Clark County, Washington Communities

Battle Ground, Meadow glade & Hockinson

Battle Ground, Meadow glade & Hockinson

Booming Battle Ground and the creeping edge of Portland-Vancouver suburbia are colliding with pioneer settlements in this swath of central Clark County countryside. The city has been updating fast, matching new subdivisions and annexations with a skate park, a community center, a medical clinic and other people-friendly infrastructure. Speaking of which, bucolic Hockinson lost its beloved Kountry Cafe diner to the city of Battle Ground - but gained one-third of a mile of sidewalk, making downtown a bit more walkable for students heading to school. It was the first sidewalk ever to appear on these small-town roads. Grange halls that served as community centers for decades are fighting for survival. Check out the old-timey open jam on the second and fourth Saturday at the Manor Grange.

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Camas & Washougal

Camas & Washougal

Luxury homes on Prune Hill and Lacamas Shores are stunning examples of Camas' success in attracting high-paying, high-tech jobs to town. But north across Lacamas Lake, it remains a different world, with Fern Prairie's farm fields, manufactured homes and public airport grappling with growth. Steep woodlands near the county line conceal the Washougal Motocross Park, which draws 100,000 fans and racers annually up Washougal River Road. Down below, summer swimmers flocking to the Sandy Swimming Hole have been swamping parking lots and both sides of Shepherd Road - leading the city to slow speeds and mark no-parking zones before somebody gets squashed.

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Hazel Dell

Hazel Dell

With sprouting subdivisions, shopping centers and tons of traffic, Hazel Dell says "city" more than some parts of Vancouver. Neighborhood leaders and county officials who consider the Highway 99 commercial strip a poster child of pedestrian unfriendliness and neon blight have started hatching new standards and plans for upgrades. But thehallowed Steakburger diner and its putt-putt golf course, once the target of a redevelopment effort, keeps putting along.

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Felida & Salmon Creek

Felida & Salmon Creek

Meanwhile, the county has unfrozen growth around Salmon Creek's legendary traffic hairball. A Walmart has been cleared for construction around the corner from the growing campus of Washington State University Vancouver - but economic recession has stalled those plans, so right now there's no telling when the retail supergiant will arrive. On the opposite end of the retail scale, a new Salmon Creek Farmers Market got off the ground this year on a street alongside Fred Meyer. It's looking for a new home.

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North Clark County

North Clark County

Views of Mount St. Helens are downright startling up here. People tend to come seeking peace and quiet and might wind up a little hard to find - so last year, one Amboy Eagle Scout made it his project to post address markerson properties that otherwise tend to vanish among the thick woods and steep hillsides. Those who don't want to live in the country can learn about it at Pomeroy Living History Farm near Yacolt and the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, east of Woodland. Also fun is chugging across the landscape via the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, an excursion train that offers special events - staged train robberies and headless Halloween horsemen - in addition to the spectacular scenery.

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Ridgefield & Fairgrounds

Ridgefield & Fairgrounds

South of the Ridgefield city limits is the sprawling Fairgrounds Neighborhood Association, which has been at the forefront of bitter growth battles in recent years - from new subdivisions alongside working farms to the arrival of the 18,000-capacity Clark County Amphitheater in 2003. The amphitheater has brought some great shows to town but proved a reliable money-loser anyway. The fairgrounds themselves have scrambled to stay profitable via methods like offering big concert acts at the amphitheater during the fair - and by opening a very popular beer and wine garden.

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West Vancouver

West Vancouver

Trees are lush, homes are older and well-tended, and sidewalks go places on the west side. And speaking of going places, last year's completion of the 39th Street bridge over railroad tracks meant the end of a long-lived motoring nuisance - and the removal of a barrier between the Fruit Valley and Lincoln neighborhoods. If you're into local history, you can take walking tours of Arnada's classy bungalows and wraparound porches; if you're into local food, you could have taken last summer's Coup Du Jour tour of urban chicken coops. Fruit Valley is getting into food: the lower-income neighborhood is exploring ways to bring fresh, local produce to kitchen tables and school lunches via public health grants and subscription farming. Property rights trumped historic preservation last year when Fruit Valley residents shot down a city proposal to restrict the way they can remodel and expand their World War II-era homes.

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Central Vancouver

Central Vancouver

This is the crossroads of the city. A stone's throw south from Skyline Crest, Vancouver's chief public-housing development, mansions overlook the Columbia River. A stone's throw north is the area's biggest shopping mall and a growing collection of retirement and assisted-living facilities. Historic Vancouver Heights, center of the World War II-era housing boom for shipyard workers that shaped the city we know today, won a friendly neighborhood beauty contest in honor of the city's 150th anniversary in 2007. All in one trip, you can explore water and wildlife along the Burnt Bridge Creek walkway, peruse cars for sale at the Auto Mall, and get your oil changed at Sears. A big road project, trembling on the edge for years, will move forward at last as the city widens arterial Northeast 18th Street.

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East Vancouver

East Vancouver

Cascade Park marked the dawn of mega development in Clark County, with 4,000 homes on 1,300 acres built in the late 1960s and 1970s. Its central artery is McGillivray Boulevard, posted at 25 mph and studded with stop signs but irresistible nonetheless to the lead-footed. Mega development went even more mega in the 1990s with Fisher's Landing, where the private community association is king. The opening of Northeast 192nd Avenue has promoted still more development on the city's eastern edge.

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