Communities of Jennings Lodge and Oak Grove have come a long way since I last wrote to you.

Planning organizations and local business leaders discovered ways to work closer together by sitting at the same table, frankly discussing, and then prioritizing issues to respond to. Our marching orders are contained in the McLoughlin Area Plan and together with the North Clackamas Planning Organization form the MAP Implementation Team or MAP-IT.

While the entire area of the MAP is under scrutiny by the 15-member team, we have been concentrating on McLoughlin Boulevard or Highway 99E, mostly because it has the furthest to go in the opinion of just about anybody you talk to. And I do not use the term loosely: We are a team, with new relationships developing that would have not been likely otherwise.

This is an important consideration, for at this point in history we as a community are under enormous political pressure to incorporate into a city. However, the last poll clearly indicated that the majority of those polled were very much not in favor of incorporation, so the case for that clearly has yet to be made. The question that the MAP-IT wrestles with is: Can we democratically govern our future as citizens of North Clackamas, Oak Grove and Jennings Lodge within the political framework provided by the county? MAP-IT may be one answer to that question and we have demonstrated noticeable improvements already, even if we have ruffled a few feathers.

Beside more dialogue among ourselves, we now have unprecedented connections to staff and officials at both the county and state levels. Even so, MAP-IT is only an advisory body to the Board of County Commissioners, our de facto city council, whom quite frankly have more than enough on their plate, and so we can only make requests to further the vision of the MAP. Fortunately for the community, we had the foresight to specifically spell out the “what” in the MAP, for this is our vision, and expected that the “how” would somehow be negotiated.

We have made progress on the signs cluttering up 99E, even adding some of our own in the form of tourism banners on existing wood poles. Perhaps more significantly, we seem close to launching an initiative to install uniform street lighting. From Glen Echo Avenue at our southern end, to Park Avenue at our northern end, some 62 fixtures were replaced. There is little doubt that with the increased illumination the corridor will be safer for pedestrians, bikes and cars. And people may start to notice all the new little restaurants opening up, and feel safe enough to stop in for a bite. I have been surveying them and they are all quite good and very reasonable.

So there is positive change in the air and now we are gifted with perhaps the last opportunity for a community park in Jennings Lodge. As has been reported elsewhere, the circa 1905 Jennings Lodge Retreat Center is up for sale. This 16.67 acre campus of historic structures has over a hundred trees, some of which could be 100 years old or more. The internal roadway system makes it feel like you are in a time capsule when walking through the campus. There is some speculation that the whole campus would be a great film set, it has “Grimm” written all over it. The complex of 13-deeded properties can be easily partitioned into two blocks: a Park Block and a Village Block that could be entirely redeveloped into a themed housing and service destination, or housing development themed around the history of the park. Using the county’s own numbers, the market value of the campus is $4.9 million. The 5.7-acre park block is estimated at $800,000, leaving the $4.1 million 10.1-acre development that would go onto the tax rolls, some of it for the first time since 1905.

Of course, this is just speculation because since the property was not being assessed for taxes all of these years, the property values are probably not up to date. We have heard that the JLRC trustees will be reviewing an appraisal of the campus at their February meeting. Much depends on the results of the appraisal and the trustees. Meanwhile, we are out working to make this project happen because it is clearly indicated in the MAP that the community is expecting us to not let this opportunity slip by.

So you can see that we have come together as something approaching a recognizable community, even if we are not a city. It would have made the JLRC project much easier, but we are not going to dwell on what is not working; we are acknowledging what already does work and moving forward from there. That is MAP-IT.

Thank you for providing this opportunity to say thank you to all of the volunteers in our community. We would not be one without you.

Terry John Gibson, a 24-year resident of Jennings Lodge, is chairman of the environmental subcommittee of the McLoughlin Area Plan Implementation Team.

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