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Popular Sauvie Island event site could be in jeopardy

Posted by on June 2nd, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Kruger's Crossing Cyclocross Race

Kruger’s Farm Market faces
a permit upgrade that could
mean no more bike races.
(Photos © J. Maus)

In recent years, Kruger’s Farm on Sauvie Island has hosted many popular cyclocross and mountain bike events. The events have drawn thousands of Portlanders and their families who take part in the fun and soak up the welcoming farm atmosphere just a few miles outside the city.

But now those events are in jeopardy as Kruger’s Farm faces a permitting hurdle with Multnomah County’s land use planning department. The County is making Kruger apply for a new permit (that would allow the events) after a complaint was filed by one of Kruger’s neighbors. The County confirms this complaint, saying that it alleges Kruger is guilty of “non-permitted commercial uses and non-permitted construction of structures.”

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If the permit is not granted, Kruger would be forced to put a stop to not only the bike races, but also the popular square dancing events, the summer concert series, weddings, and other public events held at the farm.

Kruger currently operates the farm on a 1981 “farm stand” permit, and he admits that things have changed considerably since then. Speaking via telephone from his farm this morning, Kruger said the expansion of public events on his farm have brought “spectacular results” and that his purchase of the farm in January of 2008 “wouldn’t have been fathomable without them.”

Sauvie Island Strawberry Ride

Farm owner Don Kruger.

Kruger says he’s worked hard to turn his property into a successful and viable public farm and that he’s still operating within the bounds of legal statute. Unfortunately, Kruger says, because of his neighbor’s complaint, the County is now requiring him to get a new “Type 2” farm stand permit that would allow the events to continue.

In the meantime, the County has forced him to suspend all public events (they call it a “voluntary compliance agreement”, but Kruger pointed out that it wasn’t voluntary at all).

Kruger says he has a great relationship with the County, but he’s a bit perplexed why they’ve singled him out. (I have yet to hear back from the County.)

“Unfortunately, one upset neighbor has made it his crusade to stop me and the way things work sometimes is that just one negative person gets a lot of play.”
— Don Kruger, owner of Kruger’s Farm Markets

Event promoter and owner of Portland Racing, Kris Schamp, says the loss of Kruger’s Farm as a venue would be a serious blow to the community. “Venues on private land that are close to Portland are very hard to find.” At his “Kruger’s Crossing” event last year — one of four he put on at Kruger’s farm — Schamp drew nearly 700 racers and fans to Sauvie Island.

Schamp says that he was very surprised to hear about the permit issue because his events have been, “Extremely smooth and low impact.”

At this point, Kruger says a public showing of support (in the form of comments left with the County) is vital to him being granted the new permit. “I believe we have a chance, but it’s very important that the public weighs in right now,” he said.

If he doesn’t get the expanded permit, Kruger says things would get much more difficult for his business. He estimates that one-third of his net income is on the line. Kruger says the loss would mean he couldn’t “continue to make the farm a public gathering place.” “That’s the irony,” he added, “I’m doing what people want, but the codes sometimes just don’t keep up with it.”

Kruger's Crossing Cyclocross Race

Racing on Kruger’s property.

“Unfortunately, one upset neighbor has made it his crusade to stop me and the way things work sometimes is that just one negative person gets a lot of play.”

As for the bike races, Kruger told me he was at first “reluctant” to do them. “But when I did the first race,” he recalled, “I was really stunned at the kind of people that came out. They really cared about the farm, they had families, they were extremely respectful of the land… it was outstanding and I really thought it was helping our farm.”

I have personally attended several bike events at Kruger’s Farm. My family and I not only enjoyed the racing, but we also spent money at the store and stopped at other Sauvie Island businesses and farms while we where there. I can’t imagine why the County would want to make that scenario less likely from happening in the future.

To comment on Kruger’s permit, download the application (PDF, 700kb) for more information and submit your comments to:

    Joanna Valencia
    Multnomah County Land Use and Transportation Program
    1600 SE 190th
    Portland, Oregon 97233
    joanna.valencia@co.multnomah.or.us
    Case # T2-09-22

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45 Comments
  • fredlf June 2, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    Ugh, why must there always be THAT neighbor?

