Monday, July 08, 2024

Monkey, New Columbia

Next up in the ongoing public art thing, we're looking at a kinda-disturbing monkey statue located outside the New Columbia Apartments complex, across the street from McCoy Park in North Portland. This was created by Nigerian-born artist Mufu Ahmed, who also did the squirrel and salmon park benches over in the park. I really liked those, so maybe my issue with this one is that monkeys are inherently kind of disturbing. The internet says this is one of three Ahmed animal statues at the apartment complex, the others being a heron and a lizard, possibly gecko, or maybe a chameleon. I'm going to go with chameleon, based solely on the fact that it's located just steps away from the monkey and I apparently walked right past it without noticing.

This post was stuck in Drafts for years because I didn't have the info in the last paragraph (including, frankly, what it's supposed to be; I was thinking it was some kind of unholy hybrid, possibly a greyhound with a human face). Repeated internet searches over time failed to return any useful results, and I had largely given up on solving this one. But the search engine gods were off their game recently and allowed an actually useful result to sneak into the first dozen pages or so of ads and irrelevant results and general spam. It turns out the info I was looking for has been out there on the internet this entire time, in a 2006 post on the old Portland Public Art blog. Said blog has been "on hiatus" since 2009 and somehow, every now and then, it still turns out to have the answers I'm looking for when nobody else does. I don't know anything at all about the mysterious "C" behind the blog, but I hope they're enjoying their extended hiatus and are out living their best life.

On that note I should probably say something about the other art you can see if you make the trek to McCoy Park to gawk at the weird monkey statue. Across the street to the west, McCoy Park is home to a kid-friendly fountain, along with the aforementioned benches, a moon-n-stars inlay in the sidewalk, and an art fence around the park's community garden.

The community center across the street to the south also has some art to look at, like Green Silver on the roof of the building. The RACC website says there's more stuff to see inside, which I didn't know at the time, so that's left as an exercise for the reader, I guess.

One thing you won't see here is Ancestor Tree, a ginormous thingamabob made from the roots of a tree that was torn out for the New Columbia project. It was dedicated in 2005, and spent the next few years weirding people out while also beginning to rot subtly. By 2012 it was already so far gone that they decided to just tear it out on safety grounds. There was talk of replacing it for a while, but it's been over a decade now that hasn't happened yet, probably for budgetary reasons. Which is ironic given that tree roots technically do grow on trees. But hey, what do I know...

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Unseen Worlds

Next up we're back in industrial North Portland for another installment in the ongoing public art series. This time[1] we're taking a look at Unseen Worlds (2002) by artist Fernanda d'Agostino (whose work has appeared here a lot). This comes to us via Portland's Bureau of Environmental Services, specifically their Columbia Blvd. Wastewater Treatment Plant, which is one reason the mainstream guides for tourists don't tell you this is a must-see. (C'mon, stop snickering for a minute and let's pretend we're all serious people having a serious chat about capital-A Art for a minute.) Here's the official RACC description, which is repeated across several pages covering different sub-categories of the art here:

The artworks along this path depict various aspects of the wetlands and reparian environments of the site. You’ll find images of microorganisms and macro invertebrates used to test water quality. The paving inlays hint at the tidal nature of the slough. The Dendritic Bridge frames a view of the intersection of industrial and natural landscapes and you’ll find a bird list for the site beneath your feet. Birdhouses provide bird habitat and the perches reference feathers, beaks and some of the tools used in the sewer treatment plant. Looking through the three holes in the Periscope Stone you’ll see the favorite perch for Bald Eagles that frequent the park in early spring, the composter at the treatment plant, and the biggest snag (favorite all round habitat) on the site.

So why is this here? The art's located along a side branch of the Columbia Slough Trail skirts around the east side of the plant. On the south end, it almost[2] connects you to the Peninsula Crossing Trail, Evidently either the trail, or the Inverness bridge, or the Big Pipe, or some other capital project here generated enough Percent for Art money to fund some art and, I guess, give trail users something less sewer-y to look at and think about on their way through the area. Which I guess is nice if you're a squeamish grownup with delicate sensibilities, which covers just about everyone here. I mean, the agency's name -- "Bureau of Environmental Services" -- is a euphemism, and they would apparently be thrilled if the public saw them as the agency that's somehow in charge of herons and salmon and rain, and their engineers spend their days working on the city's mystical bond with same. Or something along those lines anyway.

But that's just one way to approach the problem. Next time BES has a major capital project here -- and there's bound to be another one sooner or later -- I hereby propose we put the city's eight year olds in charge of the whole public art program. I mean, grade school kids generally, but especially the eight year olds. And instead of no-fun grownups guiding them toward another batch of the same old tasteful nature art that everyone's supposed to like -- instead of doing that we really lean into whatever the eight year olds come up with, just this once. Obviously in general this is no way to run a city, and calling them "subject matter experts" is kind of a stretch, but they at least spend a lot of time giggling about the topic.

Also it's not like this would be unprecedented in the wider art world, although most of the examples that come back in a quick interweb search seem to be unintentional.

  • The, ah, tightly coiled new W Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. I mean, it's Scotland -- even if people thought it looked like a local walnut-chocolate snack, or a "haute couture blindfold", rather than a big pile of poo, they wouldn't admit to it.
  • Meanwhile in Philadelphia (possibly America's answer to Scotland), the local art museum acquired one of those giant Claes Oldenburg sculptures in 2011. Paint Torch is a 51' high tilted paintbrush, with a nearby blob of red paint, celebrating the art of painting. And that's all it was until one day in 2015 when artist Kid Hazo happened along and attached a grinning mouth and two big googly eyes to the paint blob, which was instantly and utterly transformed. In an age of omni-surveillance and zero tolerance everything, this is the only kind of art intervention that works: It can be undone in seconds, but can't be unseen no matter how much time elapses.
  • Meanwhile in Boston, in 2023 the city welcomed The Embrace, the city's weird but official new MLK memorial. Said to be inspired by a photo of MLK hugging Corretta Scott King shortly after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, the $10M giant-sized art tries and fails to show just the hug in a sorta-minimalist way by depicting a tangled nightmare of disembodied arms and general biology, inspiring scatological thoughts over on Reddit.
  • San Jose, California's 1994 statue of the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl depicts him coiled like a rattlesnake, and seen from a certain distance bystanders tend to just see the coiled shape and draw conclusions. General consensus seems to be that even if it was a poo emoji statue, it's still an upgrade over the statue it replaced, a pioneer so odious he was canceled way back in 1988.
  • In Chicago, an artist made a fountain depicting a semi-realistic pile of the stuff, even labeling it "SHIT FOUNTAIN" to remove any lingering doubt. Seems he created it to criticize his neighbors for not cleaning up after their dogs.
  • Meanwhile in Rotterdam, back in 2018, a local art museum hosted a Vienna-based art collective and their giant photorealistic logs of poo. They may have realized, late in the process, that this might not be quite enough to get a rise out of jaded Dutch museum-goers, and added another conceptual bit to the mix:
    Now, the sculptures rest on Persian rugs and are stared at by visitors wearing naked suits featuring various shapes and sizes of male and female sexual parts.

