It is March 10, 2009. I have just come from Stafford Road north of the Tualatin River bridge, above the entrance to Shadowwood and across from Mossy Brae. These names evoke images far removed from the scene that greeted me today ~ names that once, just days ago, said everything about this beautiful and historic Oregon place that now resembles a battlefield.
It is, in fact, a battlefield. Another key engagement has been lost in the ongoing war with the forces of greed and gridlock. The conquest of Stafford Road from Lake Oswego to I-205 is a fait accompli.
It started with the addition of two more lanes to I-205 between I-5 and the Stafford exit. Then came the two-lane roundabout at Wankers Corner, ostensibly to relieve congestion, but in reality to accommodate growth. Lake Oswego's push into North Stafford ~ its picture-perfect pathways, its ball fields and dog parks, its enormous retirement village ~ transformed country into city.
But this spot beside the Tualatin River is ~ was ~ one of those places Governor Tom McCall referred to when he spoke of what it is that makes Oregon so special. Scores of venerable cedar trees have fallen to chain saws. The natural curves of the narrow road snaking down to the bridge will be replaced by a wide, straight, sterile, treeless road cut leading to a wide, cookie-cutter bridge ten feet above the current one with its latticed steel struts, eliminating the charming views of the river now enjoyed by motorists.
I have personal reasons for mourning. As a kid living in Lake Grove, I would hop on my bike and seek out fishing spots on the Tualatin. A favorite was on Shadowwood Road, immediately downstream from the bridge. Later, I was privileged to know Cassidy Bouts, the loveable eccentric who built many of Shadowwood's houses. Several friends live on Mossy Brae Road. And I've always loved the old log cabin with its rustic, river-cobble chimney, glimpsed through a thick stand of cedars. It, too, is about to fall victim, a loss beyond fathoming.
It's special for broader reasons as well. Here, in pioneer times, a ferry boat transported wagons and stagecoaches bound from the territorial capital, Oregon City, to the Tuality Plains, where Oregon's first settlers, former Hudson's Bay trappers, put down roots. They grew the produce that fed the California gold rush. Stephen Meek, brother of Joe Meek, the territory's first sheriff, ran the stage line over the road now known as Rosemont, and down Stafford Road. There was a stage stop a short distance from the river, where horses and passengers were fed. Think about travel in those days!
A bridge replaced the ferry. The road was widened, but not by very much. Asphalt was laid down over dirt, but the graceful curves were kept. There was enough left there for anyone with a trace of imagination to see how it must have looked and felt in the 1850s. Until a few days ago.
We have lost another small slice of our heritage, and gained nothing that serves a deep need. Sure, we'll move more vehicles at a faster clip, and call it progress. But progress to where, and to what end?
If there is anything to smile about in this outrage, it is the sign at the north end of the devastation. When builders were riding high on the housing bubble, one such named his two-lot development "Stafford Triangle," undoubtedly with middle finger extended toward the slow-growth folks. The sign reads ~ no lie ~ "Elegant Stafford area, near the Tualatin River." The elegance here, ironically, was due to the wealth of cedar trees and the two-lane, curving road. With no buyers in sight, and building prospects slim, the property has been turned over to a real estate company. Good luck.
March 12, 2009. Today, the West Linn Tidings fed its readers this dispassionate lead sentence: "Contractors have chopped down trees to make way for a wider bridge...." The article quotes Clackamas County project Manager Stan Monte as saying the county will eventually widen Stafford "all the way up to Lake Oswego." Five lanes? We're talking Beaverton! We're talking McLoughlin Boulevard! Why is this necessary?
Obviously, these projects have been in the works for many years. Why is the public never informed it time to influence decisions? What have they got up their sleeves now? I plan to do some digging. Stay tuned.
It is heartbreaking to see David Hedges' photos and know that this is all we will have left of this area some day soon. When growth must come (as it invariably does), it should be considered carefully and with an eye toward environomental sustainability. This is what responsible & thoughtful people do when they understand that our survival as a species is dependent upon our interaction with the rest of the world around us and the simple choices that we make every day. One bridge, one road, one tree, one field are never single things; they are things with thousands of consequences that cannot be undone when a mistake is made. Let’s think these choices through carefully, understanding what influence they will have on our future as interdependent beings in a fragile world.
Posted by: Diane Benya | Email | March 12, 2009
The obvious answer to your rhetorical questions: Because they (the local, state, federal government) rarely want the public to meddle with the already-made decisions of real consequence. Whats up their sleeves? $$ Thanks for the heads up on this issue.
Posted by: Marcia Avalon | Email | March 12, 2009
It always comes down to $$ and greed. Thank you letting me know about this, how irreversibly sad.
Posted by: Lois Leonard | Email | March 14, 2009
I lived on Stafford road when it was called The “OWN Road” (Oswego, Willamette and Newberg) that was the most wonderful time in my life, hardly any traffic, we could ride our horses all over the Stafford area, up the road to Cook Hill, check out the wild Banana Apple tree in the little woods by the Catholic cemetery, then on to Grampa Austin's trading post in the log cabin just a little bit before the bridge over the Tualatin River. In the summer time there were softball games in the field behind Wankers Tavern, the men played ball while the moms visited and the children drank Nehi pop out of the bottle, all with orange or purple stains around their lips, and a good time was had by all. Now every day there are so many cars traveling up and down the same little road that one wonders where they could possibly be going, but then we take a look and there are hundreds of houses with more than one car, the commute is slow but worth it to live out in the country. Except if this growth keeps on, it won’t be out in the country any more, just more sprawl with lots of Gentlemen Farmers’ families living there side by side by side by….....Oh well, I remember when the Gentle ladies used to call downtown Oswego “The Village” and they were correct. Look what happened to the sleepy little village of years past.
Posted by: Ione (Chapman) Schlesinger | Email | March 14, 2009
I have been researching Oregon Provisional land claim of Tuality County and have noticed that several of the claims are described as “on the road from Oregon City to Tuality Plains” and after discovering that “East Tuality Plains” was the Hillsboro area and “West Tuality Plains” was generally the area of Forest grove wondered which of the present day roads might be roughly the same as that old road to Tuality Plains. Would Stafford Road be it?!
Posted by: Jean Spangler | Email | October 12, 2009
David, I read your article on the Oregonian and would like to invite you to talk about the issue on my TV show “Orwell Today” which airs live on Jan 6, from 8 pm to 9 pm. The show is a call-in and broadcast to the tri-county area. The Stafford development problem is part – I am sure you agree – of a wider issue that involves livability and questions that the community as a whole must and will eventually have to ask.
I could not find your tel. number. Mine is 503 459 7992. Please let me know of you are interested in being a guest on the show.
Posted by: jimmie moglia | Email | Web | December 29, 2009
I lived in Mossy Brae from 1946 to 1952. It was a great area for a boy – fishing, exploring the woods, rowing my boat, swimming in the river, and jumping off the struts under the bridge, much to my mother’s concern. It is sad to see urban sprawl overtaking this rustic and historical location. Thanks to my LOHS classmate for his thoughtful article.
Posted by: John Shiels | Email | April 07, 2010