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  • Jeff P June 2, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Anybody talked to that neighbor and tried to figure out what the burr under his saddle is? Seems like starting at the source may allow for a redesign of processes to make amends…more details might help with comments to the county as well.

    As for the permitting: jurisdictions all over are pressing for more money/fees and are really pushing the limits on permits for all sorts of things.

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  • Ash....Housewares June 2, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Most unfortunate….The city must uphold the enforceable code or risk a civil case from the sour puss neighbor. I say use get the permit and put the start finish of the next cross race on their front porch. Don’t be unruly, just do things by the book and let the guy know he aint gonna stop us. Or for that matter any of the other wonderful COMMUNITY events that happen out there. It’s makes me sad when I find out those kind of folks live in our fair city.

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  • dsaxena June 2, 2009 at 1:22 pm

    Did the neighbor first talk to the proprietor about his concerns? If not, shame on him. I had a neighbor file a nuisance complaint with the city and if he had just asked nicely, I would probably have cleaned the mess that was bothering him.

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  • jeff June 2, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    As anyone who has ridden on Sauvie knows, the “residents” there are by and large anti-bike. I’m sure this is just another manifestation of that.

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  • Laura June 2, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Maybe it’s another farmer who’s peeved that he didn’t think of the idea?

    Kruger was featured in a nice NYTimes article last summer about how family farmers are getting creative in order to remain viable. It would be sad to see all of his community involvement go.

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  • ScottG June 2, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Jonathan, are you working to get the other guy’s side of the story? I think it’s important both for journalistic integrity and also to force this guy out into the public eye. He shouldn’t have the right to work behind the scenes to ruin these events.

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  • Tommer June 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    Comments are in the mail!

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  • Burk June 2, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    Thanks for the heads up Jonathan. I’ve sent an email to Joanna. I agree that the Kruger’s farm venue is great, and the races seemed incredibly low impact to the surrounding community. Wonder what the complaint is about specifically?

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  • Josh June 2, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Hi All – saw this posted on OBRA and wanted to post my comments here also. Jonathan – I happen to know who the neighbor is (not me). I don’t know how to appropriately do it, but if you have questions for that person, I can forward them so they can remain anonymous.
    ———–
    As a former resident of Sauvie Island (7 years up until a couple months ago) I can ensure the group that it is much more complicated than what this article proposes. In no way has Kruger’s farm been singled out, but rather his is one of the last farm stands on the island to get the correct permits. The Pumpkin Patch spearheaded the effort after the county went after them 3 or 4 years ago. Bella’s Farm and Columbia Farms have just recently gone through the process.

    At stake is a zoning issue with EFU land (exclusive farm use). Many years ago, specific provisions were put in on Sauvie Island land in order to protect the rural feel of it. This includes provisions on how much of your net income can come from non-farming activities. I’m not an expert, but I believe this income was set at 80% farming, 20% other. Could be 90/10 though.

    In Kruger’s case, just like the pumpkin patch and others, things like Corn Mazes, hay rides, school field trips, weddings, concerts, etc., all fall into the “other income” category. This was designed to protect the nature of EFU zoning. Of course you can counteract this by growing more produce and raising your net income.

    There’s a lot more to it then the article below, and I assure you that one neighbor’s complaint to the county did not start this process. Really, it’s just the county catching up with all the farms and making sure everybody plays by the same rules.

    I agree it would be a shame to lose the racing out there, but please just know that it’s a much more complicated issue than what appears below…

    Just my two cents…

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  • ShawnR June 2, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Seems like there should be a way to sidestep the whole permitting issue… Like buy a $20 ear of corn at the “farm stand”, and get to ride (ahem “race”) your bike around the property for free.

