New mayor plans to attract businesses and promote tourism

When newly elected mayor Brent Dodrill steps into office at the start of the new year, he'll pick up an ongoing discussion that could impact the economic well-being of STAFF PHOTO: KRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Newly elected mayor Brent Dodrill is focusing on promoting tourism and attracting businesses.

“One of the big challenges, or maybe difference in opinions, that people have is, do we want to remain this small, little sleepy town, or do they have a vision to be a place people like to be and that provides economic opportunities?” Dodrill says.

After serving as a City Council member, Dodrill, who will succeed retiring mayor Becky Arnold, is devising ways to revitalize Estacada's slumping economy and develop viable business opportunities while also promoting the town's natural assets.

It was one of the planks of his campaign platform, and after defeating opponent Pat Watkins 75 percent to 25 percent in last week's election, it appears his ideas resonated with voters.

“There are some that would not like to see a lot of economic growth or even population growth in Estacada,” Dodrill says. “My position has been, if there is not a certain amount of growth, then things die.”

Dodrill points to the handful of empty buildings along Broadway Street as proof that Estacada needs to address its economic feasibility and find ways to attract new businesses, like the industrial area built on the edge of town, which has created family-wage job opportunities.

Any plans to grow and develop Estacada needs to be done with Estacada's small-town image in mind, he added.

“If it's not growing to a certain degree it will indicate that there's not a lot of vitality and life there,” he says. “So we need to plan for growth and we need to prepare to grow appropriately so we can maintain this beautiful area we live in with this small town feel and yet be economically viable so the businesses are in town.”

Dodrill points out that Estacada, once a thriving logging town, must identify other resources that can circumvent an economic downturn now that that industry is gone.

Other than attracting businesses, Dodrill says that tourism can spark the local economy.

That idea has been implemented across Oregon and even in small communities, like Sandy, which has promoted its natural resources to outdoor adventurists.

In 2009, the Sandy Ridge Trail was opened and was quickly identified as one of the best mountain biking trails in the Northwest. Approximately 35,000 riders will visit the trail this year, and that turnout has positively impacted businesses in Sandy and the mountain villages.

“For Estacada, since we're not necessarily a logging town anymore and our mill is not running, we've had to look at if there's other things we can do,” Dodrill says. “We've looked at tourism. That's been the most visible or most prominent area we need to be looking at.”

Dodrill wants to showcase the potential of the areas natural resources, such as the Clackamas River's camping, hiking and fishing opportunities or the Cazadero Trail's lengthy, scenic setting.

“If we can seize on it and take advantage of that and at the same time still preserve it, that's what we need to be looking to do,” he says.

Dodrill added that conversations between Estacada's economic development association and Clackamas County Tournism, the same organization that helped Sandy promote its tourism, are ongoing. He also says a group recently met about a plan to revitalize the downtown riverside area.

“We can continues to make this a viable, livable community instead of being what we once were, which was a community that was almost absolutely dependent on the logging industry,” Dodrill says. “We need to be re-envisioning what Estacada is,” Dodrill says.

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