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Planners hit the brakes on new St. Helens stage

Given public input, plans to build new stage by waterfront could be on hold

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - Cynthia Dailey-Hewkin, a St. Helens resident, speaks to the St. Helens City Council during a public forum Wednesday, March 16, showing the council a calendar featuring a picture of Columbia View Park. Daily-Hewkin said she was concerned a new stage would obstruct that view. St. Helens could get a new stage on the waterfront, but it might not be as soon as some initially envisioned.

A St. Helens City Council public forum was held Wednesday night, March 16. The public was invited to provide input on building a larger stage in Columbia View Park, where a gazebo stage currently resides.

Concerns about the proposed stage’s acoustics and its presence in relation to the city’s waterfront gave the city staff some pause in the planning process.

Plans to remove the gazebo and install a larger, wind-sail-covered metal stage had been circulating through the council and city since mid January.

A broad range of commentary was made about the stage Wednesday. Some supported the new design, an open-backed stage with sturdy cloth sails making up the roof and sides, saying it fit in well with the waterfront.

“We have a jewel right here, the river,” Bob Braud, a St. Helens resident who supported the new open stage design, said. “Let’s not screw it up.”

Some said they preferred the quaint, smaller-sized gazebo and would want to at least see it used in another part of the city. Still others said the stage should be left alone until a master plan for the waterfront redevelopment is completed. A new stage or band shell could be incorporated into designs for the former 17-acre Boise veneer property the city is planning to redevelop.

“It was good to hear the public’s opinion on that, but it does tie into the bigger picture involving the waterfront redevelopment,” Walsh said.

Several people voiced concern about building a new stage closer towards the water, explaining that the river itself creates a wind tunnel and would present acoustic challenges for performers.

When the new stage was first brought up in a City Council meeting in January, plans seemed to be in the works to build the new stage by this summer, with the intent of using it for the 13 Nights on the River concert series. However, given public input and some of the concerns raised Wednesday night, Walsh said the timeline for the project will definitely change.

Walsh added that the city would likely continue moving forward with plans to build a bigger stage and concert venue, but those plans might not come to fruition for two or three years.

The City Council is expected to continue its discussions about the new stage at its news meeting on April 6, Walsh said.