Major projects afoot in Woodland

New police station, jail, high school coming

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Woodland

Population: 5,590

Must see: Horseshoe Lake, Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens, Cedar Creek Grist Mill

Web: http://www.ci.woodland.wa.us;http://www.lewisriver.com

That climb over the 5,000-resident mark wasn’t just a numerical milestone. In September 2008, two additional members were appointed to Woodland’s city council, bringing the governing panel to seven members. That marked Woodland’s promotion from the “small city” category of Washington municipalities after its population topped 5,000.

Voters in November 2011 approved a 0.1 percentage point increase in the city’s sales tax to build a new police station and replace its aging 1970s-era jail. Last year, voters approved a $39.8 million bond issue that will build a new Woodland High School to accommodate 850 to 900 students.

In the hopes of increasing revenue for the city, Woodland decided to permit cardrooms, allowing the Oak Tree Casino to open in late 2011. The casino struggled, eventually shutting down in December 2012 after failing to pay its taxes for several months and make payroll.

Casino owners are working to finalize a deal to sell both the business and the property on which it sits. They hope the sale will pay off the cardroom’s growing debts.

In positive economic news, the increase in Woodland’s population and easy highway access recently brought big-box retailers to town.

A couple years ago, Walmart opened its 51st Washington store in Woodland at 1486 Dike Access Road. The store ditched the usual tire and express lube center to make room for a larger garden area to cater to the city’s outdoorsy residents.

Community celebrations in Woodland include the annual Planter’s Days, held on the third weekend in June. And the annual Tulip Festival is scheduled the weekends of April 13-14 and April 20-21.

Planter’s Days was first held in 1922, it is the longest continuously running civic celebration in the state. The festival celebrates the completion of the dikes along the Columbia and Lewis rivers that protected low-lying farms from flooding. This year’s event will run from June 13-16.

Another event — the annual lilac festival — commemorates Hulda Klager, who was 13 when her family came to Woodland in 1877. She became a renowned lilac breeder, and the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. This year’s Lilac Festival is April 20 through May 12, Mother’s Day.

Other regional attractions are the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, northeast of town. Built in 1876, it’s the oldest operating grist mill in the state.