Must see: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, annual Fourth of July Parade, annual Birdfest & Bluegrass event.
The city of Ridgefield is open for business. The key question this year is whether businesses will seek to acquire land along the Interstate 5 corridor in the midst of a prolonged economic recession.
The city, which prides itself on its open space, saw reduced commercial movement into the area in 2011, compared with previous years, officials said. But that could easily change if the economy shows signs of life.
Even as businesses have moved into town, Ridgefield (pop. 4,763) has retained its quaint, small-town feel. Community projects routinely draw dozens of volunteers, and local business owners often donate needed supplies.
City leaders are determined to keep the city’s culture the same regardless of how much it grows -- leaders predict the population could multiply four or five times over during the next two decades, if business growth takes hold.
There are signs such growth could happen, given an economic thaw.
Northwest Natural Products bottles its vitamins in Ridgefield. Agave Denim has its headquarters there. Several other businesses have joined them in moving distribution centers or other offices to Ridgefield.
The city is working to increase its leisure offerings, too.
Construction of Overlook Park, with a view of the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, was expected to begin in 2011, but the project was delayed after archaeologists discovered possible Native American artifacts on the grounds. The project, which would also have a welcome center near I-5, is now expected to come to fruition sometime this year.
The aforementioned 5,218-acre Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge features a mixture of lush seasonal, semi-permanent and permanent wetlands, along with grasslands. It was established in 1965 to provide wintering habitat for the dusky species of Canada goose, and is a popular destination for bird watchers and nature lovers.
The annual Birdfest & Bluegrass event draws nature enthusiasts and music lovers to the refuge each October.
If you’re looking for coffee or food while relaxing, Ridgefield has you covered. The city has a Lava Java, whose owner, Phuong Tran, was the 2005 U.S. barista champion. The city also has Pacific Northwest Best Fish Co. market and cafe.
It’s not like Ridgefield’s leaders have much time to rest on their laurels.
They have plans for their city to ascend up the ranks of north Clark County’s top attractions.
Among these is a 40-acre waterfront strip of shops, offices and plazas off Lake River. City and port leaders worked together to design an area that would both benefit the city’s comprehensive and downtown plans and the port’s waterfront plan.
The city also has large road construction projects in the works. Among them is a plan to put an overpass over railroad tracks near Pioneer Street. City officials also expect work to begin in the spring on a project to put roundabouts at each end of the I-5 overpass.
In the meantime, Ridgefield’s doors will remain open to interested parties.