Neighborhoods: They’re where you are

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



Everyone lives in a neighborhood.

Yours might center on a quiet crossroads or a corner store where folks stop for milk and mail. A walled subdivision with row upon row of starter homes, or set-back split-levels on looping, sidewalkless streets.

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

The Columbian’s Neighbors team carved Clark County into nine zones to broaden our coverage of neighborhood news. Using that zoned map, here’s a sample of history and happenings in our neighborhoods:

North Clark County

Views of Mount St. Helens are downright startling up here. So is the building boom that’s adding homes to the landscape north of the Lewis River’s east fork, once the domain of loggers. Yacolt recently celebrated its centennial and the arrival of a new postmaster, but still hasn’t set up its own city Web site.

Those who don’t want to live in the country frequently visit and learn about it at Pomeroy Living History Farm near Yacolt and the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, east of Woodland.

Ridgefield & Fairgrounds

South of the Ridgefield city limits is the sprawling Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, which has been at the forefront of spectacular growth battles in recent years — from new subdivisions alongside working farms to the arrival of the 18,000-capacity Clark County Amphitheater in 2003. Since then, the amphitheater has proved a reliable money-loser, and county government gave it an $11 million break in 2008. The fairgrounds has hosted the annual county fair since 1955.

Across I-5, the little hamlet of Duluth endured a huge road expansion project, including a new freeway interchange. Don & Jo’s Drive-In restaurant survived, but development pressure is building.

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 countryside. The city is updating fast, matching new subdivisions with a skate park, a community center and other people-friendly infrastructure.

Open space, country living and old-world tradition still abound in eastern areas such as Hockinson and Venersborg, settled by Finns and Swedes early in the last century. Grange halls in Barberton and Manor have served as community centers for decades, and still do.

Hazel Dell, Felida & Salmon Creek

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

Neighborhood leaders and county officials 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.

Meanwhile, the county has unfrozen growth around Salmon Creek’s legendary traffic hairball — where a Wal-Mart has been cleared for construction around the corner from the growing campus of Washington State University Vancouver.

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 plans (economy permitting) to build upwards of 1,000 homes in the heart of Clark County’s bread basket. The county just completed a 240-acre park and sports complex here.

West Vancouver

Trees are lush, sidewalks go places and homes tend to be older and well-tended on the west side.

A big change in recent years is the resuscitation of Fruit Valley, a neighborhood of sturdy, lunch-box homes on the decline until residents and officials masterminded a plan for new housing and a new school offering child care, social services and award-winning architecture.

The neighborhood hasn’t looked this good in a long time. And since an overpass is now being built to carry 39th Street over the west-side railway yard, the days of a perennial motoring nuisance are numbered.

Central Vancouver: Minnehaha & The Heights

This is the crossroads of the city. A stone’s throw from Skyline Crest, Vancouver’s chief public-housing development, mansions overlook the Columbia River.

Historic Vancouver Heights, center of the World War II-era housing boom for shipyard workers that shaped the city we know today, won a friendly neighborhood beauty contest in honor of the city’s 150th anniversary in 2007. All in one trip, you can explore water and wildlife along the new Burnt Bridge Creek walkway, peruse cars for sale at the Auto Mall, and get your oil changed at Sears.

East Vancouver: Cascade Park, Fisher’s Landing & Evergreen

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.

North across Lacamas Lake, it’s a different world, with Fern Prairie’s farm fields, manufactured homes and public airport grappling with growth.

Meanwhile, Washougal is struggling to catch up, with high-end homes rising on Woodburn Hill. Steep woodlands near the county line conceal the Washougal Motocross Park, which draws 100,000 fans and racers annually up Washougal River Road.