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  • Josh June 2, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Oh, and here is the info on the EFU zoning I mentioned. A long read, but some interesting stuff… Not saying its the correct laws, but they are the current mindset on the island…

    http://www2.co.multnomah.or.us/Public/EntryPoint?ct=c658a44d22517010VgnVCM9017930ac614acRCRD

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  • Rider June 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    To piggy back on Josh’s comments, as a former farm employee on Sauvie Island (5 years) it is a tough issue.

    Sauvie Island is zoned for farming and it is an amazing local food resource. Am guessing a lot of the folks who ride the course at Kruger’s and enjoy the farm stands there also enjoy locally grown produce. It is a slippery slide – the more folks who build non-farm structures and use the farm land for non-farming practices, the less farm-focused the island becomes.

    I also know from my work at a family farm out there that it is possible to be profitable as a farm first with some room for entertainment and other supplemental income and fun.

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  • Vance Longwell June 2, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    Well what a crying darn shame. Is it productive though, or even fair, to speculate about the motivations of the, “Neighbor”? C’mon now, a lot of people have spent a lot of money to be secluded out there. There are a lot of bikes out there, it’s an awesome ride. Recipe for trouble right there.

    Clearly whomever lodged the complaint felt justified in doing so, and I commend them for going through channels. Much, much, much easier on bicycle clinchers than thumbtacks, right?

    Well, knuckle down and get a solution together. Which most here did. Super. Calling foul on the neighbor is only going to further alienate them. Possibly creating additional hinderances to bringing them on board. What if the ONLY way to get this to happen is with their cooperation?

    I sure hope I can add my support for the Kruger Farm (.pdf upstairs there) over the interweb, ’cause that is one heck of a good time out there, and that farmer has bent over frickin’ backwards. He so deserves the success it’s brought him.

    Sniff, sure makes me miss Sidewinders. Sigh.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) June 2, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    UPDATE:

    I have forwarded some questions to the neighbor in question. hopefully they choose to respond. i will update the story when they do.

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  • grrlpup June 2, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I think there’s a lot of entitlement in some of this discussion. The Exclusive Farm Use zoning is important because Sauvie Island has some of the best soil anywhere. (It’s almost like a river delta where the Columbia turns a corner.) It would be a huge loss if its agricultural character were lost and it became entirely a playground for Portlanders.

    I’m inclined to sympathize with a neighbor who’s unhappy about bike races, concerts, and other completely non-farm activities that bring traffic and noise to a community that’s fighting to stay rural and agricultural as Portland breathes down its neck.

    Then again, I don’t really know about the ins and outs of this case. But neither do most of the people who are crying “sourpuss,” “negative,” and “THAT neighbor.”

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  • BRd June 2, 2009 at 2:20 pm

    If you choose to comment in support of Farmer Don it is important to stress how the events have helped you appreciate the farming aspects of the Farm. For example, my family learned about the farm through the summer concerts but now regularly pick berries and frequent the farm stand throughout growing the season.

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  • carlos June 2, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I’m getting married at Kruger in August. After talking with Don about this situation, it sounds like the neighbors biggest complaint is the loud music. Amplified music really tends to carry and we’ve been asked to keep it to a minimum.

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  • Justice June 2, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    So let me get this straight, the neighbor and the County are the bad guys, yet Mr. Kruger is the one breaking the rules that everyone is supposed to abide by and he is making money from his property that no one else is allowed to make.

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  • middle of the road guy June 2, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Justice,

    you pretty much have it correct. Anything that is contrary to a cyclist’s whim is a bad thing. The irony is, many cyclists are the first people to quote the law to others.

    Hopefully this can get resolved. I imagine the neighbor did not complain the first few times and has pretty much had enough. I think there is a reasonable expectation to not have a circus on land next to you unless the permits are in place.

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  • Mark Allyn June 2, 2009 at 2:51 pm

    Josh:

    Thank you for the clarification.

    I appreciate it!

    Truly,

    Mark Allyn

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  • Zaphod June 2, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I’ll buy a bunch of corn or blueberries for, say, about the price of a race fee if I can race for free. That way, That way, his revenue comes from “farming” versus direct event revenue hitting the 80/20 or 90/10, whatever it is.

