Despite the many challenges that we all continued to face on a local and global scale in 2021, I want to take a minute to wish everyone happiness and the very best as we wrap up the year. The spirit of this season is about focusing on what matters most: togetherness, love, joy, and hope.
Along those lines, I have worked with the St. Helens City Council and City staff this year on projects that will make St. Helens stronger, safer, and more resilient.
In 2021, we made excellent progress on several projects to bring economic development to the St. Helens riverfront. The St. Helens Riverwalk Project is working to design and partially build public walkways, a boardwalk, and overlooks along the edge of the Columbia River. A Street and Utility Extension Project is designing infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, additional parking, and utilities to extend onto the former Boise Veneer property. The City is exploring the best ways to utilize the Central Waterfront Property and provide connection between Highway 30 and our beautiful Riverfront District.
The City Council has invested heavily in parks and recreation program improvements this year. With COVID restrictions partially lifting, we have recently been able to bring back in-person recreation activities and opened our new Community Center on Gable Road. I hope you join me in taking pride in our Recreation Program and the activities that it brings to the community to help enrich our lives.
McCormick Park has a brand-new all-abilities playground thanks to a partnership with the Moda Assist Program and Campbell Park is in the middle of receiving new sports courts. Technology use is raising concerns about the lack of face-to-face connections, social media related mental-health issues, and kids having too much screen time. These park improvements offer the community a needed alternative to unplug from technology and create connections in person.
The new Makerspace at our Library also provides a way for everyone to exercise their creativity, use their hands to make something, and learn a little about science, art, math, engineering, and technology in a fun environment. Visit the Library and check this space out if you haven’t done it yet.
Growth and uncertainty
Part of planning for future growth is planning to keep the community safe. This year we made large steps toward building a new public safety facility so that your St. Helens officers have the tools that they need to keep our community safe. This will also help us attract and retain quality law enforcement professionals and provide space for us to grow with our growing community.
I am proud of the progress we have made this year. These projects represent an investment in our future success as a community.
Looking ahead, one of the main challenges that I see facing our community in 2022- and almost everyone else – is uncertainty. We are facing global supply chain issues, the newly coined “Great Resignation” hiring difficulties, the unknown of Covid developments and state and federal mandates, rocketing costs of construction, food, and other industries, and increased threats of wildfires, heat waves, and other natural disasters.
We can meet these challenges by making St. Helens as resilient as possible. This starts with the St. Helens City Council setting priorities and making policies that guide our City staff in positive directions that help meet the needs of our community.
Right now, we are working to update our citywide strategic plan for the next two years. This plan guides what we prioritize as a city. We are also working on updates to many of our Public Works master plans to ensure we have sufficient public infrastructure (roads, sewer, water, etc.) to meet future growth. We will continue to focus on riverfront development. This will help attract industry and other businesses to our community and provide living-wage jobs and a stable tax base.
As always, our meetings are open to the community to attend. We have several community boards and commissions to help you connect and be involved in the future of St. Helens. Explore the City’s website (sthelensoregon.gov), follow us on social media, watch our meetings on Zoom, sign up for our community newsletter, and stop by City Hall if you have questions.
Stay informed about what we are doing. It is important that we hear from you so that we can make St. Helens the best community possible.
St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl can be reached at 503-397-6272.