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No place like home?

Despite efforts to get citizens to stay in town for eating and shopping, longtime Forest Grove resident Terri Erskine likes things the way they are

Terri Erskine doesn't do much in Forest Grove besides live here.

Erksine, 54, works in Portland - she's an X-ray technician - shops for clothing in Beaverton or McMinnville, buys groceries at the Cornelius Fred Meyer, and only occasionally eats at restaurants in Forest Grove.

In all these ways, she fits the description of a commuter. But she's not embarrassed by the label - far from it.

'It's not that we don't want to be here,' said Erksine, who's lived in Forest Grove with her husband, Ken, for the past 15 years. 'But we don't want 'here' to be like where we go to work every day.'

Erksine, whose two children have gone through the Forest Grove school system and have since moved away, said she likes the city because it's a 'bedroom community' with a 'rural feeling.' She said she and Ken moved three times in the past 20 years to keep themselves in such a setting.

A survey by the City of Forest Grove in early 2006 suggested that a significant number of residents treat the town as a bedroom community. It found that fewer than a third of city residents spend money in Forest Grove more than twice a week, while two-thirds of city residents shop outside of town three or more times a week.

But there has been a push in the past two weeks to promote Forest Grove as a place to do more than sleep.

The Friends of Forest Grove Library, led by reference librarian Linda Taylor, have organized an event at the library this Saturday morning showcasing the city's offerings. The past two Saturdays, Taylor and a team of volunteers went door to door in new neighborhoods, inviting people to the event in hopes of further engaging them in the community.

Because the campaign targeted people who were presumed to do little more than live here, the News-Times set out to find someone who fit the description of a commuter, to ask a few questions:

If you don't do your working, shopping and eating-out in Forest Grove, why not?

Is the city lacking something?

What would you change?

The answers, at least from Erskine, aren't as simple as her not knowing what's available or disliking what's already here.

Her take? She wasn't looking for much in the way of those things in Forest Grove in the first place. And she's leery of talk about making Forest Grove a place where people can find anything and everything.

The campaign is promoting what's already here - further development isn't part of the discussion. But Erskine can hear faint echoes of her time living in Beaverton 30 years ago, when Washington Square was being built.

She recalled a quote in a newspaper, something to the effect of the city 'hoping they could rival the shopping in Portland.'

'I remember several of us looking at each other and going, 'Ah, that's kind of a horrible thought,'' she said.

She went on: 'I'm not sure that every place needs to be like downtown Portland. I'm not sure every place needs to grow and grow and grow.'

Erskine said she would like to see some of the existing businesses and shops renovated, and she's curious enough about some of the other offerings in the community to go to the event at the library on Saturday.

But for the most part, she likes Forest Grove the way it is now. She enjoys returning to it after work in Portland, heading away from the shopping centers, traffic and parking lots toward more trees and fields.

Were Forest Grove to go the way of Beaverton, she said, it would be a loss.

'I don't expect it to remain static,' she said. 'But I think we need to think really hard about what we want.'