    For Gantner, the naked suits are “a gift to visitors” that enhance the exhibition and their own experience of it.

    “You step into the costume and you immediately transform into another being. People don’t know anymore what your job is, if you’re rich, poor, male or female, so you forget a little bit about all these rules.”
  • Which brings us to Orlando, Florida, where we meet the most crass one of all, a giant walk-in inflatable poo emoji that was in town temporarily to promote some sort of deodorizer spray.

Since I'm way too old to submit ideas to the contest I just suggested, and I'm also not an official artist and ineligible if they did a boring regular art proposal process, let me just tell you my idea. You know how grand entrances to important buildings are often flanked by art of guardian animals, right? Things like sculptures of lions sitting outside library entrances. Imagine a pair of giant stainless steel poo emojis, grinning as they flank the main entrance to the plant. Coiling in opposite directions to maintain classical symmetry, and bidding the visitor welcome to where the magic happens.


Footnotes

[1]. About this post

You might have noticed that the photos in this post are a bit subpar and few in number. If you look closer you might notice they were taken wayyy back in 2014. This is another one of those posts that lingered around in drafts for ages because I couldn't figure out what it was called, and without a name I don't even have a title for the post, and the rest of the research gets pretty difficult, too, and I'd basically given up on this one but never got around to deleting it. Then a few days ago I was poking around on the revamped RACC website again and noticed entries for the art next to the sewer plant, and I will swear up and down and three times sideways that these database entries didn't exist until quite recently. So this time I couldn't move forward because the website that's supposed to be the single source of truth about these things just sort of neglected to mention the art here, for unknown reasons.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Little Jack Falls

Next up we're visiting another obscure waterfall along the lower Columbia River. Little Jack Falls is a short distance from Jack Falls, on an abandoned stretch of the old Lower Columbia River Highway, outside of tiny Prescott, OR, where the old Trojan nuclear plant used to be. The state still owns the old stretch of road, and it's still largely passable with one big exception we'll get to shortly (or you'll just see in the photoset here).

Getting to the falls involves simply walking along the old road for a bit, and you can start at either the bottom or the top. I've only been there via the lower sorta-trailhead so far, and that route involves parking somewhere near the US 30 intersection with Graham Road, then crossing 30 when it's safe, and looking for a trail starting around where concrete barriers turn into metal guardrails. From there, follow the old highway uphill until you get to Jack Falls, first. Have a look at the falls, and the cute little historic bridge that the creek goes over, then keep going uphill until you get to Little Jack Falls. You can't miss it, or I hope you can't, because sadly the original LCRH bridge that was here is completely gone now, and absentmindedly falling into the gap would mean a long tumble down a steep slope to the edge of the present-day highway.

If the way here, and especially the area right around the falls, look a bit less natural and magical than similar spots in the Gorge, it might be the invasive ivy currently overrunning the vicinity. The airquote-fun detail about this situation is that it was intentional, at first. A 1915 Oregonian article concerning a long drive from Portland to Astoria in a shiny new Reo automobile mentions that the original landscaping around the base of Little Jack Falls included decorative plantings of ivy, for a complete dumbass reason. A 1920 state highway report includes some photos of the ongoing roadwork along this stretch of the highway, then under construction, and the whole area had obviously been clearcut shortly before the road went in. So to make it look less bare and desolate here, they planted one of the rare few things that isn't an improvement over bare dirt.

The ivy situation really complicates things here, if the state ever decides to renovate this stretch of the old highway. The ivy isn't just a nasty invasive plant, it's also an important part of the historical context and built landscape around here, and that would make it illegal, verging on sacreligious, to ever tear it out or let goats nibble on it, or otherwise prevent it from spreading as it sees fit. So that ought to be an especially fun series of angry public meetings.

Also, Little Jack Falls is almost certainly haunted, if you believe in that sort of thing. As noted in the Jack Falls post, there used to be a collection of abandoned buildings either here or at the other waterfall, depending on which oral history you believe, and that spot became a hideout for a gang of outlaws, but they all died in a shootout and their loot has never been found (and is presumably still around here somewhere). Couple of additional strange incidents happened here, decades later, which makes me think Little Jack is the waterfall with the outlaw ghosts and the hidden treasure: In August 1922, an intercity bus was driving along through here when a man randomly shot two fellow passengers just as they passed Little Jack Falls, killing one of them. Then in 1947 a duck hunter parked at the falls, intending to go hunting in the nearby marshes (close where the nuclear plant would be decades later), and was never seen again. Ok, that or he turned up uneventfully after the media lost interest and lived happily ever after, possibly under a new name. Most likely it was one of those things or the other, at any rate. If a lost hunter from 1947 somehow encountered sci-fi atomic radiation from 1997 and became a kaiju-sized ravenous man-duck hybrid, you'd think someone would have noticed by now. Unless maybe he's not ready to burst forth from underground yet, in which case he'll probably show up in 2047 after marinating in bad swamp mojo for a century, and comic-book radiation for the second half of that century. But it wouldn't hurt to keep a closer eye on the area in 2027 and 2037 in case I got the math wrong somehow.

On a more cheerful note, I think you said earlier that you wanted to know where the name came from. And to that end we have a 1915 Oregon Journal article that explains the falls are named for the young son of District Engineer Thompson. The article does not explain whether Jack Falls is also named after the kid and the "Little" describes the falls, or maybe the kid was "Little Jack" and Jack Falls is named after his dad. Some future historian with access to more sources will have to figure that one out for us.

One feature of the upper route (and thus not pictured here) is the old Prescott Point Viaduct, which was considered an engineering marvel of its day (though bridge pedants would like to point out that it's technically just a half-viaduct). Some photos on that page show another reason why they used this route and not the current one, namely that the present-day route was either part of the river, or a river-adjacent swamp, back then, and the route only became buildable after levees went in, around 1938-39. The half-viaduct here and another elsewhere cost $5k in 1918 dollars.

