Ridgefield braces for business growth

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter



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• Population: 5,210.

• Must see: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, annual Fourth of July Parade, annual Birdfest & Bluegrass event.

&#8226; Website: <a href="http://www.ci.ridgefield.wa.us">http://www.ci.ridgefield.wa.us</a>

• Population: 5,210.

• Must see: Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, annual Fourth of July Parade, annual Birdfest & Bluegrass event.

• Website: http://www.ci.ridgefield.wa.us

The city of Ridgefield is open for business. The key question is whether businesses will acquire land along the recently improved Interstate 5 corridor.

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 positive changes appear to be on the horizon for Ridgefield.

Single-family building permits were up in 2012, and the city has room to grow. Ridgefield has another 1,700 residential lots available. The city will also continue to emphasize bringing light industrial businesses to the city, where 1,200 acres of commercial land are available.

In the past decade, Ridgefield has grown faster than any city in the county. With a population gain of 122 percent between 2000 and 2010, Ridgefield has seen growth in housing, infrastructure and business development.

Even as businesses have moved into town, Ridgefield (pop. 5,210) 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. And leaders predict the population could multiply four or five times 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 wants to increase 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 include a welcome center near I-5, was further delayed in 2012 but may finally come to fruition this year.

The 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 winter habitat for the dusky species of Canada goose, and is a popular destination for bird watchers and nature lovers. The annual BirdFest event draws nature enthusiasts and music lovers to the refuge each October.

It’s not like Ridgefield’s leaders have 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 benefit the city’s comprehensive and downtown plans and the port’s waterfront plan.

In the meantime, Ridgefield’s doors will remain open to interested parties.