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  • Linda June 2, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I sent an email to joanna.valencia@co.multnomah.or.us and got a polite response saying my comments would be included in the record, and that they would include me in mailings for future notices on the project. I encourage more people who would like to continue to enjoy Kruger’s non-farming “events” to send their comments in email also.

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  • Evan June 2, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    If anybody wants to provide effective testimony on this, go to the standards for EFU zones (see post 12), and also what ever standards apply for the “Type 2” permit. Provide input relating to how Kruger’s Farm does (or does not) meet those standards. Testimony that does not address the approval criteria/standards will not help this cause.
    We must also work with the owners to ensure that anything we do is compatible with both the permit standards and neighboring property owners. We have an opportunity to make this an example of positive community relations that others can follow.

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  • Dan June 2, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    700 racers and spectators at the property next to you is kind of a big deal. What if you’re waiting to get across the bridge when everyone is coming or going? For Portlanders, the closest analogue might be living next to someone who throws a lot of house parties. Would you really not contact the city after a few months?

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  • MK June 2, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    I <3 racing at Krugers, and going to the pumpkin patch, and picking flowers, and buying food. So many memories…

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  • Dave June 2, 2009 at 4:38 pm

    Oh, I bet if we go over the neighbor and his affairs with a fine toothed comb we could create an awful lot of havoc for him, too. That’s just out and out BS. Two days of racing which thousands of people enjoy, and one asshat has to be turkey about it.

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  • Memo June 2, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you Josh for your comments. Growing up just outside the Urban Growth Boundary then watching the effects as the boundary was moved really highlighted for me how great we have it here in the Portland Metro Area. It is funny to read how some people are now knocking the same planning that made this city great and is and was the very reason so many people moved here and continue to live here. As Ash Housewares puts it “[i]t’s makes me sad when I find out those kind of folks live in our fair city.” This city was built by those folks who came together (both rural and urban) to find a great way to preserve the uniqueness of this city in a fair manner and without following those rules it would be more like LA than Portland today. If you doubt this just look at the streets in the three-hundreds in Sandy…before the boundary that is where they projected the city would be sprawled out to by now with a major highway leading there.

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  • bean June 2, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    It is a bummer, but if I was an islander who could care less about bikes, I’d be pissed about a 700 person party next door to me too. People don’t live out there to be near that. They would live next to PIR if they wanted to hear noise.
    Maybe take away the loudspeakers and all would be ok. (frankly as a racer, the guy talking is usually pretty annoying anyway.)
    Hopefully this gets reconciled quickly!

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  • Blue Healer
    Blue Healer June 2, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    The zoning change also kept a GOLF COURSE from being placed on the island. Farming is important, but so are the farms stands and activities like the pumpkin patch and krugers offer. They are low impact, family friendly ways for people to get to the beautiful island. The island is not just for people to watch birds, paddle a boat, hunt geese, or go to the beach (nude or no). Even though a huge amount of food is produced on the island there is also a HUGE division of a agri-business that does nothing but produce nursery stock. I cannot eat a arborvida hedge. Lets each comment in a positive manner to the person at the county and hope that positive comments in large numbers keeps Krugers as we know it.
    What we do out there does not harm the farm environment of Sauvie Island.
    ron

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  • Farmer Don June 2, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I’ve enjoyed reading all of the discussion about the bike races. It’s great to hear how much the public loves our farm.

    In terms of the process. Several folks were right when they pointed out that we were being asked to bring our application current just as the other farms on the island have done in recent years. It’s true that one neighbor complained, but he was merely just one element that moved to get an inevitable process started. The county was already about to ask us to update our permit.

    My hope is that this whole process can remain positive, as all parties cooperate to create a farm that works for everyone, especially my neighbors. I’m hoping we can all avoid vilifying my neighbor and I certainly didn’t mean to blame him for this difficult process.

    I actually believe that the land use laws are a good thing and have worked well to preserve the character of Sauvie Island and Oregon.

    Please feel free to contact me at farmerdon@krugersfarmmarket.com if you have any questions or concerns.