Unlike Jack Falls down the road, the creek is apparently not part of anyone's water supply. The eponymous Little Jack Falls Water System -- the local utility for a handful of area residents -- draws from a nearby spring and not the creek itself. I know this thanks to their 2001 state licensing form (if you're curious what one of those looks like), which also tells us the current operators (as of 2001) had owned & run it since 1976. This factoid is not really relevant to much of anything; it's mostly that while researching a different waterfall post I realized that small water utilities were effectively unregulated in Oregon until the early 1980s, and what came out of your tap could be a real crapshoot, scatological pun intended. And yes, that was a transparent attempt to get visitors to go read a second post here, even though I don't make a penny off this weird little blog either way.

Jack Falls

A while back we paid a visit to Beaver Falls, a now-obscure waterfall that used to be a scenic highlight of the old Lower Columbia River Highway. Which was the predecessor of today's US 30 between Portland and Astoria, and the continuation of the famous Columbia River Highway that meanders through the Gorge. It's not widely known anymore that there's anything worth stopping to see along the road to Astoria, but in this post we're going to visit another one.

This time we're near the small city of Prescott (pop. 55), which is on the Columbia River just downstream from the former Trojan nuclear power plant, the inspiration for The Simpsons' Springfield Nuclear Plant. I mention that just because nobody knows where Prescott is. I honestly didn't either until I went looking for waterfalls nearby. The town (and plant site) are on a rocky area that was probably an island once, now connected to the "mainland" by a large swampy wetland area, bordered by east-facing steep bluffs. Present-day US 30 runs along the base of the bluffs near Prescott and then climbs a steep grade to the community of Lindbergh and the city of Rainier a short distance past there.

There were two basic obstacles to using the present-day route, When the old road first went in, the average 1920s passenger car could not have handled the steeper parts of the present-day highway, and instead the road used to climb the hill on a gentle continuous grade from the intersection with Graham Road (the main road to Prescott) up to the top of the hill over the course of about a mile. There was no obvious way to expand this route to four lanes, so the after the current route opened the old way uphill was simply abandoned to the forest. And it's remained that way ever since, surprisingly intact in most places, beneath a protective layer of moss and decades of fallen leaves. It's going to be our trail today.

Abandoned along with the old road was any official access to two waterfalls that until then had been scenic highlights of the road to the coast. Jack Falls (here) and Little Jack Falls (just down the road) were either a.) both named for a child of an engineering manager on the construction project, or b.) one is named after the kid and the other after his dad, and they were never renamed with native-sounding names of dubious origin like they did throughout the Gorge. In this post we're looking at Jack Falls, since it's the one you encounter first if you're coming from below, i.e. the Prescott end of the road. The link above goes to the companion post about the other waterfall.

But first you have to find the old road that takes you to them. A 2017 OregonWaterfalls post explains how to get there: Turn off US 30 at Graham Road and park in a turnout near the intersection. The road is on a levee between two wetland areas, and any other vehicles parked here will most likely be birdwatchers. Rather than joining them, go back to the US30 intersection, wait for a gap in traffic, and carefully cross the highway. You'll need to hop over a guardrail on the other side, ideally near where the metal guardrail turns into concrete barriers. Initially you're looking for a plain old unmarked trail heading into the forest. When I was there, there were several fallen trees and assorted other debris right when you walked into the forest, and it would be easy to conclude you were going the wrong way. If you keep going, pretty soon it opens up and it looks like, well, a leaf-covered road with the occasional fallen tree across it, and patches of ivy here and there. If you clear away the debris layer, you'll find there's still a mostly-intact asphalt road down there, and traces of painted lane markings are still visible in parts. Ok, there are occasional hidden cracks in the pavement that you could easily wedge a foot into, which would be a fun way to break an ankle if you aren't paying attention, and if anything trips you, you might fall onto devil's club or maybe poison oak. But generally you can just follow an existing boot path through the ivy for decent footing and ways around whatever debris is on the road. In a couple of spots some anonymous volunteer has obviously sawed up a lot of the debris to remove blockages. So any masked individuals with chainsaws you might encounter along this stretch of abandoned road are most likely friendly and benevolent local community members.

Anyway, now that you've found the road, finding the waterfall should be easy enough. Look to your left and uphill. If you see a waterfall, you're there. If you don't, but it's late summer and you're standing on an old HCRH-style stone/concrete bridge over a dry creekbed, you're also there, most likely. Otherwise continue walking forward and do this check again in a few minutes. Check your GPS coordinates against the map above. Seriously, I found it with no trouble and so can you. Once there, you can do some advanced influencer yoga poses for the 'Gram (watch out for gravel), or dance a jig for TikTok, or go off on a spittle-flecked conspiracy rant for X (formerly Twitter), or whatever your content creation routine happens to be in the year 2024 AD. And after that you can either turn around and go home, or keep going to Little Jack Falls. Which is a whole other blog post, because of a rule I made up years ago. If you hit a point where parts of the road have fallen away and it narrows to roughly trail width for a short distance, you've gone too far and wandered into the other blog post, and if the road fades out entirely and beyond it is nothing but dragons, it means I haven't hit 'Publish' on that other post yet.

But you're still here, so: Congratulations, you're at Jack Falls, and the odds are pretty good that you don't know jack about it. But that's about to change, thanks to this brief but inevitable dump of facts about it:

  • It's about 75' tall by most estimates, a whopping 5 feet taller than Little Jack Falls just up the road.
  • Except that the little in the name isn't about which is taller, but because the construction manager for this stretch of highway had a young son who went by "Little Jack", which I think means Jack Falls is named after his dad. I'm not sure, though; the old Oregon Journal article I got this factoid from doesn't mention Jack Falls at all and doesn't address how that name came about.
  • In fact, as far as I can determine no Portland periodical has ever printed a single word about Jack Falls. The only news items I've ever seen about it were in the Saint Helens Mist, a long-vanished periodical of the early 20th century:
    • An October 1916 issue of the St. Helens Mist - county appropriated money to build present-day Graham Rd. to connect to the old highway, which was there first apparently. so the road into town is where it is because of the abandoned old highway
    • A July 1917 issue of the same paper seems to indicate there was a local road here before the full highway, which would have been some kind of narrow gravel road. That sounds a little too exciting, if you ask me.
    • And regarding the general perception that the old highway was a bit... unsafe, an October 1922 personal injury court case relating to a car crash on the stretch of road past little jack falls on the way to rainier.
  • Oh, and before anyone asks, as sketchy as it may look, we are doing this 100% legally. The state hung onto the right-of-way for the old highway route after closing it to traffic; they seem to do this a lot in rural or natural areas, I guess to keep all their future options open. On top of that, Columbia County GIS says the City of Prescott owns the falls, which they'd originally bought as a sort of miniature Bull Run watershed, as I understand it, though they aren't currently using it for that.
  • A circa-2018 mention of Jack Falls on reddit, OP was looking for hikes near St. Helens, one reply mentions the falls and notes someone had rigged up a hose & ball valve to it for some reason. I didn't see any amenities like that when visiting, so it may be long gone by now. Unless maybe someone's very determined that Jack Falls needs a hose, for secret reasons, and clandestinely installs new ones as needed. Either way, there either is or isn't a hose and/or ball valve like this right now, and it may or may not be there at whatever time you visit.
  • The Google Maps entry for includes seven photos, mostly of the right waterfall, while elsewhere on the interwebs I came across six Flickr photos, three Instagram posts, and one mention (with a photo) at Recreating the HCRH.
  • Also we've got two dueling oral histories to consider, both interviews with local oldtimers. This one was recorded in 1961 and mostly recounts the history of sawmills at Prescott; the town's brief heyday as a cosmopolitan seaport, exporting products overseas directly from the local mill; the town's contribution to the war effort in WWII, etc., and we're told in passing that there was a school somewhere around Little Jack Falls really early on, before the present-day town really got going. A competing history relays the facts differently:
    Ed: Before Prescott there was a town and a mill up by Jack Falls. It had a school and some vacant buildings. A gang of crooks were supposed to be holed up there and were killed in a shootout. The money was never found.

