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Pretty Portland, Ore., has some ideas worth importing

Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 9/22/2005


Taking notes on the Rose City

PORTLAND, Ore.--Fredericksburg, you're no Portland. Which is not all bad. For despite its reputation as a hip place to live, Portland has its problems. On a recent visit as part of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, I noted buildings and byways marred by gang graffiti, a surprising amount of vagrancy, and a meth problem so bad that prescriptions will soon be required for Sudafed. But Portland also has commendable traits, some of which Fredericksburg might profitably emulate.

Portland's setting is easily one of the most beautiful in the United States. From the stunning geology of the Columbia Gorge to beautiful old snow-covered Mount Hood glistening in the distance, from the pristine Pacific beaches nearby to the flowers that fill downtown, beauty abounds. And Portland, by planning and practice, tries to make the most of it.

The city has built over 200 miles of bike and pedestrian lanes to encourage its citizenry to get out and enjoy life, earning Portland a No. 1 rating from Bicycling magazine. From the path along the Willamette River to the dedicated lower decks of double-decker bridges, Rose City residents walk and bike, some to work, some to shop, some just for fun. Pedestrians benefit from short city blocks and well-timed lights, plus a multitude of hiking trails in and around town. Some 37,000 acres of parkland leaven the metro area. It's probably not a coincidence that Oregon is the only U.S. state in which obesity last year did not rise.

Fredericksburg's own Pathways Committee, chaired by George Solley, has a similar vision for our area. Godspeed to them, and may their tribe increase. Even if it fails to calm traffic woes, a regional network of trails could provide healthy recreation for families, Scout troops, Elderhostel groups, and many others. We may not have Mount Hood or the Willamette River, but we have the Rappahannock Valley, beautiful hills, stately oaks, and interesting historical sites. Linking them for hikers and bikers would cost a little in asphalt, but pay big dividends in physical health and mental peace.

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