If you knew you were watching something important be destroyed forever you would try to stop that, wouldn't you? What if that something was so rich in history, and so important to the world, that loosing it could signal the end of all you knew? Would you care then?
I hope so. Because today as I drove off from the farm of Larry Duyck out on NW Roy Road I realized, more than I ever have, what the cost of rampant development here in the Tualatin Plains can cost us all. The Duyck Farm was started in 1907 and remains today in the capable hands of the 3rd (Larry Duyck) and the 4th generation (Jacque Duyck Jones; daughter). The farm is stunningly beautiful with the classic farmhouse and barns setting the scene for acres of kotata blackberries, blueberries, and other rotation crops which are bursting from the ground this Spring. Irrigation systems are in place and there is a palpable blend of modern machinery and timeless farming know how. I hope it will be another productive year on the farm for this family whose name is synonymous with Washington County and productive sustainable farming.
15,000 years ago, as the Ice Age was ending, giant Lake Missoula in Western Montana broke through a massive ice damn and sent torrents of water, rock, silt, gravel, and anything and everything in its path towards the Columbia Basin. Imagine water 1,000 times the volume of the Columbia River coursing through our Region and making valleys and lakes and gaps wherever it chose to do so. This went on for hundreds of years and these floods created the land we know today. Through the Willamette River, Lake Oswego, and Tualatin River gaps, coarsed billions of tons of fine silt from Eastern Washington and beyond. It filled the Tualatin Valley and Tualatin Plains and settled here as the waters receded against the Tualatin, Coastal, and Chehalem Mountain Ranges. What was left was arguably the greatest farmland in the world. Here we are, us locals, in the middle of the most productive land on Earth and yet most of us do not even know it. The Duyck's know it and have fought to protect the very asset that supports them and their neighbors.
History Took Me Out... What led me out to the Western end of the Tualatin Plains today was my interest in History; the history of our valley and our people. Granted most of you reading this are new to the Valley. But pay attention because you are going to play a bigger role in what happens to people like the Duyck family than those of us who have been here for decades and that is because you outnumber us 3 to 1. In fact, 2 out of 3 people now in Washington County have not been here longer than 20 or 30 years.
Today I came looking to preserve some of the historical past of William and Polly (Mills) Wilson who settled the 642.50-acre land claim that the Duyck's farm is located upon. The Wilson's came over in 1843 with their children John, Caroline, and Rachel. Reverend Marcus Whitman acted as their guide and brought them much of the way along with 3 other pioneer families (Constable's, Arthurs, & Mills). Their arrival was 4 years prior to the opening of the Oregon Trail and they could count on 1 hand the neighbors they could see on the clearest of days from their farm.
In 1847 the Oregon Trail officially opened and thousands came pouring into the Oregon Territory chasing the promise of free fertile farmland. In that same year Marcus Whitman and his wife Narcissa and family, along with many others, were massacred in Walla Walla by the Cayuse Indians who were reacting to the death and destruction put upon them by the White man's diseases and influences.
The Duyck's recently took down a barn - a very very old barn. It had to go but when it did they made sure to have as much of the wood as possible reused and repurposed. Out there on the farm was a large pile of huge log floor beams and it occurred to me that reusing wood from our valley as old as this wood is was the right thing to do. The Wilson's may have cut this wood, built the barn, and sat under the shade of these trees. God knows the Duyck's used this barn for 4 generations and the fact that there was something that old of that much use to these families meant that the historian in me wanted in.
The Bigger Story-
Today I moved the massive beams. They are truly wonderful and we will be making some log benches out of them over the Summer. Larry Duyck helped me move them and we had a nice chat. A small part of that 170 plus years of History from the Wilson-Duyck farm left with me today and we will cherish it and tell its story for decades to come.
As I left Roy Road today with my bounty I realized how unchanged that area is. The reason for that is partly geography - growth and our "wonderful" Urban Growth have not come knocking yet. But just as big of a reason is that Larry and his family, as well as some others, have fought for decades to have this legacy protected.
Heading North from my home in Orenco is the East end of the Tualatin Plains. It was 45 years ago when my buddies and I roamed the vacant farms and creek bottoms of this area, free from disturbances, hunting squirrels and chasing girls. People never thought it would change. But it did. Today we cannot move here at rush hour. The farms are all gone. So are the original people. And history? With the exception of yours truly and a few others, there is no sense of history here.
As I drove past INTEL RONLER ACRES heading to the Duyck's Farm melancholy overtook me. If your local you understand this feeling when you travel around this area. Another mile West along my route is the Shute Road Industrial Park and the Majestic Business Park; now home to Amazon. This area was bucolic farm land not even a decade ago. It was all a part of the Tualatin Plains that the Missoula Floods had created. But we needed it for the "High Paying Jobs" that were coming to the Valley.
