30-acre donation secured by group of local businesspeople
Supporters of the effort to bring the USS Ranger, a retired Navy supercarrier, to East County now have a guaranteed home waiting for it thanks to a recent land donation.
The donation of more than 20 acres of Columbia riverfront property and more than 10 acres of leased submersible land where the ship will be moored, just east of Chinook Landing Marine Park, comes from Columbia Edgewater, which was formed to redevelop industrial property along the Columbia River.
The USS Ranger Foundation announced the donation during a press conference Tuesday that included brief speeches from state Reps. Matt Wand, R-Troutdale, and Greg Matthews, D-Gresham, and Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel.
Fairview Mayor Mike Weatherby, who also spoke at the announcement, touted the economic benefits of the 'largest floating museum in the world' for the region, such as tourism and 60 full-time jobs aboard the ship, and noted how it will serve as a marker for the city.
'Everyone will recognize the name Fairview, Oregon,' Weatherby said.
The USS Ranger will be moored slightly upriver from Chinook Landing. Foundation members said the donation enables the foundation to own the property that will be used for parking and ship access.
Lonnie Dicus, senior adviser to the foundation, said the donation also helps demonstrate to the Navy, which owns the Ranger, that the foundation has a viable site for it.
Garth Everhart, manager of Columbia Edgewater, said the group of less than half a dozen businesspeople from Fairview secured the property earlier this year with the intention of donating it to the foundation, with which he volunteers.
The land consists of a non-functioning sandpit and wetlands, and will have several acres set aside for commercial development, Everhart said.
The USS Ranger was in service from 1957 to 1993 and once had a crew of 5,000. It is more than three football fields long and rises 15 stories above the waterline. It has a 4.5-acre flight deck and contains a 60-bed hospital, a communications center and classrooms.
The USS Ranger is larger than the USS Midway, another retired aircraft carrier that serves as a museum in San Diego.
Backers of the USS Ranger hope to turn it into a community heritage center with a museum and space for military and veterans groups. Other proposed uses include a cultural-activities center, meeting space and an emergency preparedness center.
The foundation said studies show 350,000 visitors to the USS Ranger will spend $46 million a year in the area and create 500 direct and indirect jobs.
Dicus said the foundation is in the process of creating a master plan for the area, which will include the USS Ranger and private commercial development such as a hotel, restaurants, housing, retail shops and a marina.
The USS Ranger is docked in Bremerton, Wash., and is scheduled to begin its move to Portland in fall 2014. Once the Ranger reaches Portland, it will undergo months of retrofitting work at Swan Island before it moves in 2015 to its permanent location in Fairview.
The USS Ranger project has received the support of officials from East County's cities, Portland, Multnomah County, Metro Regional Government, the states of Oregon and Washington and from Oregon and Washington's congressional delegations.
Dicus said the project is in the second phase of a four-phase application with the Navy. The project still needs a number of approvals from various agencies and stakeholders before it can move forward, he said.
Dicus said the local support and the public-private partnerships the project has generated, however, make a major difference in persuading other agencies and investors to support it.
'That makes me feel good about the success of the project,' he said.
For more information about the USS Ranger project, including volunteer and donation opportunities, visit USSRanger.org or call 503-558-8519.