Recreating the Slough
In 1903, the nationally-recognized city planners, the Olmsted brothers, identified the Slough as an aesthetic natural resource, presenting the city of Portland with a plan for a system of parks. "No city," they wrote, "can be considered properly equipped without an adequate park system," and identified the Columbia Slough among the "remaining great landscape" features of the city of Portland:
This region is low and distant from the city and seems to be at present comparatively valueless for any other than farming purposes. It is therefore to be hoped that a much larger park of the meadow type than can elsewhere be afforded will gradually be acquired here by the city. Olmsted Brothers, Report of the Park Board, 1903
Throughout the twentieth century some parts of the Slough became valued recreational sites, with amusement parks, sports fields, horse and car racing, and a major shopping district in the area where Vanport once stood. Other portions of the slough provided venues for bird watching, kayaking, and nature studies.
The Columbia Slough's history includes tensions between those who believe that the waterway's value lies more in its role as a natural resource for recreation, wildlife habitat and ecosystem health and those who feel that economic development is both inevitable and desirable. This section focuses on the Slough's "re-creation" by the various groups and individuals who vied to change both the perceptions and physical environment of the Columbia Slough.
- Excerpts from the Report of the Park Board, Portland, Oregon, 1903
- "Big Postwar Industrial Center Proposed to Save Vanport City," October 22, 1944
- Feasibility Recommendations for the Vanport Site, 1958
- Norman Smale letter to Mike Houck, 1988, describing changes in the Columbia Slough