter with the salutation “Dear Mr. Hedges,” days after telling me my piece generated more calls and letters than any op-ed article of the past month. I petition his boss, Bob Caldwell, who tells me he doesn’t wish to—steady yourself—”turn the editorial page into a debate forum.”
Former Lake Oswego city attorney Jim Cox, after reading my article and hearing me on KBOO, sends a check and offers his pro bono assistance. While I bring him up to speed, my wife, Scottie, scans Oregon Revised Statutes for cemetery law.
She lands on a dandy. ORS 97:440 says cemetery property can’t be disposed of without a hearing before the board of county commissioners, preceded by publication of newspaper notices for four consecutive weeks and the posting of notices on the property.
Things turn ugly. Neighborhood children run from me. Rumor has me dumping radioactive waste on the bluff. Oscar Geisler, keeper of the cemetery keys, locks his gate and leaves his shades drawn. I catch him backing out of his garage. A burly man tails me to the cemetery. Every 20 feet, no-trespassing signs threatens me with prosecution.
I place “Joseph Hedges Speaks from Canemah Pioneer Cemetery,” a poem fashioned after Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology, at the grave of my great-grandparents. The burly man reads it over and over, and asks to keep it. His daughter is working to protect an old cemetery. I never see him again.
His replacement, six-five and built like a splitting maul, packs heat in a shoulder holster. He stays a respectful distance behind, but my flesh still crawls.
On August 1, the attorney for Oakley’s Cascade Communities, Inc. fires back, branding my claims “frivolous under the facts,” the same conclusion LUBA’s referees would draw. “Finally, if you and/or your clients take any further actions to misrepresent, disrupt or delay my client’s lawful right to develop their land, my client will exercise all available remedies against you, your client and all members of Mr. Hedges’ ‘Society’ for any and all damages caused.”
Blow me down!
Another big spread in the Oregon City News. Most of the front page of the West Linn Tidings. A lengthy op-ed piece in the Tidings. Jim Hyde’s feature story on KPTV. I’m winning the media battle, but losing the war. Time is running out.
“The project is approved, the appeal period is past, and construction will begin in the fall,” Oakley tells the Oregon City News. “He (meaning me) has no basis. He thinks he has some basis, but his efforts really have no significance to me.”
An epiphany strikes at three in the morning: June Olson! Oakley can’t move his heavy equipment up Canemah’s narrow, sharply angled streets, so he’s convinced the Oregon Department of Transportation to let him build an access road to the bluff from the ODOT gravel yard on 99E. The bluff may be private, but the south slope is public!
I phone ODOT archaeologist Hal Gard, who agrees to conduct a shovel probe of the proposed right-of-way—and to involve the Grand Ronde tribes. Oakley asks June to approve his access road. She says yes, on one condition: He must agree to a legitimate archaeological survey of the entire bluff. This sets construction back a year.
A second epiphany hits in the wee hours: The road and the cemetery are one tax lot, indivisible without due process! The agreement signed by Oakley and Scott Klemsen states, “Upon request, Canemah agrees to deliver to Cascade documentation evidencing the authority of Canemah to enter into this agreement and convey the Cemetery Road in accordance with the terms herein.”
Apparently the attorneys for Cascade and Canemah, while bandying “cemetery law,” never actually bothered to read ORS 97:440. They are, in fact, breaking the law.
On October 8, 1997, the news breaks: Oakley has sold to Metro!
“David Hedges had nothing to do with my decision to sell whatsoever,” says Oakley.
“It’s always good to have a cheering section in your corner, but this was a piece of property that’s been on our list from the beginning,” says Burton. “And it would have been on if David Hedges was there or not.”
No matter. Canemah Bluff is safe. Or is it? In the fall of 2007, I take family to the bluff for a picnic. We find a large area, stripped of vegetation, where a group of men pick up and compare objects we can’t identify at a distance.
I call Metro. Did you conduct an archaeological survey before clearing? Did you hire an archaeologist to monitor the work? Did you inform the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde?
No, no, and no.
My heart is heavy.
In April, 2008, with no public process other than a pack of lies, Metro chain-sawed some 200 doug firs on Canemah Bluff. In the process, they chewed up and spit out the cemetery road.