    Ok, that's more like it. If you're a gang of crooks, and you're holed up near a waterfall, odds are you aren't doing it for the scenery or the relaxing white noise. No, the only reason you're likely to do this is if you're hiding something behind the waterfall. Could be the legendary lost treasure that "Ed" mentioned, could be an escape tunnel for avoiding shootouts, could be lots of things. It's just that nobody knows anymore which falls this happened at. My money's on Little Jack since it just looks better for concealing things, though the main drop of Jack Falls up toward the top of the bluff might be viable too. Either way, any henchmen who died in the shootout (not having been told about any secret escape tunnels) are probably still there as angry ghosts skulking around haunting whichever falls is the right one.

Naturally there's another, larger Jack Falls in Oregon, located along the Umpqua River east of Roseburg. And even more naturally there's a Fall(s) Creek Falls relatively close to both falls named Jack Falls , because you're never very far from a Fall(s) Creek in the wet parts of the Northwest. Thanks again, unimaginative pioneers!

The Fall Creek Falls in Columbia County is right in Clatskanie just off OR 47, behind the park with the baseball diamonds. It's very much privately owned, and the current owner is trying to make a go of it as an event venue and does not welcome visitors outside My personal preference is always going to be that scenic places ought to be public places, open to all and sundry with little or no red tape. But given the small population of the county, and the usual rural Oregon aversion to paying taxes for anything, this may be the best realistic outcome. I mean, Columbia County has had at least three waterfalls on the books as county parks (Beaver Falls, Lava Creek Falls, Carcus Creek Falls) for over a century now without doing much of anything with them, so if they came into possession of another one now it would probably just end up last in line behind the others. And if the county doesn't have the money, chances are the city of Clatskanie doesn't either. I'm telling you all this now because the only way I'm likely to end up with photos of Clatskanie's Fall Creek Falls (and thus the only way you get a post about those falls) is if someone out there needs a junior assistant wedding photographer and you don't really care whether my photos of your most cherished moments are any good -- which is a legitimate possibility since I've never actually done wedding photos before. And you also don't care that I shoo everyone out of frame a few times so I can just get undisturbed photos of the falls and nothing else. If asked by curious guests, I would just say that my creative process requires it, and not elaborate further. That's usually enough to end conversations and not become a distraction on your special day. So yeah, if you want to see a "Fall Creek Falls (Clatskanie)" post here someday, and you're up for helping make that happen, all you need to do is find your soulmate and get together, choose this specific place as your venue, invite me (as explained above) and somehow convince me the invite isn't some kind of weird scam or kidnapping attempt or timeshare presentation, and afterward remind me a few times so the post doesn't get lost in Drafts for ages.

And while we're talking about potential future events: The thing that really struck me on this trip was the old highway and its current conditions. I am just barely old enough to remember that long stretches of the old Columbia River Highway in the Gorge used to look just like this, back before present-day restoration efforts got going. You don't have to be a TED-talking, outside-the-boxing think-o-brain visionary to wonder if the same thing would work here too. The Portland bike community is forever making noise about needing at least one less-unsafe route between the city and the coast; maybe a "Historic Lower Columbia Highway State Trail" is the way to make this happen. It would inevitably be a bike-centric trail (vs a hiking one), even more so than the HCRH trail. The scenic highlights are usually separated by long stretches of just farm country and no nature to speak of. A lot of the work is just putting up signs marking the original route, and sharing the road on still-in-use rural backroads, and probably redesigning some intersections with present-day US30 since the meandering original route crosses back and forth over the current route quite a few times. ODOT could turn a few four-way stops into freeway intersections, which they're pretty good at and are always up for. Also throw some money at local scenic and natural attractions and hopefully persuade a few people to stop off along the way and spend some money in Saint Helens, Rainier, Clatskanie, and the other old river towns along the way. So that's in general; for the segment of road we just visited, that would be restored like some old HCRH parts: Reopened just to bikes & pedestrians, maybe with a safer way for people to get across Highway 30 at both both ends, and more parking at the lower end of the route. Maybe a crosswalk, maybe a skybridge, depending on how likely you think drivers will be to stop at the new signal. Maybe combine the old existing right-of-way with Prescott's old watershed area and declare it a new state park. If possible include the other nearby road segments to the logical east/physical south. Replace the Little Jack Falls bridge, maybe not an exact replica of the one that failed, seems like they built it too close to the falls for effect.

Anyway, that's Jack Falls. Stay tuned (or keep walking) for the Little Jack installment of this exciting adventure...

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Akebono Statue, Waikiki

Next up we've got a rare semi-topical post: I was over in Honolulu again recently and noticed an enormous (and also exactly life-sized) statue of the legendary sumo wrestler Akebono Tarō that I didn't recall seeing before. So I took a few photos and continued on my way. Shortly after flying back, it was announced that he had passed away at age 54, after several years of health problems. So this post is relevant to a news headline you might have seen recently, for once.

There's a statue of him in Hawaii because he was born here, and grew up over in Waimanalo, a little farm town over on the windward side of Oʻahu. He became fascinated by the sport and eventually moved to Japan to seek his fortune as a wrestler, adopting the stage name "Akebono". In 1993 he became the first non-Japanese wrestler to achieve the rank of yokozuna, the very highest grand champion rank in the sport, making him just the 64th yokozuna since the beginning of (surviving) written records back in the 1640s. This was good for about 15 minutes of fame on the US mainland, a degree of minor celebrity in Hawaii, and of course fame and a great deal of curiosity in Japan. After retiring in 2001, he tried his hand at kickboxing and MMA before ending up in pro wrestling until old injuries and ill health caught up to him in the late 2010s. And if you think I'm going into more detail than usual, let me warn you about the perils of sumo Wikipedia. Which is a serious rabbit hole, dug by an improbably large rabbit.

