Who are the people in your neighborhood?

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

Published:

 

Portrait

For more information on life in Clark County, visit www.columbian.com/portrait.

Everyone lives in a neighborhood.

And Clark County has all sorts of neighborhoods. Some have official borders, regular meetings, strict rules and lawyers to enforce them; others have history and identity but little unity. Some are busy and some bucolic. New ones are constantly springing to life as the population swells. Old ones fade as they’re overrun.

The Columbian’s Neighbors team carved Clark County into zones to broaden our coverage of neighborhood news. Here’s a sample of history and recent happenings in our neighborhoods:

• North Clark County

Views of Mount St. Helens are downright startling up here, where people tend to go for peace and quiet, privacy and nature. If you’re interested in purchasing a lava dome of your own, north county boasts one for sale: Tumtum Mountain, 360 acres of cone-shaped former logging land, 1,400 feet tall and recently reduced from $1.4 million to $700,000.

Those who don’t want to live in the country can learn about it at Pomeroy Living History Farm near Yacolt and the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, east of Woodland. Also fun is chugging across the landscape via the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, an excursion train that offers special events -- staged train robberies and headless Halloween horsemen -- in addition to the spectacular scenery.

• Ridgefield & Fairgrounds

South of the Ridgefield city limits is the sprawling Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, which has been at the forefront of bitter growth battles in recent years -- from new subdivisions alongside working farms to the arrival of the 18,000-capacity Clark County Amphitheater in 2003. The amphitheater has brought some great shows to town but proved a reliable money-loser anyway. The fairgrounds have scrambled to stay profitable via methods like offering big concert acts at the amphitheater during the fair, and by opening a popular beer and wine garden.

• Battle Ground, Meadow Glade & Hockinson

Booming Battle Ground and the creeping edge of Portland-Vancouver suburbia are colliding with pioneer settlements in this swath of central Clark County countryside. The city has been updating fast, matching new subdivisions and annexations with a skate park, a community center, a medical clinic and other people-friendly infrastructure.

Speaking of which, bucolic Hockinson lost its beloved Kountry Cafe diner to the city of Battle Ground -- but gained one-third of a mile of sidewalk, making downtown a bit more walkable for students heading to school. It was the first sidewalk to appear on these small-town roads.

Grange halls that served as community centers for decades are fighting for survival. Check out the old-timey open jam on the second and fourth Saturdays at the Manor Grange.

• Hazel Dell, Felida & Salmon Creek

With sprouting subdivisions, shopping centers and tons of traffic, Hazel Dell says “city” more than some parts of Vancouver.

Neighborhood and county leaders who consider the Highway 99 commercial strip a poster child of pedestrian unfriendliness and neon blight have started hatching new standards and plans for upgrades. But the hallowed Steakburger diner with its putt-putt golf course, once the target of a redevelopment effort, keeps putting along.

Meanwhile, the county has unfrozen growth around Salmon Creek’s legendary traffic hairball, though one element in a massive public works project to clear it -- a traffic circle near the neighborhood Fred Meyer -- has led to some controversy. A Walmart has been cleared for construction around the corner from the growing campus of Washington State University Vancouver -- but economic recession has stalled those plans, so right now there’s no telling when the retail supergiant will arrive.

On the opposite end of the retail scale, the Salmon Creek Farmers Market enjoyed a successful sophomore year near despite an obscure location behind a gas station just west of I-5 and south of 134th Street -- leading organizers to conclude that some people will brave tough traffic for fresh veggies. This year’s location should be the same, organizers say.

• Orchards, Sifton & Brush Prairie

The name “Orchards” is a remnant of 19th-century fruit trees long since cleared for homes, businesses and mining operations. But the area’s link to the past is evident at the oldest business in the county, the Orchards Feed Mill, open since 1889. Brush Prairie earned a reputation for farming and ranching superiority years ago; now there are lingering plans to build upwards of 1,000 homes in the heart of Clark County’s breadbasket. The county recently completed a 240-acre park and sports complex here.

A new WinCo supermarket down the road from Prairie High School replaced the old Bowyer’s Par-3 golf course. “I guess it’s progress,” one neighbor remarked.

• West Vancouver

Trees are lush, homes are older and well-tended, and sidewalks go places on the west side. Street murals and kiosks pop up here and there as a way to build community and slow down drivers. Residents and visitors alike enjoy Uptown Village, Vancouver’s own little corridor of boutique chic, boasting restaurants, cafes and antiques shops.

Guardians of downtown quality of life recently worried about the environmental effects of a proposed biomass energy plant; they’re perpetually annoyed by screaming jet traffic that interrupts concerts in Esther Short Park.

If you’re into local history, you can take walking tours of Arnada’s classy bungalows and wraparound porches; if you’re into local food, there’s a “Coop Du Jour” tour of urban chicken coops every July. Fruit Valley is getting into food: the lower-income neighborhood is exploring ways to bring fresh, local produce to kitchen tables and school lunches via public health grants and subscription farming.

• Central Vancouver

This is the crossroads of the city. A stone’s throw south from Skyline Crest, Vancouver’s chief public-housing development, mansions along Old Evergreen Highway overlook the Columbia River. A stone’s throw north is the area’s biggest shopping mall and a growing collection of retirement and assisted-living facilities. All in one trip, you can explore water and wildlife along the Burnt Bridge Creek Greenway, peruse cars for sale at the Auto Mall, and get your oil changed at Sears.

Historic Vancouver Heights, center of the World War II-era housing boom that shaped the city we know today, won a friendly neighborhood beauty contest in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary. Nearby Harney Heights is currently considering a split into two neighborhoods, the upscale above and the downscale below.

Meanwhile, neighbors along arguably gaudy Old Evergreen Highway are always a little ambivalent about the lay of their own land: they want bike lanes and a walking trail, but they balk at the idea of paving their very pocked road -- because that would encourage speeding.n East Vancouver

Cascade Park marked the dawn of megadevelopment in Clark County, with 4,000 homes on 1,300 acres built in the late 1960s and 1970s. Its central artery is McGillivray Boulevard, posted at 25 mph and studded with stop signs but irresistible nonetheless to the lead-footed.

Megadevelopment went even more mega in the 1990s with Fisher’s Landing, where the private community association is king. The opening of Northeast 192nd Avenue has promoted still more development on the city’s eastern edge.

• Camas & Washougal

Luxury homes on Prune Hill and Lacamas Shores are stunning examples of Camas’ success in attracting high-paying, high-tech jobs to town. But north across Lacamas Lake, it remains a different world, with Fern Prairie’s farm fields, manufactured homes and public airport grappling with growth.

Steep woodlands near the county line conceal the Washougal Motocross Park, which draws 100,000 fans and racers annually up Washougal River Road. Down below, summer swimmers flocking to the Sandy Swimming Hole have been swamping parking lots and both sides of Shepherd Road -- leading the city to slow speeds and mark no-parking zones before somebody gets squashed.