Metro needed the logs for its salmon habitat restoration projects. The road was declared “historically insignificant” by none other than Scott Klemsen, son of Howard. Metro accepted this convenient disinformation as fact. No one else was consulted.
Removal of the overstory destroyed a thriving ecology, hanging countless ferns, mosses, and lichens out to dry, and spelling the end of hordes of frogs, salamanders, snakes, snails, worms, and insects. Such considerations as the stunning beauty of the wilderness setting, and the primeval integrity of the pioneer cemetery, were swept aside.
Despite my detailed presentation of evidence that pointed to violations of Oregon laws and land use regulations by public officials, the Oregonian washed its hands of the whole affair. Without bothering to visit the site, the local reporter regurgitated Metro’s press release. Top editors downtown shrugged and yawned.
Metro plans to create a post-glacial theme park, so folks can see how Canemah Bluff looked after Bretz floods stripped the topsoil and carried it upriver to French Prairie and Lake Labish. “White oak savannah” is the technical term.
Unfortunately, future generations won’t know how the bluff looked to Native Americans who lived there over millennia, or to the trappers, missionaries and settlers who passed through in the early 19th century, or to those of us today who value these cultural connections.
To paraphrase Blutarsky’s lamentation in Animal House, “Ten thousand years of Oregon history, down the tube.”
o o o o o
The one bright spot in the battle for Canemah Bluff was the fact that brother Cap came around to my side before the developer tossed in the towel. He apologized for testifying on the developer’s behalf, and agreed that Canemah Bluff was better left in its natural state.
Eleven years later, when Metro decided to devastate the bluff in the name of “resource management and enhancement,” the Hedges boys rode forth together, six-guns blazing. We lost the second battle, but strengthened our brotherly bond.
The Apple War (Äppelkriget), a 1971 Swedish comedy-drama about the battle between preservation and development, made a lasting impression on me. What comes back, with increasing frequency, are the pastoral settings, seen through the window of a Mercedes-Benz sedan, that change to a German version of Disney World as the window rolls down.
Try it yourself. Drive to an idyllic rural panorama and slowly roll your window down, all the while, in your mind's eye, filling the widening gap with dense development. Or better, drive to your own personal worst nightmare -- somewhere in Beaverton, perhaps -- pull over, close your eyes, imagine rolling hills, grasslands and woodlots . . . then open your eyes to the stark-raving reality.
Think Urban Density Development. If you live in the countryside around Portland, it's coming fast -- and not to "a theater near you." It's coming because the Growth Monster has lots of money to spend on politicians, and wants to keep on making money, more and more money, by paving over paradise.
When I moved to the Rosemont hills of rural West Linn in 1974, I heard assurances from politicians that the Tualatin Valley between I-5, on the west, and West Linn, on the east, would be preserved in perpetuity as a rural buffer between West Linn, Lake Oswego and Tualatin. This was to allay fears that the newly built I-205, which slices through the valley, would encourage the kinds of unsightly growth found along other freeways.
Now the official mantra is, "Growth is inevitable." Hear it enough times, and you start to believe it -- if you're one of the uncritical, unthinking multitudes moving with the herd. Too many people accept, as fact, the proposition that 1.25 million more people will swarm to the region in the next 25 years, and we need to plan every square foot of habitable land to accommodate them
We the people are in charge of our destiny, and will do what is best for our children's grandchildren. Won't we? Unfortunately, for this to happen, we the people need to shake off our collective ignorance, and with it, our stupidity.
A million and a quarter new people won't come here unless we let them. The Growth Monster wants them. Big-box retailers and grocery chains want them. Politicians who rake in campaign contributions hand over fist want them. Everyone who profits from growth, who thinks only of money-money-money, wants them. But what if the people of Metropolitan Portland were to rise up and say, "Enough!"
Granted, a certain amount of growth is inevitable, but we're talking greed-driven growth. Build bigger freeways, and cars will fill them. Build dense-packed subdivisions, and people will fill them. Advertise that the door is wide open to one and all -- and throw in a boast about the beautiful views, the environmental consciousness, and proximity to mountains and ocean beaches -- and people will swarm.