As for the statue, it was created by local artist Barbara Kamille (a.k.a. "KaMille"), obviously sometime after 1993 (but I don't know when exactly), and was originally located at a Waimanalo mini-mall. It was either knocked over or fell over on its own once in 2016 but was quickly repaired, though some damage is still visible on his right foot if you look closely. Then the store it sat in front of closed in 2022, and the owners put the word out that it needed a new home ASAP. The owner of Sam's Kitchen, a Waikiki seafood restaurant, randomly stumbled across it while searching Craigslist for "champion", that being a leading brand of industrial-grade bakery mixer, and it sounds like he was immediately transfixed by the statue and knew he had to have it, and the rest is history.

There isn't a lot about the artist on the internet, but there are a few other KaMille sculptures in Waikiki on the grounds of the Hilton Hawaiian Village complex, including a menehune king, a deer spirit, and a group of tapa cloth makers working. The location is probably why I don't remember seeing any of them and have no photos. You are virtually guaranteed to get lost there, if you can even find your way in. It's supposed to be one of those all-encompassing resorts that is deliberately hard to leave, like most of Las Vegas. Which is great for the sort of tourist who gets freaked out by a little urban grit, a category that somehow includes many Japanese tourists as well as the sort of US mainland tourist who just comes here to see Pearl Harbor and generally wallow in all things World War II. Anyway, I like a good challenge, and now that I know there's something to see in there, I may have to go explore the Hilton labyrinth sometime if I'm in the area.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Lahui

Next up we're visiting Lahui (1992), a sculpture by Sean Kekamakupa‘a Lee Loy Browne at the entrance to Honolulu's Kaka‘ako Neighborhood Park. Kaka‘ako is sort of like Portland's South Waterfront, an old industrial area being forcibly gentrified with a great deal of governmental involvement and investment. The park itself was formerly an oceanfront landfill, later sealed and capped with a city park around 1990, which IIRC was shortly after the federal EPA clarified that oceanfront landfills were officially no bueno. Understandably you are not encouraged to go in the water here, and there's no beach to bum around on anyway, just waves crashing on a rough stone seawall.

The word "lahui" roughly means "nation" in Hawaiian. Which is understandably a very loaded word in Hawaii. So instead of telling us more about the art, a search on the name brings up links like:

  • An academic article: "Urban aloha ‘aina: Kaka‘ako and a decolonized right to the city"
  • The state Office of Hawaiian Affairs's Kaka‘ako Makai plan, which gave OHA a few chunks of valuable land around the edges of the park, as compensation for $200M the state owed but had neglected to provide since 1978. Supposed to develop as a revenue source for the benefit of Native Hawaiian communities. Or that's the plan anyway. A look at the city GIS system shows the OHA land is mostly surface parking lots at present.
  • A controversial 2018 homeless crackdown in the park
  • A 2018 event with the artist at the University of Redlands in California, which came up as a search result because the page includes a long list of public art credits, including Lahui here.

Browne also created the Kresser memorial in downtown, a couple of statues of Hawaiian royals around Waikiki, and a variety of other things that have appeared here over the years.

Fred Kresser Memorial, Honolulu

The next stop on our long-running public art tour is another bit of abstract art in downtown Honolulu, at the corner of Bishop St. and Hotel St. This is the Fred Kresser Memorial Sculpture, honoring a local businessman who was one of seven people who died in the bizarre 1983 Sentosa cable car accident in Singapore, in which a tall drilling derrick on an oil rig snagged overhead cable car lines as it the rig was towed underneath. This was blamed on negligence by several parties including the oil rig and towing operator; the cable car system was repaired and remains a major tourist attraction. I mention this because I think I'd like to visit Singapore someday, going by multiple reports from friends and relatives, and would rather not be turned away at their reportedly amazing airport for bringing up this unfortunate isolated incident from a very long time ago that was somebody else's fault anyway. I'm only mentioning it at all because I can't explain the art otherwise, ok?

Apparently there's another small memorial somewhere along the Mo‘ili‘ili side of the Ala Wai Canal, just titled "Dad's Rock", but I don't know where it is and have no photos of it.

The sculpture was created by local artist Sean K.L. Browne, who also did the King Kalakaua statue in Waikiki as well as Lahui, the abstract sculpture at the entrance to Kaka'ako Neighborhood Park. I also have a draft post about Lahui that's been hanging around unpublished for ages now, so I think I'll try to finish both today and then update them to point at each other.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Mead Creek Falls

Ok, next up we're taking a peek at another very, very obscure Columbia Gorge waterfall. Mead Creek Falls is nearly 200' high, and it's a short stroll from one of the busiest trailheads in the Gorge and maybe the entire Northwest, but nobody's seen or heard of it, and we're going to go see why.

If you're on the old Columbia River Highway, heading east from Bridal Veil Falls, it's about half a mile to the intesection with Palmer Mill Road, a lightly-used, steep, narrow, sketchy gravel road that follows Bridal Veil Creek up into the hills. The intersection is paved, though, and officially doubles as overflow parking for the incredibly popular Angels Rest Trail. Shortly before you get to the intersection, looking to your right, you might notice a small stream that's flowing partly in an ugly semi-corroded steel pipe. To your left, the creek continues downhill a bit and then vanishes underground. From there it flows in a pipe under the old Bridal Veil sawmill site and then I-84, and joins the Columbia in that undignified state. Seems pretty unpromising at first glance, but I was looking at a couple of state GIS maps recently (as one does) and noticed a couple of things. First, the state LIDAR map (which I reference a lot here) showed the creek going over a 180'-200' sheer cliff a short distance upstream of Palmer Mill Road. And second, the state map of fish migration barriers had an entry for the ODOT-owned culvert carrying the creek under the old highway, and that map item said the creek was called "Mead Creek". It's not a USGS-approved official name, but at least one state agency has a name for the thing, and that's official-ish enough as far as I'm concerned. So with those two bits of information in hand, it was time to go look for the mysterious Mead Creek Falls and take a picture or two to prove it exists.

