The Cascade Park area is noted these days for its quiet streets of upscale single-family homes. And it’s also known for increasing traffic, new apartments and booming commercial area.
The frequently hectic scene contrasts sharply with the countryside of only three decades ago as well as early pioneer times.
One description has been left by a visitor who rode up the hill from Fisher Landing on the Columbia River in 1877 and found Mill Plain “all under a good state of cultivation.”
“A ride across this level and unbroken tract, either in summer or winter, is an event of the most unalloyed pleasure,” the visitor informed a Portland newspaper.
“The road skirts the timber most of the distance, and in the summer, when the sun descends his hottest rays, the cool shade afforded by the overhanging branches, the gentle zephyr wafted from the Columbia, and the greensward and cultivated fields spreading before the eyes delight the senses.”
The closest community to this area was Fisher Landing, nine miles east of Vancouver, settled in the early 1850s, and named for the Fisher family.
Prune growing developed into a big activity on and near Mill Plain in the 1880s and 90s and continued for many years.
Fisher Landing, later known as Fisher, was a frequent stopping place for steamboats in the early years, and reached its peak shortly before World War I. In 1911, Fisher contained four general merchandise stores, blacksmith shop, livery stable and several other businesses.
Nearby Mill Plain remained relatively rustic even during the shipyard days of World War II.
About 30 years ago, a visit by a couple of Californians started the momentum that led eventually to the residential, commercial and industrial boom east of what is now Interstate 205.
Don MacKay and Arch MacDonald were looking for land as an investment.
MacKay was quoted years later, “If you’re ever going to buy a ranch, make sure the cows can see the lights of the city.”
The partners were especially interested in what they considered the probability of a new freeway east of the city, and they began buying hundreds of acres. The area they targeted stretches eastward to Prune Hill near Camas and lies between Mill Plain Boulevard and state Highway 14.
In August 1968, the Clark County Planning Commission approved a land-use plan for 1,444 acres that MacDonald and MacKay were selling to John Tosti for development. MacKay and MacDonald also owned considerably more land to the east.
In the summer of 1969, news stories predicted Cascade Park would reach 18,000 population.
McGillivray Boulevard, a four-lane road, had been constructed for a short distance, and homes were under construction. The boulevard had been named for a resident who had sold 300 acres to MacKay and MacDonald.
But the public learned that the economic situation, including “tight money,” was holding down progress.
In 1978, Genstar Development Co. of Canada reported the acquisition of 500 acres of MacKay-MacDonald land on the eastern end of Cascade Park. A little later in the year, the company announced it had options on 1,900 more of the partners’ acres.
In 1979, Genstar and Hewlett-Packard Co. sponsored a plan for a proposed community at Cascade Park. Among the proposals were a 2,800-acre residential area, Tektronix and H-P plants on 460 acres east of Northeast 164th Avenue, also public open space, parks, school sites and a business and high-density residential area.
Development was to span two decades. Plants were constructed for the two industries, and other activities moved ahead.
Perhaps the biggest boost came in December 1982 when the new bridge was opened across the Columbia River, providing much easier access between Portland and eastern Clark County. In 1985, MacKay also credited an improved national economy and business growth in the area with improvement in the Cascade Park situation.
Approximately 9,000 people were reported living in the community that summer.
One corporate change in 1987 was a name change for Genstar Cascade Development to Newland Northwest, after the sale of Genstar’s parent company.
Traffic was building up rapidly on the east-west streets Mill Plain Boulevard and, to a lesser degree, McGillivray Boulevard. Although the area remained incorporated, the city of Vancouver played a key role in the booming community by providing water and sewer service.
The use of The Fisher Landing name for the area sprawling toward the east has become noticeable, although Cascade Park still seems to be more prevalent, overall.
The Newland Group has used the Fishers Landing name for the area from state Highway 14 to Mill Plain, extending east from Blairmont Drive to about 192nd Avenue.
Bob Stevens, marketing director for Fishers Landing, estimates the population east of Blairmont at 6,500 to 7,000 but has no current figure on Cascade Park west of Blairmont.
He said most of the 2,000 acres that had been owned by Newland is now developed and “we’re working our way east.”
Stores move in
Two shopping centers, one anchored by Fred Meyer One Stop Shopping and the other by Albertson’s Food Center, with Hi-School Pharmacy and others included, have opened this summer, in the area of 164th and McGillivray. A smaller center, Fisher Mercantile, had opened earlier.
Work on Clearmeadows and The Firs housing projects is continuing, and construction on Hidden Brook will start in the late fall or early winter. All are single-family residential developments, east of 164th. Stevens also said the developers are “big on parks.”
A large number of apartment units in Cascade Park and lack of parks were among concerns aired by some residents in past years. Crime also is a worry, as newcomers stream in and traffic soars.
“We want to help law enforcement agencies before the crime gets out of hand,” said George Burkhart, Cascade Park Business Association president.
His group, organized in 1991, and the Cascade Park Civic Association, incorporated in 1985, keep a close watch on local issues.
One thing for certain skeptics about growth have practically disappeared, skeptics of the type who said back in earlier years that McGillivray Boulevard would “never go all the way through.”