Friday, March 20, 2015

Park Place Park

I can't believe we lived here for 2 years before finding this park that is so close to our house.  We love this park.  The neighborhood is built around the site of the original Oregon Trail and is a mix of new and old buildings.  There are typically very few people at this park, as most families tend to use the playground at the nearby elementary school.  The views are gorgeous and the park is larger than it seems at first, with a lot of grassy areas around the bend behind the play structures.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Richard Bloom Sr Tots Park

This is a cute, teeny park that is right across from the library, but very hard to see.  It is not the same as Library Park, which is actually at the library.  It's very small and clean and there are even bathroom facilities, though the facilities are only open during the summer season.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

slide show of tour of former Blue Heron Paper Mill, Willamette Falls

On the day we moved to Oregon City, we found a local newspaper in our mailbox and the headline was regarding a new push by local government to open up Willamette Falls to the public.

I explain: Willamette Falls is a gorgeous waterfall in the Willamette River in Oregon City.  It is because of the falls that Oregon City is the "first city".  The pioneers recognized the power of the water and stayed to utilize it.  The result was that the city focused on industry and turned its back on nature and tourism.  Huge mills, dams, and power generators were built around the falls.  The state set up one viewpoint a long distance away, and the city set up some crappy viewpoints, and that's it.  The falls just really are not accessible to the public since you have to know where to go and where to look.  Therefore it is Multnomah Falls that is Oregon's biggest tourist attraction, and Willamette Falls is Oregon's biggest secret.

Oregon City is on one side of the Willamette River, and happens to own the falls.  The other side of the river is West Linn, and they get to look at the falls.  Both cities have huge paper mills built on the river.

In 2011, the Oregon City mill, called Blue Heron Paper Mill, went bankrupt and closed permanently.  The site was put up for auction and was purchased by a company whose only intention was to gut it for recycling.  And then the site was put up for sale again.  And so it happened that when we moved here in Feb 2013, state and local government had just met for the purpose of deciding what to do with this difficult piece of property.  Though it may be cynical of me to say, it is likely that one of the main reasons they met to discuss public access was because the mill property was otherwise unsellable due to the complexity of the riverside location, the age of the structures, the industrial history, and the fact that the property contains acres of underground structure beneath the surface structures.

Nonetheless, we were thrilled about whatever motivation the city and state have to redevelop the site into something for the public.We are among thousands who responded to many public surveys regarding the site.  I told the city officials I thought it was shameful to allow the falls (that our mayor compares to Niagara falls) to remain hidden for over a hundred years.

The site has now been purchased, with the intention of the private owner to provide an easement for public access and develop the site with both preservation and tourism in mind.  A riverwalk is said to be the first part of the project that will be completed, because if you build it, they will come.

The reason I know all this is because I was one of only 130 in the last weekend of July, who got a private tour of the site.  I really just wanted to get closer to the falls and didn't really care much about the mill, but by the end of the tour I loved the mill as well.

It took me 2 weeks to write this post and the slideshow, but at last here it is. Click below or here.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Canemah Children's Park

Canemah Children's Park is a little over a mile from my house.  It is located on the bluffs over Oregon City, the same bluffs that are referenced in my previous post.  You can't actually see Willamette Falls from the Canemah bluffs, because the trees are in the way.  But I could see the locks.  I think.

Canemah Children's Park was built on the site of the original public school in the area.  It has 2 big play structures, a swing set, a see-saw, and lots of other playground toys.  There's also a nature trail, but I haven't walked it yet.  The park is in a residential area.  There is a small parking lot.

We were there on a Saturday and we were the only ones in the playground.  Lots of people came to use the nature trail, though.

I recommend sunscreen and insect repellent.

Willamette Falls from Oregon City bridge

In the several years I've lived in the PDX area, I've often driven past Willamette Falls on Hwy 99 and found the view from the car window to be elusive and mysterious.  And some sort of visitor center was equally elusive, but surely must exist somewhere, right?


I was really shocked on my first day moving to Oregon City when I found the local newspaper in my mailbox and the cover story was about how the falls may someday soon be adopted by the state and a State Park and Visitor Center will be created.  I read the article over and over again thinking I must be reading it wrong.  That maybe they meant the existing visitor center is outdated and needs renovations or something.  But no, there actually is no public viewing area that is close to the falls.

From Wikipedia, copied today 26 May 2013:
The public can view the falls from viewpoints on the bluffs of Oregon City, from a signed viewpoint along Highway 99E, from the Oregon City Bridge, from a viewpoint on northbound I-205, or from boats in the river.