So I hit the road on New Years Day. It was a surprisingly slow day at Angels Rest, so I was able to find a parking space in the overflow lot. From there, I walked up Palmer Mill Road for maybe 100' or so to the creek. I only saw the one creek, so it wasn't hard to find. Turning and facing upstream, there's a short side street or former driveway branching off just to the left (east) of the creek. (I think this was actually for the old mill town's primitive and disgusting drinking water system.) I started walking that direction and soon noticed a boot path to the right, heading uphill and back toward the creek. So I followed that, but it sort of peters out before long when the route gets steeper, and after that it's just bushwhacking uphill folowing the creek, and hopping across it as needed, and trying to avoid blundering into thickets of devil's club if you can help it. After maybe 1000' of this (and 300 vertical feet, much of it on loosely-piled river rocks) I eventually came across an RV-sized boulder a short distance from the base of the falls, and didn't see an obvious way to get around it while staying safe and dry, and I figured the boulder was close enough for now, so I took another batch of photos and turned around.

I'd love to say the falls are a hidden gem, but I was frankly a bit underwhelmed. They're as tall as I expected, and the setting feels like a near-twin of Lautourell Falls, lichen-covered cliffs and all, and it would be a spectacular crown jewel of the Gorge, if only there was more water going over the falls. But as it is, it looks a bit dwarfed by its surroundings. The asterisk here is that I've only been there once so far, and I have no idea whether this is a typical rate of flow or not. The winter of 2023-24 had been unusually warm and dry up to that point, and maybe potential visitors just need to wait for the next big winter storm, or hold off and wait to visit in a non-El Niño winter. Or maybe invent a time machine and travel back a few centuries to when the upper creek was fed by dense old growth forests and global CO2 levels were more reasonable.

Or who knows -- I haven't really explored the sorta-plateau above the falls at all, but it's said to be a confusing labyrinth of old logging roads and unofficial trails, full of random items that random people have lost or dumped or built up there over the last century or two. (See for example a 2013 OregonHikers thread, "More Lost Trails in the Gorge".) As I understand it, presently there are abandoned cabins in varying states of collapse; a bullet-riddled 1941 Chrysler and parts of other discarded vehicles; a few surviving train parts from the logging railroad era; at least one vintage Jet Ski, supposedly; remains of abandoned pre-legalization weed farms, and it's anybody's guess what else. There's probably one of everything up there. Every last lost sock, an entire Sasquatch subdivision (complete with HOA), Jimmy Hoffa's discreet-but-luxurious witness protection villa, it's anyone's guess really. Maybe a cleverly concealed dam is still diverting most of the creek over to the Hoffa compound's vast Jacuzzi complex. Maybe all it would take to fix the falls would be an earnest Eagle Scout and a few helpers with big cans of WD-40. I mean, after the 111-year-old Hoffa finally kicks the bucket, obviously. I would personally not bet money in favor of this explanation, seeing as I just dreamed it up for this blog post, but stranger things have happened.


Footnote(s)

1. fish barrier map

At some point the state transportation department either named the creek or recorded a name that locals were using, back when there was a company town built right around here. I don't know why, or when, or who it's named after, but I was poking around looking at the state's official Oregon Fish Habitat Distribution and Barriers map when I ran across it, and I'm pretty sure that's official enough for my purposes.

That map draws from a variety of sources and tries to catalog anything and everything that might impede, discourage, disempower, confound, bewilder, or annoy a migrating salmon on its way to or from the Pacific Ocean. Hydroelectric dams are on this list, obviously, plus things like waterfalls that are too tall for a salmon to leap over (which is about 5-6 feet), down to really mundane things like storm drains and culverts under streets, since it turns out salmon don't really like swimming through underground pipes. So the waterfall we're visiting is not on that map, but the creek passes under the old scenic highway in a long corrugated steel pipe that probably dates back to the old sawmill days, located here, and that's where I noticed the name. (I suppose the falls aren't on the map on the idea that any salmon foolish enough to try running the series of tubes is not going to make it far enough for the falls to matter.)

That data probably originated with the Oregon Department of Transportation since they're in charge of things like culverts under state highways, and sure enough, the name appears in ODOT's TransGIS system, and specifically in the department's "DFMS Culverts (Advanced Inspection)" map layer in ArcGIS.

There's also a pipe under Palmer Mill Road, but it's a county road and for the equivalent info for it you'll need the county's ArcGIS and select the "Culverts_Transportation_View" layer. It doesn't list the creek name or tell us anything new, but since I went to all the trouble of finding the map I figured I'd include a link to it anyway.


2. LIDAR stuff

I quickly realized Mead Creek corresponded to a place I'd noticed before here on the state LIDAR map: An obvious streambed intersecting a nearly 200', near-vertical rock wall, in the classic curved amphitheater shape that often indicates a major waterfall. And I have sort of a rule of thumb that if there's a creek or river or what have you named X, and there's one waterfall on it, and it doesn't already have a name, and you need to call it something, you don't need anyone's permission to call it X Falls. Two waterfalls? Upper X and Lower X Falls. Three? Upper, Middle, and Lower. And so far I haven't needed a default naming scheme for four or more. So at this point all that was left to do was to go test the "Mead Creek Falls" hypothesis and take a few photos to prove it's real. Same basic idea as Sasquatch hunting, really.


3. Bridal Veil Water Works

While researching this post, I did learn one more fun fact about the little creek here. From the beginning of the mill and town in 1886 right up until April 1982, Mead Creek was the Bridal Veil area's sorry excuse for a drinking water supply. In April 1982 the US EPA finally got around to testing all of the local water systems across Portland-area counties, and immediately issued a boil water notice for the Bridal Veil system, to remain in effect until the company got its act together and complied with federal clean water standards. That Oregonian article primly blamed this on "elevated bacterial levels", while the Oregon Journal story about the situation explained matters without the Oregonian's squeamish tiptoeing around:

Bridal Veil takes its water from a surface water source and normally does not treat the water in any way...

EPA environmental engineer Jean Knight said evidence of fecal material was found in the water supply at Bridal Veil, which only has a “pipe coming out of a stream” for its water supply, to which chlorine is occasionally added.

“Some people said they’d been ill, but most hadn’t gone to a physician to have it confirmed,” she said.

The Journal piece didn't quite connect all the dots either, namely that the town's raw sewage went back into the same creek the water was drawn from, and they figured this was fine because the water intake was uphill from all the sewage stuff.

Recall that this came about midway through Ronald Reagan's first term, during the height of deregulation mania. Reagan wanted to abolish the whole agency and repeal the laws it enforced, and he packed it with ideologues who did everything they could to sabotage the agency's work. Their refusal to enforce rules and regulations and basic laws of the land led to repeated national scandals. So the fact that they had their hair on fire about the Bridal Veil water system really ought to tell you something.

