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Take part in Tualatins vital visioning process

(Soapboxes are guest opinions from our readers, and anyone is welcome to write one. Lou Ogden is the mayor of Tualatin and Chris Barhyte is a Tualatin city councilor.)

That preeminent baseball philosopher, Yogi Berra, once said. 'When you come to a fork in the road, take it.' Thanks a lot, Yogi. As elected officials in Tualatin, we know our city is at the proverbial 'fork in the road.' The question is, 'Which direction do we go?'

The Tualatin story has changed directions many times in the past. Major changes happened from the early days of the Atfalati Indians, who gathered berries and bulbs and fished and hunted the area for thousands of years, to Tualatin's settlement by pioneers arriving on the old Oregon Trail. In the early 1850s, our now-booming community featured only a ferry landing, boarding house, general store, a blacksmith shop and saloon.

Fast-forward to the 21st century.

The bucolic farming community that filled the market basket of Portland for generations is now a flourishing part of the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region. Expanding neighborhoods, businesses and industrial parks along with traffic and congestion have taken place. In 1970, Tualatin had 750 residents. Our population has now topped 25,000. With this explosive population increase, one word sums up Tualatin's state: Change.

So how do we make sure that Tualatin is the community we want it to be in the future? What is our vision for our city? What will our lives be like in 2030? How do we want to deal with the inevitable process of change?

Over the summer, more than 100 community members struggled with these important questions at Tualatin Tomorrow community-wide visioning project workshops. In addition, over 1,000 citizens were engaged through community outreach efforts. They identified more than 160 potential ideas to address Tualatin's tough issues, protect and enhance its strengths and maintain a livable community for our children and grandchildren.

But what is a 'livable community' and how do we preserve our quality of life? What could our community be like in 2030?

We are fortunate now to have parks, trails, recreation areas and a scenic river. Will our open spaces and sensitive areas like wetlands be preserved? Is Tualatin friendly to both people and nature?

Tualatin community members value health and safety. With change, will residents have access to social services if they need them?

As we look at our current traffic issues, in 2030 do we have a 'multi-modal' transportation system including buses, trains, automobiles and safe walking and bicycling routes? Does traffic flow efficiently? Are our neighborhoods connected?

Rapid change can erode community identity. How do we develop a strong identity while managing future development? Does our city offer housing with a range of styles and affordability to meet citizens' diverse needs?

All residents should feel a part of the community. Will Tualatin residents feel included in the governance process, regardless of economic, cultural or geographic differences? Will they receive the best possible government services?

Tualatin should be a welcoming community that encourages connections between all its residents. In the future, will neighborhood centers be year-round, vibrant gathering spots? Will families and seniors have access to diverse programs and services? Will we know our neighbors?

These are just a few of the questions we're looking to answer in creating our community's vision for the future. We need your help to be able to answer these important questions.

As we look to 2030, we can choose to preserve and expand our quality of life or just cross our fingers and let change occur without guidance. That is our 'fork in the road.' The choice belongs to our community.

Tualatin needs you more than ever to indicate the directions you would like the community to pursue over the next 25 years. Now is the time to get involved. We encourage all community members (children and teens too) to attend the Town Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 25, 6 p.m. at Hazelbrook Middle School, 11300 S.W. Hazelbrook Road.

More than 160 ideas for the community will be presented. Participants will be asked to weigh in on the community's vision for the future. Your input will shape Tualatin's Vision Statement and Strategic Action Plan, which will provide a specific path for achieving Tualatin's vision by the year 2030.

The evening will also be fun. Entertainment, food, raffle prizes and child-care will be included. You are welcome to walk in and register early to double your chances of winning a raffle prize. Registration and more information are available at www.tualatintomorrow.org or by calling Doug Zenn at 503-256-7222 or Elizabeth Stepp at 503-691-3028.

This is a pivotal time for Tualatin. Don't miss this momentous opportunity to help shape the community's future today.