    Thank you all for your support of the farm.

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  • erik June 2, 2009 at 8:22 pm

    I’m really disappointed to hear about these problems with one cranky neighbor. My fiance and I met at the second Krugers cross race and decided to get married there in July as a result. Hopefully the county will do the right thing and encourage local business rather than shutting it down.

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  • old&slow June 2, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    The sauvie island residents are the most pampered people in the city. They get a 40 million dollar bridge when the rest of us put up with the sellwood bridge. They get a 3 dollar fee so we can “visit” their sanctuary. They complain about bike riders, people who go to the beach there, anything. WTF, I don’t get to say who goes through my neighborhood, who gets to visit here. I live near the Rose garden, Damn, I think I will lodge a complaint with the city for the crowds there. Screw these people, who is listening to them. The Kroger farm does what it can to make a living on their property. a few events a year should not be a problem.

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  • Kt June 3, 2009 at 9:42 am

    Old&Slow, you live in an area that can be expected to have large loud events with lots of people.

    People who live out in rural areas– farmlands, forestlands, etc– don’t expect large loud events with lots of people.

    And they resent those crowds of people for being out in “their” forest or on “their” roads or “their” farmland.

    How much notice did Neighbor have of the events? Farmer Don, did you let your Neighbor know, pre-event, what to expect on your event weekends? I have found that that sort of communication goes a long way to easing neighborly relations. Also, listening to his concerns and mitigating the noise pollution is a good thing.

    Otherwise, bringing the permits up to date sounds like a reasonable request by the County. It’s a bummer that they have “requested” that Farmer Don “voluntarily” hold off on having any events until that process is completed.

    I hope Farmer Don is able to get through this soon and get back to holding events and selling lots of farm produce!!

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  • Anonymous June 3, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I really really hope that this gets resolved quickly, Krugers Crossing is an amazingly fun event and it would be a real blow to lose it.

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  • Kris Schamp June 3, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Hey, I want to thank everyone who took the time to write the County with a letter of support for the special permit Don and Sandra Kruger are applying for. Yesterday, I talked to Don and he was very impressed with all the comments and letters of support he received from the bike (race) community. At the same time, he asked me to help make it very clear to everyone that this not about him vs. his neighbor or the county, but just about getting a permit in place, so he can continue organizing all his wonderful events in full compliance with the law (or like Josh # 10 correctly tostates: making sure they are playing by the rules). There is a well-defined process they are following and right now – until June 10 – the general public has a chance to voice in with their opinion. So if you haven’t done so yet, please consider making your voice heard by emailing the County.

    A couple clarifications about the bike races we’ve been organizing at Kruger’s Farm in the last 3 years:
    – Traffic: compared to the endless traffic heading to the Sauvie Island beach on sunny summer days, the car traffic to the bike races events is really minimal. The races are spread across the day, so people do not all come and leave at the same time. Thanks to the close proximity to Portland, we also have a fair amount of racers and spectators who ride their bikes out to the farm (it’s a great warm-up or cool-down ride and it saves the $5 parking fee). And many bike racers car-pool with friends.
    – Noise: we have a PA system with two small speakers at the finish area to make announcements and play music in between races. The range of our sound system is about 200-300 yards, depending on the wind. Not even close to the property lines of any neighbors of Kruger’s Farm.
    – Impact on the land: for the bike races, we don’t alter the land in any ways. We use existing farm roads and natural features; like cyclocross barriers made of rotten pumpkins and the infamous dead rat (all 100% biodegradable!). And yes, the bike races at Kruger’s are somewhat of a circus, but entrance for spectators is free and I’ve never met anyone who didn’t enjoy the spectacle.

    Finally, on a more serious note, I want to commend Don and Sandra for what they are doing at their farm, including all the events they put on. They are building a community; they connect people from the city with people who live and work on the island; they educate our children about our local farms and food sources; and they work hard to make sure that their business is thriving and sustainable, which in my opinion is the best way to preserve beautiful farms like theirs for generations to come.