There had been a few clues that the system was not exactly a paragon of modern 20th century sanitation. Way back in June 1960, the Multnomah County health department issued a temporary no-swimming order for the lagoon at Rooster Rock due to high levels of sewage germs detected there. One sample tested at nearly three times the level considered dangerous. Multnomah County's Health Officer offered a shifting set of explanations for this situation; first he claimed it was just natural seasonal variation in the river's normal bacteria levels, nothing to see here, folks. The Oregon Journal noted, however, that water samples taken further upstream at Bonneville Dam did not show the same elevated levels.

Investigators had even observed untreated raw sewage flowing into the Columbia a mile and a half upstream and already knew its origin, and they suggested that it might be part of the problem. But no, the county health guy now insisted the Vista House restrooms were the real source. Asked to explain the elevated microbe counts found at the river beaches at Rooster Rock, he explained that he didn't put a lot of stock in microbe counts and preferred to rely on his own personal intuition as to what the real problem was, thank you very much. It was pretty obvious at that point that he was never going to point any fingers at Bridal Veil, no matter what. Oddly enough, this episode happened just a couple of weeks after the Kraft corporation announced the impending closure of the mill. A health officer with better political instincts would have just said he's studying the problem, and then taken credit for the drop in bacteria after the mill closed.


4. 1990 study

Jumping forward to the post-sawmill era, the creek and the water supply problem came up briefly in a couple of studies. First up is an April 1990 "preliminary" study on the current state of the mill site, due to the impending sale to the Trust for Public Land. The Mead Creek cameo is on page 9 of the study:

At the time of the Site Examination no olfactory evidence was observed which indicated that the woodlands are currently contaminated with hazardous materials. A visual inspection revealed fifteen to twenty empty one gallon bleach containers near an empty water tank (refer to Figure 1 for location). According to Pat McEllreath, current mill site manager, prior to the installation of a water well in 1982 the town water supply required treatment. It is likely that these bleach containers are left over from the water treatment process.

Figure 1 is on page 14 of the linked doc, and shows little squares labeled "water tank" and "well and pumphouse" along Palmer Mill Road. I assume these were removed during the 90s sometime along with the old mill and associated mill houses. Most likely the well site was chosen so they could plug it into the existing water system with the least effort. The pile of discarded bleach bottles tells me the local public works guy was all about least-effort approaches.

An obscure Forest Service map that covers a lot of land ownership details has a bit more info on the old mill site. If I'm reading things right, the Trust continues to hang onto a pre-existing easement for the water system dating back to April 1937 (the year the mill was sold and reopened to make Kraft cheese boxes). The description of it makes it sound very elaborate, though a lot of it probably never made it past the wishful thinking phase.

Easement for the use of a water system in favor of adjacent property owners. Consists of flumes, tanks and pipelines for domestic water use, a dam and diversion point for water power, and flumes, tanks and pipelines for fire protection.

The 1990 study was labeled preliminary because nobody had looked around yet for contaminated soil, and there was no way to estimate even a rough ballpark figure for any future plans without first knowing what shape the local dirt was in. So they recommended doing that as the next logical step. As far as I know this still hasn't happened, because looking for problems you can't afford to fix is always a tough sell, in any kind of organization.


5. 1992 historic structure inventory

After the sale, it became clear there was an imminent nature vs historic preservation fight. The new owners commissioned a study involving several local architects and historians, basically explaining that the surviving buildings in town were not significant individually, and as a group they weren't a good example of a company mill town, and either way just about everything was in extremely poor condition and there was literally nothing worth saving about the place. A map of the town on page 16 shows all the structures in town, including the water tower and well pumphouse, but the study didn't discuss them any further. The most interesting part is that the study includes photos of the exteriors and in many cases interiors of these buildings, and a lot of these houses were kind of cute. And I know you can't judge the condition of an old building just from photos, but a lot of them looked fixable. This study came just a few years before everybody decided Craftsman bungalows were cool again, and who knows, maybe the preservation battle would have played out differently if that had happened a little sooner. However this was also happening right in the middle of the spotted owl wars, and removing all traces of the timber industry may have felt like a moral imperative at that point.

Around the same time, another consultant produced a 287-page report concerning the history of the mill and the town. I've only skimmed it so far but it seems a bit more evenhanded than that architecture study.

Also in 1992, management of the still-brand-new National Scenic Area issued the unit's first Management Plan, and at that point the vision for the Bridal Veil area was meant to be about historic preservation, which obviously is not how it turned out in the end.


6. 2002 study

In 2002 a group was paid to do another round of quick preliminary work, this time they had a couple of months to dream up a preliminary restoration plan for the site. In it, we learn that the proposed followup work in the 1990 doc had not yet happened, and future planning of the kind they were tasked with was fairly stymied due to still not knowing basic stuff like how much topsoil you might need to dispose of as part of any cleanup effort. And this isn't even considered a high risk site for toxic chemicals, seeing as cutting a large tree up into 2x4s does not actually involve a lot of chemicals. (Unless you're making the pressure-treated stuff, obviously.) The Mead Creek cameo doesn't mention the creek by name:

The natural course of the small stream on the east end of the property appears to have been altered. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) topographic contour maps indicate a westerly course for the stream. This is supported by the site analysis. The stream above Palmer Mill Road south of the site appears to follow a historic bed, but below the road it is channeled in a metal trough. At the point where the stream crosses the Historic Columbia River Highway, it enters an enclosed culvert. It reemerges on the north side of this road where it drops several feet to a stream bed that does not follow the natural topographic contours. Evidence of activities to control and maintain this bed can be found along an unpaved road, in the southern slopes of the site.

Maybe this diversion is why the ugly pipe was left in place, to make sure the creek doesn't revert to its original course without permission. Later on, the study suggests daylighting the creek through the old mill site, if it turns out to be feasible, so imagine they'd get rid of the remaining piping at that point too. That was one of the study's few concrete suggestions, along with putting in an official trail or two connecting the Angels Rest and Bridal Veil trailheads, and adding ADA-compliant access to Bridal Veil Falls. The study didn't propose doing anything with Mead Creek Falls; it's quite possible the authors didn't realize it existed.


7. 2015 master plan for state parks in the Gorge.

