By Srephen Lawrence,
Mayor of The Dalles
When writers talk about a tipping point, it seems they are talking about an accumulation of events that suddenly cause change to occur through the combined strength or movement of forces. That is exactly what The Dalles is experiencing.
Sometimes it feels as if we are poised on top of a wave, standing on a surf board, wondering if we will be able to stay on as we try to master the wave.
The combination of events is part happenstance and part planning. The Dalles was selected by Cycle Oregon in 2014 as the place to start and end their week long ride through the country side. The Columbia Gorge Historic Highway renovation is getting closer and closer to completion. Realizing that we were already a cycling destination and that we were soon to experience more cycling visitors, we began to plan.
The Bicycle Master Plan of 1993 is being updated along with our Transportation Plan, which has an emphasis on walking and cycling. Main Street has created a method for businesses to be identified as bike friendly and as a result, we have more bike friendly businesses than any other community in the Gorge. We are currently planning and designing our Bike Hub; a place for repairs, rest, bathrooms and way finding, which will be next to the Riverfront trail, located in the new Lewis and Clark Park in the heart of downtown The Dalles.
Next to the Riverfront Trail, just down from the Lewis and Clark Park, is our new dock. In the last three years, the frequency of tour boats docking has increased to over 100 this season. Costumed “floozies” and gents in western clothes greet the passengers. An average of three boats a week bring hundreds of tourists from all over the world. Commerce in our downtown area and in our museums and tourist areas has grown substantially. Our transit room tax totals have increased almost 70% last year, allowing us to strengthen our tourist outreach and support.
All of this activity, of course, stimulates growth. Two new, small breweries will go into production in the down town area over the next year. Main Street is helping building owners receive Urban Renewal Grants for facade restoration or remodeling store fronts and has created the “parklet,” a wooden sitting area for pedestrians and shoppers to sit and rest right on the main street of The Dalles, located in a parking space in front of a popular restaurant. Plans are underway for more. The Annual MainStreet Convention was held in The Dalles this year giving us exposure around the state.
The National Neon Sign Museum is under construction as it remodels the old, historic but iconic Elks Club building. Three stories tall, the building features massive marble columns in front reminiscent of Roman architecture. We hope to see antique neon signs come in from all over the country and bring the curious as well as the passionate neon sign collector.
Google has become a stable, corporate partner to the region. As a result of enterprise fees and grants, long held debts have been extinguished, a new Olympic size pool has been completed, The Dalles has received free downtown Wi-Fi, a second firehouse has been reopened along with plans to build a fire fighter’s training tower. Our school system has received somewhere around a million dollars in computers. Wind technology training is combined with both robotics and wind competition. There is more. With a third generation of development just agreed to, Google and The Dalles will continue to grow and prosper.
A small delegation traveled to our sister city, Miyoshi in August. Students from both The Dalles and Miyoshi visit each year and this visit solidified our wonderful relationships and investigated possible trade opportunities.
The future is bright and that means the immediate future. We are at a tipping point. Come see what The Dalles is doing and enjoy the hospitality.