Although Thanksgiving observances predate the founding of the United States, it was in 1863 that the occasion became a federal holiday. “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies,” President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed in establishing a holiday that has been observed each year since.
Notably, the nation was mired in the Civil War at the time, which tends to make our modern strife seem pedestrian by comparison. And as we pause today to count our blessings and, hopefully, set aside our disagreements for at least one day, we are struck by the many reasons residents of Clark County have to give thanks.
There is, for example, a land that we love, with mountains and prairies and oceans white with foam — all easily accessible for local residents. Clark County is blessed with uncommon natural beauty, a beauty that requires constant care and must not be taken for granted. Invoking the words of Lincoln, we have, indeed, benefited from fruitful fields and healthful skies in this part of the country, and with proper diligence those fields and skies will remain a hallmark of the region.
But beyond the natural blessings inherent to Clark County, there are some human-made reasons to give thanks for living in this area.
Among them is the fact that voters recently overwhelmingly indicated that they do not desire a huge oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver. The election for a port commissioner demonstrated that residents appreciate and value the natural beauty of the county and are not willing to risk that beauty at the behest of outside oil companies. The election was, undoubtedly, a victory for the future of Clark County.
At the same time, it was a victory for the project taking shape along the Columbia River upstream from the port. The Vancouver Waterfront development — which will include residences, office space, retail outlets and recreation opportunities — will transform the city and take advantage of a river that is the area’s greatest asset. By reopening the waterfront for the public, the project will reflect our deep connection with the Columbia.
Events involving the Port of Vancouver and the city’s waterfront development represent the fact that Vancouver is growing up and creating its own identity — an identity that can work in concert with the Portland metro area but also lend uniqueness to Clark County. We are thankful for that, yet there is so much more.
There is a bustling economy that is attracting and supporting a battalion of small, locally owned businesses. Clark County’s unemployment rate in September dipped to 4.5 percent, the sixth consecutive month the rate was at or below 5 percent.
There is development along Fourth Plain Boulevard, plus ambitious plans for The Landing along Mill Plain Boulevard and Columbia Palisades at 192nd Avenue and state Highway 14.
And there are efforts to renovate Providence Academy and Vancouver Barracks near the heart of the city, embracing pieces of the area’s past while preparing them for the future.
Through it all, we are reminded that there are many reasons for Clark County residents to give thanks this holiday. As we gather with friends and family that represent the most important things in life, we also are thankful for the attributes that make this area a wonderful place to live.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.