Even further West I rolled past the Historic Shute Farm, which has just been added to the National Historic Registry thanks to the hard work of the Haag Family who have been there since the 1960's. Change is coming all around them too as it rolls West towards the Wilson-Duyck Farm. Across the street from the Shute House in an ancient field, the bodies of 5 children of Colonel Joe and Virginia Meek are buried. Colonel Meek and his Nez Perce Wife, Virginia, settled in the Tualatin Plains just 3 years before the Wilson's did (1840). They likely knew each other and all of them made this valley the great place that it is.
In the coming months, you will all hear about the Meek children. It seems that the Majestic Development group has decided to excavate the site where the City believes the Meek children and the adjacent Methodist Meeting House historic site are located to make way for a new 800,000 SF Warehouse and parking lot with drainage pond. This statement is based upon the plans that they have turned in to the City of Hillsboro as shown below.
In Case the Point is Muddled or Subtle -
As I continued West the facts are self-evident. Traffic and development are going on all the way West to the City of North Plains (OR) which just so happens to be the 1/2 way point from my home on the East end of the Tualatin Plains, to the West end where I was going to get the logs.
We are losing our valley. We are losing our farms. We are losing our countryside and perspective as to who we are and how we fit in.
Larry Duyck and his daughter know how they fit in. And they know if they do not work hard to protect their farm, growth can and will come. Others scoff and say that sort of thinking is ridiculous. But the proof is everywhere. It is coming from the East and it is heading to West.
The reasons that our farmland is being plowed under were promoted primarilty as a way to provide much needed Industrial land for "High Paying" jobs. INTEL did create those jobs but they are taking our Water at a rate that threatens our own supplies. And that was over a decade ago. Since that time we have had Data Centers erected which employ virtually no one while using massive amounts of power. We also have Top Golf and those low paying jobs. And of course there is Amazon who recently moved into the Majestic business Park and those jobs are low paying as well.
Outsiders, foreign investors, non-Oregonians, and others are coming to our Valley, developing the land, and taking all the cream off the top as they head to their next conquest. They higher slick consultants who spin a good line of BS and talk in codes and get tax giveaways in a smugness that rivals anyone. But the facts are right in front of us. We are losing the Valley and now the line has been drawn between Jackson Road and Banks. The lands West of Jackson Road are currently zoned Rural Reserve and they are supposed to be preserved for future generations of farmers. East of Jackson Road is now being prepared for more buildings. I do not believe that this line will hold and attempts have already been made to break the agreements that put it in place in order to keep the machine marching West.
I am all for jobs- all for smart growth. But this insane plowing and grinding and gnashing of machines and explosion of cement to put in more computers and pipe and roads is wrong,
Let me suggest that the attempted excavation of the great Meek family childrens graves is the single biggest insult and act of aggression that anyone could attempt to perpetrate on the people of the Tualatin Plains. This event may be the flashpoint in a big pushback in policy and public thinking that is going on right now. Growth must slow while we all re-evaluate what we are really doing.
What is the Right way ahead? Lest you all assume I hate growth or want everything rolled back to the 1900's let me say for the record we need growth. But the type of wholesale boundary and community destroying growth we are seeing in parts of the Tualatin Valley is wrong and we all know it. We need to slow down.
For every job we are creating thereby attracting new comers let's make sure those new comers have a proper place to live so we balance housing and jobs. We have failed to do that miserably. Let's make sure our local people and their children are not forced out by housing costs that have now grown so high that most locals could never remain here. Let us honor our History and our Farmers and our homebuilders and business owners too. One is not better then the other but I am a value-added person. If what you are doing is not adding value to our current citizens then it should not be done. Lastly land owners around Oregon and here in the Tualatin Plains have been told "You Can Not Live There" by our current zoning systems. The thought of a large or small farmer who has had land here for any number of years being told that they are not allowed even 1 home on their land is wrong. It is part of the reason we have landowners who have given up and who do want to see their land rezoned so they can benefit from it. I would urge those on the restrictive side of this battle to see that allowing people to live on their land is what will protect it the most. If we do not let more people love the land and the country life how are we going to expect them to support that it be preserved? So, I would encourage and support land owners being able to build on their land; at least one home and maybe more then one based on some reasonable formula (one per 40 acres for instance). In this way we can add a wall or at least more fortresses between the developments spreading West and North from Hillsboro. In this way the economics of the country life can stop the economics of the asphalt jungle. In this way we can maintain or find a balance once again.
I have the wood posts. The drive out today confirmed to me that I know too much and care too much. Maybe me getting that wood is really me trying to hang on to something that is going away before it is gone. But leaving today, as Larry and I spoke, I was encouraged that maybe, just maybe, the tides may turn in favor of farmland, of people, and of history.
I can feel the Wilsons, and Meeks, and many more cheering us on. We need all of you to ask questions and to care. To get involved. Newcomers this is your world too now. Your valley! The promise of the Missoula Floods and the leagcy of the natives and pioneers is still here for you to enjoy and celebrate. Take a stand and begin to rise.
Together we can find a balance for our futures. We can honor our rich past while facing a brighter tomorrow. But growth for the sake of growth is a fools game. Anyone who has lived this reality, like those from LA or the Bay Area, know that the stakes are very high.
While I plan my next move, I am off to make something wonderful of these beauties!