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Contributed By:

Emily Harris

Casinos and Condos in the Columbia Gorge

OPB | March 6, 2008 9 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 8:40 p.m.

Two development projects are being proposed within 30 miles of one another on the Columbia River Gorge.

One would create a “destination resort” on an empty industrial site on the Washington side of the river. It also near one of the most popular wind surfing spots on the river, known as “The Hatch.”

The other project would create an off-reservation casino in the small town of Cascade Locks, to be run by and for the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs. The proposed project could create 1,700 new jobs — in a town that only has around 1,100 residents right now. The tourism would be a boom for both the city and the tribes.

They’re very different projects, being put forward by two very different groups. And both are stirring up controversy. But it makes us wonder whether attitudes toward growth and development in the Gorge have changed, almost a quarter century since Congress designated the Gorge a national scenic area.

How do you promote ways for the public to enjoy the Gorge without allowing over-crowding or over-development to ruin its grandeur? Are we despoiling one of Oregon and Washington’s most beautiful natural assets or squandering the opportunity to help some struggling communities convert to a tourism-based economy? How much development is too much — and how can you tell before it’s too late?

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