Despite rough start, new year holds lots of promise

Scott Swanson

It’s been a roller-coaster start to the year.

We’ve been transfixed by terrorist atrocities in Paris that left 17 dead. (Few of us have paid much attention to the fact that during roughly the same time period the Islamic extremist terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria killed a reported 2,000 – most of them women, children and elderly people.)

The Ducks lost badly to Ohio State Monday night, which was a downer for Oregon – the state. At the national championship level, this team is representing more than just a school that other people love to hate. I was wondering if their choice of colors was an effort to unify the state behind them, because they certainly didn’t go down in green and gold. Gray is about as neutral as you could ask for.

Locally, we have had our school superintendent resign and we’ve gotten a new City Council member, who turned out to be the incumbent, via a coin flip after the final election tally ended in a tie.

So with a little bit of angst and disappointment spicing up the start of our year, it’s time to look ahead.

We’ve got some big things coming up and this might be a good opportunity to think about them.

Here are a few bright spots on the horizon:

n The Livability Study, which we’ve covered quite extensively and will continue to, particularly as the spring workshop approaches in which Sweet Home residents will be urged to weigh in on the ideas and proposals contained in the study.

This is a big deal, folks. Our community was one of four selected to participate in this analysis, which basically aims to find ways to make Sweet Home more attractive to residents and visitors, increase our ability to benefit from the national forest on our doorstep, stimulate economic growth and generally just make our community a better place to live.

It’s not like there’s a whole lot of brand new stuff in this report, which is available for your perusal at http://www.ci.sweet-home.or.us/documentcenter/view/2617. If there’s ever been anything that bothers you, anything you’d like to see improved, whether it be employment opportunities, the appearance of the town, shopping, dining, safety, education, housing, recreation – you name it, it’s likely addressed in some form in this report.

And in early March the writers of the report, along with local leaders who helped facilitate its development, will sit down with the rest of us over two days and hear what we have to say about what we want our community to be like.

The benefit of participating in this is that it not only gives us a chance to focus on what our vision for Sweet Home is, but it will give us opportunities – funding, technical assistance, experience generated from similar efforts elsewhere, to make this a better community to live in. Hence the name.

And it’s all free. Sweet Home hasn’t had to pay anything to get this analysis. All we have to do is participate.

n The Community Forest. Yes, this one has appeared to be on the back burner in the last year or so, but it’s not dead by any means. The proposal to create recreational and economic opportunities for Sweet Home and the visitors who come here (and spend money) is something that could benefit us as a community and as individuals. Yes, there are a lot of details that will need to be worked out, but there’s a lot of promise in this idea, particularly if it results in jobs and income for local families (and their offspring).

n The Park. Clearly, there’s some overlap in everything on the table here, but the proposed development of the former Western States Land Reliance Trust land along the river holds particular promise for us. The Sweet Home Economic Development Group has been working on turning the 193-acre former Morse Bros.-Knife River rock quarry site between 24th Avenue and Clark Mill Road, into a park and concert venue and things have progressed.

I don’t want to be a pie-in-the-sky kind of guy, but I don’t think there’s any question that there are some real possibilities here. It’s going to take participation and volunteer effort from us to make them come to fruition, and that’s why we need to pay attention to what’s happening and get involved. Participation will ensure that we all have a say in what the final outcomes are.

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