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  • Vance Longwell June 3, 2009 at 11:28 am

    old&slow #33 – I think it is fair to point out that Sauvie Island is secluded, unlike most urban neighborhoods. Plus, I’m not going to buy the, “exclusivity”, complaint because of the existence of Bike Boulevards, and other so-called traffic calming plans. From my perspective, these last seem like attempts to control the over-all feel, and flow, of a neighborhood, which I can’t see is any different than the Sauvie Island folks trying to do a similar thing.

    I’m presuming, of course, that you support such infrastructure, old&slow, so forgive if I’ve characterized your sentiment incorrectly. People who support radical alteration of their neighborhood streets, do so in an attempt to control what their neighborhoods feel like. Tit for tat from there on, right?. Or is that too much of a stretch?

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  • old&slow June 3, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    There isn’t a 3 dollar fee to get into my neighborhood. I stand by my statement, just because people live in the country, they don’t get to say who comes and goes. The roads on Sauvie are not private, the people who live on Sauvie did not pay for their new bridge by themselves. If they owned the roads and built their own bridge, they could say who visits their “neighborhood”.

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  • Suzanne June 3, 2009 at 12:36 pm

    Excellent letter by Kris Schamp, thank you!

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  • Donna June 3, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    My goodness, Multnomah County must really be rolling in the tax revenues these days if they’re ready to restrict a business from generating much needed extra income.

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  • Blah Blah Blah June 3, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Old&Slow
    What $3 are you talking about? I have never paid to go to the island, driving or riding.

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  • old&slow June 4, 2009 at 7:20 am

    #41, you were lucky you didn’t get a ticket then. You are supposed to buy a 3 dollar pass to park at any of the parking areas, beaches, etc. on the island. If you bike you don’t have to, but nowhere else in this town other that downtown to you have to pay to park in the neighborhood. This is not that big a deal to me, the worse thing is getting buzzed by the residents in their cars when I bike out there. Believe me, they don’t think the rest of us should use their “island”.

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  • Josh June 4, 2009 at 8:37 am

    Enough people have complained about this $3 fee that I wanted to chime in. Please don’t vilify Sauvie Island residents for this – it is not their fee. You do not have to pay for parking at any local farm, fruit stand, or local business on the island. Only at the beaches and hiking trails within the Fish and Wildlife refuge.
    This $3 fee, (11 for a year) goes directly to Oregon State Department Fish and Wildlife. Despite the added impact that 800,000 plus visitors to the beach and refuge have on other island services, including the volunteer fire deparment, multnomah county road services, diking district, police, etc., not a single dime of that money goes to those organizations. It all goes to ODFW.
    And as to the bridge, Island residents are not pampered as was mentioned. The original bridge built 50 years ago would have lasted 100 years if the original intent had remained true. It was built for farmers, not for over a million visitors a year to beaches, pumpkin patches, etc., visiting the island. It had visible cracks running across the bridge so it had to be rebuilt.
    And as a sidebar, when they were demolishing the old bridge, an excavator was parked right above those cracks, working his way back towards land. Wouldn’t you know it, the bridge broke in two as he was on top, and the excavator tumbled 20′ down to the roadway.
    That’s all… if any of you have more questions about the Island, please ask before making blanket statements. There are good people out there – that have made a ton of sacrifices to keep their rural community alive, while still welcoming the city to use the island as a playground.

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  • eileen June 4, 2009 at 9:19 pm

    I would be really bummed if I lived on a nice quiet farm and then one day my neighbor started staging bike races several times a year. I mean, just playing devil’s advocate but I don’t think it’s fair for everyone to pigeonhole the neighbor.

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  • wsbob June 5, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Josh, you provided some great information in your comments #10 and #43. Rider #13,…yours was great input too.

    People from the city needing an easily accessible place to get away from the city…farmers needing to make a living but still be able to be farmers. Those are very interesting issues. Farmer Don seems to be sensitive to the needs of both. It looks like there’s a good chance difficulties will be worked out so most everyone continues to get what they need.

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