Part 1 is mostly an inventory of the current park portfolio and the highlights and ongoing maintenance needs of each, and results from a public opinion survey. Eventually they get around to summarizing the suggestions they got from the general public. Including some variants on finally building out Trail 400 from Troutdale out to the current "mile 0" where the Angels Rest trail starts. Some oldtimer or amateur historian suggested "George Joseph and Larch Mountain", which was a doable hike a century ago. You would start by doing the trail to Upper Latourell Falls, then taking a now-lost route that went to the top of those falls and then continued upstream beside Latourell Creek. Eventually you'd exit the state park and follow the creek through farm country for a couple of miles and then end up on Pepper Mountain. You could turn around there, which was the usual practice, or go down the other side of Pepper Mountain and find County Roads 458 and 550, which would get you within bushwhacking distance of the summit of Larch Mountain. And from there, the Larch Mountain Trail would get you back downhill to Multnomah Falls, or you could just go back the way you came. I just sort of assume that any hike that involves traipsing across private farm or timberland is a nonstarter in 2024. I have not actually gone around ringing doorbells and asking residents if it's ok, but I suspect even that wouldn't go over very well these days.

Part 2 discusses some proposals for the future. One, on page 182, is a new twist on the long-proposed trail between Angels Rest & Bridal Veil Falls, which ought to be a no-brainer but somehow nobody can figure out how to make it happen. Instead of taking a direct, short, level route from one to the other, and maybe reusing one of the old roadbeds in the area, it would follow Bridal Veil Creek upstream a bit and then head uphill, apparently crossing Mead Creek somewhere upstream of the falls, and joining the Angels Rest Trail partway up. Looking more closely, I think the main driving factor of that particular route is that it stays on Oregon State Parks land the whole way, even though one of the main bullet points on the idea was "Requires partnership with USFS" (which kind of reads like they weren't looking forward to that part, for whatever reason. Or maybe I'm reading too much into that.) This reads like a scaled-back version of the 2012 proposal for a Bridal Veil Canyon Trail, which would create public access to rarely-seen Middle and Upper Bridal Veil Falls and cut over Angels Rest after that, making for a longer route.


8. Mead who? Mead what?

Other than the ODOT connection I mentioned earlier, there are exactly zero search engine or Oregonian database results for the creek name. Closest possibility (but still a real stretch) that I ran across dates to September 1985 and the filming of Short Circuit. Apparently the stretch of HCRH between Bridal Veil and Crown Point was a filming location, and the robot star of the film was designed by the legendary Syd Mead. He's probably best known for his work on Blade Runner, and for designing V'Ger for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). It's a fun theory but I wouldn't bet any money on it. Another possibility is that it's not a surname at all; maybe someone was trying to explain what color the creek was, downstream of the gentle townsfolk of Bridal Veil back in the day. And if so: Ewwwwww!!!

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Rockwood Sunrise

Next up, here's a slideshow of Rockwood Sunrise, the large sorta-triumphal arch structure at the Rockwood MAX station. This was created by Seattle artist Dan Corson, who also did Mercurial Sky (the lightshow for the Director Park canopy, downtown Portland), and Nepenthes, the series of giant illuminated pitcher plants along SW Davis in Old Town. I liked both of those, and I think I like this too. Not quite enough to make any further pilgrimages out to Rockwood just to see it again, but hey.

TriMet's Blue Line art guide describes it:

  • Tall, brightly painted steel rays constitute a highly visible landmark for the station and a beacon of civic pride for the community
  • Imagery was inspired by the ferris wheel — once an annual feature in Rockwood, the bold colors of the Hispanic culture, and the universal symbolism of the sunrise
  • Translucent tips of the rays illuminate as the trains arrive and depart the station
  • Sunrise image also appears in the shelter glass pattern designed by Corson

This was added back in 2011, along with Civic Drive Iris further east, after the City of Gresham and TriMet scored some much-needed urban renewal money and (as usual) had to spend some of it on Art somewhere. And it just so happened that the eastside MAX Blue Line -- the original 1980s MAX line -- had somehow been built without Whimsical Public Art at each station, and this obviously needed to be remedied somehow someday. So retrofitting existing MAX stations with new art became a thing, killing two birds with one stainless steel whatzit.

The urban renewal effort was precipitated by the 2003 closure of the old Rockwood Fred Meyer store[1]. The store sat empty for a number of years after the closure and it quickly became clear the store had been a regional retail tentpole for the surrounding area. Other businesses closed. Crime was up, pedestrian traffic was way down. Gresham is close enough to Portland that planners still aspire to be good urbanists, and they've probably seen all the literature about declining inner-ring suburbs and wanted to ward off that outcome. The key thing to know is that closed/abandoned big box stores are really hard to reuse[2]. The buildings are just too big for most retailers to make use of, and difficult to subdivide, and luring a replacement big box retailer is harder than you might think because many of them really want to use standard floorplans, with standard store fixtures & displays that look exactly the same in every store. Then you can just order a thousand of those and use them worldwide, and not have to customize things based on what your store was before it was yours. And long story short, Gresham concluded that reusing an old Fred Meyer building was a nonstarter, and it was a great chance to build something denser and more urban, seeing as it's right next to a MAX station.

Gresham's Redevelopment Commission called the project "Rockwood Rising" for a while, but "Downtown Rockwood".

A 2009 blog post from the Wilkes East Neigborhood Association (blog last updated in 2013) was disappointed at lack of progress redeveloping the site, and yeah, the area hasn't completely filled in with new construction, and there's no way to know what the area would be like if there was still just a vacant Fred Meyer there, now abandoned for over two decades. But it's hard to imagine the area would be better off that way.


Footnotes

1. Fred Meyer stores don't close very often in the Portland area. There was an original and very small store downtown that closed sometime in the 70s or 80s, after decades where every Fred Meyer ad ended with someone muttering "Not Available at 6th and Alder" as quickly as possible. Then out on the urban periphery they closed a few stores in less-affluent areas.

The Walnut Park store that closed in 1989, store eventually became home to Portland Police North Precinct. Boys & Girls Club just south of there, and Transition Projects just across MLK.

82nd & Foster closed in 2017 and quickly transformed into the Emmert International Marketplace mall, anchored by a large Shun Fat grocery store.



2. References on the vacant big-box problem below. The most egregious example of this I've seen was in the Deep South in the late 90s, around when Wal-Mart was transitioning chain-wide to newer and much larger Super Wal-Mart stores. Land was cheap and there were usually no pesky land use or zoning laws to worry about, so the cheapest possible approach was usually to build fresh on ex-farmland really far from town, and just walk away from the old stores that were being replaced. And when every business and every developer does this in a headlong rush, you get a sort of creosote bush development pattern, where the "good part of town" is an ever-expanding ring (for small values of "ever") rushing outward as fast as it can, abandoning previous generations of perfectly good infrastructure after a few short years of being the hot new area. Eventually Georgia realized it couldn't afford to build the distant Outer Perimeter freeway that developers fantasized about, which would have enabled a vast sprawl zone larger than several of the smaller European countries. But the newcomers are still coming and have to go somewhere; I'm just not sure how they're making it work if they aren't building more freeways now. Anyway: