What will future poets say?
I was asked to be a judge in the first-ever 'We Love LO Poetry Contest' this past November. There were 136 entries submitted from residents young and old. The wonderful thing about being a judge was that I was able to read all 136 poems!
While the poetry styles varied, the subject matter focused on central themes around Lake Oswego. Our city's natural beauty of trees, streams, lake and river were often mentioned. We do love the flora and fauna that define our neighborhoods, providing a glorious backdrop for daily life. But the poets also mentioned Millennium Park and Luscher Farm. They wrote about events and activities that take place, whether it's farmer's market or playing on a sports field. They rhymed about the sculptures gracing our city streets. And they mentioned the iron furnace at George Rogers Park where picnics meet the Willamette River.
Many places and things residents of Lake Oswego love about our city today have become part of our local scene only in the last 20 years. The iron furnace sat for 100 years, falling apart, until the council finally understood the value of retaining it just a few years ago. Until 2002, an old woodchip plant graced the riverfront where Foothills Park now resides.
Lake Oswego residents stepped up in the 1990s and early 2000s to provide park bonds to build recreation facilities and secure open spaces that we all enjoy today. It was not the worst of economic times, but those were not the boom years either. People may not have known they would enjoy concerts in the parks or a community garden plot for growing their own produce, but they wanted to make Lake Oswego even better. Our redevelopment district was on the books for 20 years before Lake View Village and Millennium Plaza came to be.
I think about this and wonder what our city will be like in 20 years. We have a plan for a new neighborhood in Lake Oswego that would seem to embrace many quality-of-life factors that long-time residents have valued. This neighborhood would sit between a beautiful existing riverfront park and our awakening downtown. It would be walkable, providing opportunities for diverse housing and additional commercial space. It will afford Lake Oswego a chance to grow without changing the neighborhood way-of-life we treasure.
The future will require more public transportation options for all Lake Oswego residents. This new neighborhood will need to accommodate that as well. What form that transportation will take, and when it will be realized, should not prevent our city from planning for additional growth that fits with the character of our natural environment while allowing for building design that suits the developing area.
When we have a 'We Love LO Poetry Contest' in 2031, what will the poets hold dear? Will it be a set of connecting steps from State Street to Foothills Park? Or perhaps a new library, where folks of all ages can come hear storytellers speak of a day when people wrote letters on paper and drove their cars two blocks to the store? I hope I'm around to still enjoy the poetry of a town that has always evolved with an eye toward making a better place for the next generation.
Donna Jordan is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council.