Taking stock of 2017 in western Washington County
What will you think of when you think of 2017?
In a lot of ways, the year that was challenged us.
National politics seemed to dominate everything, with hot-button issues — immigration, healthcare, tax reform, tensions with North Korea, the president's Twitter habits — casting a long shadow felt even here in bucolic western Washington County.
In some ways, we are fortunate. The scenes we saw in August of white supremacists storming a college campus, wielding torches and Confederate and Nazi flags, and attacking students and residents could have happened anywhere in the country, including right here in Forest Grove. Instead, they unfolded 3,000 miles away, in Charlottesville, Va.
The ground beneath us shook from the power of the #MeToo movement, which empowered women (and men, too) to speak out about sexual harassment and assault — and exposed deplorable behavior on the part of many famous, influential and powerful men in entertainment, media, business, politics, sports and beyond.
This upheaval was felt here in Washington County, too. Prominent Beaverton businessman Jerry Jones Jr. resigned in disgrace from the Beaverton Chamber and Tualatin Hills park district boards after being accused of sexual harassment by a former employee. Kevin Kearns, a resident of Cornelius and a corporal in the Washington County Sheriff's Office, was arrested after a coworker told supervisors Kearns sexually abused him. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward, who represents parts of the Beaverton area in the Oregon Senate, filed a sexual harassment complaint against a fellow state senator, Jeff Kruse of Roseburg.The West Coast endured a terrible fire season. It's hardly possible to talk about the changes we saw in 2017 without thinking of the Columbia River Gorge, an iconic and beautiful part of our state that for years will bear the scars of a 15-year-old's foolish impulse to play with fireworks on dry forestland. While it's not possible to say with certainty that this year's wildfires were the direct result of climate change, most experts agree that these extreme events will become more common as average temperatures climb and the annual snowpack diminishes.
Firefighters from western Washington County were among those who fought the Eagle Creek fire, as well as deployed to California in October and December to battle even larger and more devastating wildfires there. These hometown heroes deserve our thanks and appreciation.
Close to home, we continue to grapple with a growing population and increasing density. Washington County is in a state of flux. Look no further than the latest population estimates from Portland State University's Population Research Center, which show the county is among the fastest-growing in the state. Or take a drive down Southwest 175th Avenue and Roy Rogers Road, where a huge new high school overlooks hundreds of acres of burgeoning residential development. Or take a stroll through Hillsboro's Orenco Station, an upscale mixed-use district that has sprung up over the past few years on what was once industrial land.
In 2018, the growth we've seen in other parts of Washington County will happen closer to home.Work is already underway on the largest residential development ever approved in Cornelius, the 871-lot Laurel Woods project at the southeastern edge of town; it started last month, too, on a new building that will house a much larger public library, as well as senior apartments and a YMCA. In Forest Grove, the city is moving toward developing the David Hill area to the northwest with more than 2,000 homes over the next 35 years, while downtown, the Jesse Quinn is expected to open this summer as Forest Grove's largest apartment building.
Yes, that's going to mean more cars on the road, and it's going to mean more students in classrooms, and it's going to mean longer lines at the grocery store. But everyone has to live somewhere, and as the cost of living rises in Portland and other major West Coast cities like Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles, we are seeing that a lot of people want to live here. We will have to learn to deal with it.
But here's something else about 2017: It was a year, with 365 days and four seasons. Each of us got a year older. We welcomed babies and said goodbye to loved ones. We congratulated graduates. We congratulated retirees. Some of us got engaged. Some of us got married. Some of us got divorced. Beyond the headlines and between the Tweets, each of us lived our lives, with some things changing and others not.
You've read a lot by now about the year that was, in the pages of the News-Times and surely elsewhere as well. But there's more to say about 2017 than any of us, alone, could possibly write.
So again, here's the question, one that only you can answer: What will you think of when you think of 2017?
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It can cost as little as 3 cents a day.)