That's it!  Those are the only public viewpoints!

And let me tell you, the "signed" viewpoint along Highway 99 has about a dozen parking spaces, and is nowhere near the actual falls.  So you have to plan the trip in advance, because the parking area is riverside before the falls, so by the time you actually get to the falls you have missed your chance to park, or if you are going the other direction you are out of luck unless you decide to turn around.  Then, you have to walk along the "sidewalk" on the side of the highway until you get as close to the falls as you can.

Other web sources hint that there actually is a visitor center, opposite the falls on the other side of the river (enter from West Linn), but that it's difficult to find, no signage, and located in the industrial center.  I will investigate and report back if this actually exists, but since there has been no reference to this in the local paper, and obviously none on Wikipedia, I am skeptical.

Here is my photo from the Oregon City bridge.  From my spot on the bridge, I could also see a couple of seniors who were walking the "sidewalk" down on Hwy 99 in an attempt to see the falls.  I could see from my viewpoint that their viewpoint was lousy.  (Nevertheless, I will do it myself sometime in the future, just to double check, and because the falls are just about my favorite thing about OC.)

The Municipal Elevator

For reasons still beyond my understanding, Oregon City is supremely proud of its municipal elevator.  It's in the city logo:

And the city just got a $250k grant to shine a light on it as some sort of "art".  The city keeps referring the elevator as an "icon".

So I was kind of excited to go to the elevator the other day.

It was one of the more disappointing experiences of my life.

It's not an icon.  There's nothing remotely artistic about it.  It's just an elevator. Liiiike, the kind they have in parking structures or at the airport.

The round thing with windows is an observation deck that is undecorated and boring.  It is NOT the elevator.  The actual elevator is a plain elevator in the tube.  There's an elevator operator.  When I got inside I excitedly asked the operator to tell me all about the elevator.  He said "it's an elevator that connects uptown to downtown" and also "my shift ends in 3 minutes".  That's it.

I did find it sort of funny that in OC, "uptown" and "downtown" are vertical placements.

Since the operator's shift had ended by the time I was ready to go back uptown, I had to take the stairs.  The stairs are outdoors and take you up the hill in a mild ascent.  The stairs are actually quite pretty.  We walked past a girl getting her senior portraits taken and the photographer had brought her to the stairs specifically.  The stairs go up the hill through a natural setting (hillside) on one side, and down the hill you can look down to the train tracks at the bottom.   The hill ends at the tracks - there's no sidewalk or public area down next to the train tracks.  Which is why it is utterly bizarre that the stairs take you over a beautiful man-made fountain that ends in a pretty sculpture down next to the tracks.  We figured out that the fountain is really for drainage, to help water get from the top of the hill to the bottom of the hill in an organized fashion.  The fountain/fall is only visible from a small street below.

It's strange that OC would spend money on this fountain, but in 175 years have failed to showcase the actual icon of the area, the Willamette Falls.  See next post.

The municipal elevator is less than a mile from my house.

Monday, May 13, 2013


This restaurant is in West Linn, about 4 miles from my house.

I was going on a dinner date with Mike and although I really wanted to go somewhere with a river view, I know view places often have lousy food and service.  A quick check on Yelp confirmed that I was right (for this area), so I decided to try a place that had the best service according to Yelp.  This led me to make reservations at Allium in West Linn.

The service was excellent, as I had hoped.  So was the food.  We ordered the famous duck fat and rosemary french fries for an appetizer, and were not disappointed.

For the main course, Mike had seafood paella, which he said was not rubbery or gritty as most paellas tend to be.  He said it was the best ever and he ate every bite and would gladly order it again.

I ordered the trout, which led to this funny story. My trout was served pan-fried, with tail and head.  The tail was still attached to the body, all fanned out.  The fish had been completely decapitated, but the head was artfully placed on the plate so that it appeared the fish was looking up and smiling at me.  It took me all of one second to decide that I was not going to eat my meal staring at a fish head.  I told the server, "You really didn't need to bring me the face."  And then as he was protesting that it wasn't his fault, I used my fork to scoop the fish head onto my appetizer plate and I gave it right back to him.  We had a laugh about it, and he took it back to the kitchen, where a group of 3 waitstaff were later seen leaning over my appetizer plate.  

Later, a woman at the table behind me ordered the trout.  "Just so you know," I heard the server say, "it comes with the head."  As if this was not negotiable.

"I know," she said, "I've had it before." as if it were no big deal.


I really wish I had taken a photo before I sent it back.