Real World Pressures Fade On Old Orenco Walk Today like most days I crossed the MAX track heading North to work at my busy real estate office (Platform Realty Group 503-799-8383) in the heart of the Orenco Station. Many others traveling with me are heading to one of three INTEL plants that are all a couple of miles North and West of my office. Getting there these days can be quite a process, however. You see those in the know engineered a series of stop signals and narrow roads right at the MAX crossing and traffic is backing up anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes just for all of us to get to work just a mile or two away. The roads to Portland, once open and fast, are now gridlocked and we can no longer get to US 26 in less than 15 minutes; this is the time it used to take to get to downtown Portland from here in old Orenco.
The system is not working. It is broken and we are all at the mercy of those who think they can engineer and decide while they can not. Is the area forever doomed to join the likes of downtown Beaverton in the Traffic Hell Top 10 list? Probably.
Worse yet as I move to work I pass thousands of apartment units that are owned by outside interests; foreign investment. And as our property taxes spiral out of control, mainly due to an artificially created housing shortage, it kills me to know these same interests talked the State government into giving them a 10-year Tax-free zone. This means they pocket at least another $600,000 dollars a year and us locals are paying for it. Done in the name of “Urban Renewal” and affordable housing these gorgeous flats are mainly servicing a growing population of outsiders coming for the new jobs INTEL and others are creating. It’s not their fault, they come from places looking for work and found it here and we welcome them. It would just feel better if they rented from someone who paid their property taxes.
After 4 meetings and 28 phone calls and countless emails, 4 PM had come and it was time to get home. Home to the Shire…to the little nestle that had birthed me. Home to Orenco. If you ever find yourself under immense pressure and fading from the grind come to 229th and Alder Street and park and take a walk. As you do look and imagine what was and the way things should still be today.
On such a blustery day as this, I was ready to get outside but it was looking gray. After setting down my daily work, which would most certainly have to finish at my nightly session between 10PM-1AM, I entered the living room. Running at my feet was my grandson Abel or “Littles” as he is known right now. He was a small preemie so at 3lbs 6 ounces he is catching up still. But it seems his small stature is outweighed by his amazing ability to know what we all need and his mind; a mind which is way ahead of most other kids his age.
As he rose his arms towards me I lifted him up and he joined me with a hug and a giggle. Sun shot across the floor of our 105-year-old home; the afternoon was going to call us out after all and so we went. It was time to walk and breathe the sweetness of 100-year-old limbs and roots and gaze upon streets of old.
What was it they said killed the little town? The Great Depression? No Orenco (Oregon Nursery Company) had collapsed under the pressure of worldwide competition for fruit tree and nursery production. Even in the 1920’s the economy was a global one.
“As I walk things present yield to things past.
The Impossible becomes possible and all things Golden reveal themselves again.
As I walk I see you when you were young and remember the Raven’s cry and the whistle of the Freight.
What was it I was looking for or maybe trying lose? It wasn’t you, I know that now.
Because as I walked I found you again,
and in doing so I found me.”
D. Knudsen; 2015
No matter. She had died a slow and not so dramatic death and by the time I sprang up through the briars at 22950 NW Dogwood Street the town was holding steady with relatives and tenants of the once great place. Here we found a proud people, poor and complex, but excellent all the same. By 1979 we began to build a new home and others were eyeing property for some investment too. It took another 15 years after that for the MAX light rail to come and stimulate things a bit and then another 25 for it to become the Jewell of Washington County, Oregon that it is today. An Economic Super Power of High-Tech, Biomedical, Solar, Software, Film, and Tennis shoes.
You see Orenco was platted and founded in 1907-1910 and the captains of industry who started it all, Archibald McGill and Malcom McDonald, selected the best sections of land Money could buy both for a central location and potential. The soil was well drained, the land laid on a complete 3% south slope where the Sun heated the rich soil to perfect growing conditions and the once Indian harvest fields shone with the promise of something spectacular.
Then it was great. Now it is great.
Screw it we are walking.
What happened during the time between 4:17 and 5:59 Pm on April 14th, 2015 I can not be sure. It is possible that Abel’s Wagon proved to be a Temporary time machine of sorts. Yes I am quite sure that it did. I lost myself in the walk as the Elms, all 128 of them now Nationally recognized and protected, guided us and beckoned us to continue. The family dog Noah, Little, and I went off. Just twenty-five steps down Birch Street I realized that it mattered what happened at work, and at the tax-free traffic hell, and at the chemical-belching plant across those tracks that have now come to symbolize a sort of Maginot line.
Yes, It matters. But it does not matter in the Shire. Not here and not now. By walks end my soul was set right, compass adjusted, and that somewhat empty pit in my stomach filled by a flood of memories. This is what a walk in Old Orenco can do for me and I want to offer this advice.
It can work for you too, no matter where you are from. Join us someday or just come and take a walk and Imagine Orenco.
What was will be again.
Here is an image guide to our walk.