In the eyes of the Growth Monster, we're not people, we're consumers. Gridlock, air and water pollution, and all the other unpopular consequences of so-called "smart growth," are glossed over or swept under the rug. Hey folks, don't worry, the urban planners will take care of those things. Yeah, like they've done to date.
Visualize a sustainable future, with a stable economy, a stable population, and honest politicians who put the needs of people ahead of all other interests. Sounds utopian, and it is. But unless we aim for that future, we'll be forced to accept whatever the Growth Monster, and corrupt politicians, thrust down our throats.
What will it be, people? Do you want to saddle your grandchildren with an urbanized Stafford Triangle broken here and there with token "greenspaces" purchased by Metro and the three surrounding communities to demonstrate their "foresight"? Oh, and throw in Wilsonville, Sherwood and Tigard, because all six communities ultimately will meld into one, and thus into Beaverton, with Tigard as the gateway.
When this happens ("Growth is inevitable!"), it won't matter if your car window is up or down, the same dismal cityscape will greet your eyes. Of course, you'll want to keep your windows up, and your air conditioner on, so you won't breathe toxic fumes as you wait out the inevitable traffic standstills.
And, inevitably, you'll play the game where you point to a walled-in subdivision, cookie-cutter strip mall or oxymoronic industrial park and say, "Remember the way it was, back in the good old days?"
[Excerpt from a 1994 essay]
The Lords of Yesterday* have been choking the life out of the Columbia River for well over a century. With the death of the wild salmon, the river will breathe its last.
The Department of the Interior's History and Development of Columbia River Fisheries sums up the salmon's demise with dispassionate candor:
"The fish...have been decimated by the development of commercial fisheries, the deleterious effects of the various industries which have developed in the basin and the direct loss of spawning areas.... The problem...can be solved only by coordinated planning and adequate fish protection at projects which interfere with proper conditions."
These hollow, unheeded words were written in 1940. Fifty-four years later, we're still waiting for coordinated planning and adequate protection. It ain't gonna happen.
Billions of dollars are being spent to create the illusion of concern, but the Bad Guys brandish the heavy hardware in this battle, just as they have since the days when fish wheels wreaked their havoc. The sooner the salmon are dead and buried, the sooner the Lords of Yesterday can get back to business as usual. It's as simple as that.
Congressional delegations notorious for supporting the monied few over the masses are up to their old tricks. Leading the pack is Oregon's senior U.S. Senator, Mark O. Hatfield, promulgator of the pitifully punchless 1991 Salmon Summit.
He argues it's better to do nothing than to attempt something not all fish biologists agree on, something never before tried. We'd still be living in caves if we applied this to our every endeavor.
Hatfield's fellow Republican from Oregon, U.S. Senator Bob Packwood, is his usual charming self on the subject: The wild salmon can go to hell.
In 1990, campaigning before wheat growers, Packwood stated, "Preserving wild runs of salmon on the Columbia and Snake rivers should not be done at the cost of power production, irrigation and barge movements."
He went on to say, "Some species may have to be allowed to disappear if the costs to preserve them are too high for mankind to bear," and "Charles Darwin's theory of evolution assumed a perpetual cycle of emergence and destruction of species."
So, the river is dead. If you're typical, you shrug and say, "So what?" The Columbia Gorge is as scenic as ever. Sure, there are those ugly clear-cuts creeping down from the higher elevations and sometimes you can't see the view for the smog from pulp mills and aluminum smelters. But if you own a boat, you can still find a beach to spread out on. And you can still swim.
You can. I won't. Not after talking with a Yakama Indian who gave up fishing because of the deformities he was seeing. Sometimes when he cut open a salmon, flesh dropped from the bones as if the fish were cooked.
"Cooked" is the proper term. For decades, radioactive waste has oozed from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, joining forces with industrial effluvia behind downriver dams to raise the river's temperature beyond tolerable levels. At times, the water is too warm to support certain forms of life.
Juvenile salmon are especially susceptible.
*University of Colorado law professor Charles Wilkinson’s phrase for the timber, mining and grazing interests that have controlled our western public lands for the past 150 years.