The Plan

Vision Plan for Open Space Conservation and Trail Connectivity in the Mid-Columbia Region (PDF 12.5 MB)

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Prepared by Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network Steering Committee – January 2011

The Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network Vision Plan was created by a working group of citizens, non-profit organizations, and city and county staff members. The intent is to present a vision of how preserved open space could retain special features in the Mid-Columbia, and also how creation of a network of trails would allow residents and visitors an opportunity to experience these features first hand. We believe this vision can be realized in concert with, and as an integral part of, development that occurs across the region. The Vision Plan, then, is meant to be the foundation and spark for commencing regional planning and community involvement.


Introduction (PDF 1.56 MB)

  • Open Space Definition

  • The Need for Coordinated Planning

  • Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network

In late 2007, citizens, groups, and public officials in the Mid-Columbia identified the need for a regional open space and trails plan that takes a more comprehensive view than the isolated city and county plans we now use. These entities came together to form a working group now known as the Ridges to Rivers Open Space Network Steering Committee to start a public discussion, create a local vision, and plan for our future. They began a process to look on a regional level to see how best to use our natural assets to benefit our economy; provide access for recreation, education, and health; and preserve natural and aesthetic values. This concept plan is the result of this group’s efforts at integrated open space planning across jurisdictional boundaries. It presents ideas for creating a regional network of natural and developed open spaces with a system of trails, The Ridges to Rivers Trail system, connecting people to our ridges, rivers, and communities.


Value of open space (PDF 1.29 MB)

  • Economic Benefits

  • Ecosystem Services

  • Health and Recreation Benefits

  • Sense of Place and Aesthetics

  • Education

  • Culture, History, and Geology

Land is valuable. For some lands, the value is realized by development; other lands are more valuable in their natural state. A balance between developed lands and various types of open space is important to maximize this value for the Mid-Columbia region. Thoughtful development can maximize direct economic return while maintaining other values that support livable communities, enhance the quality of life that attracts and retains people and businesses, “brands” this area to potential visitors and investors, and protects our environment and wildlife.

This section discusses some of the benefits of open space. Open space has significant economic benefits, provides ecosystem services for the region, and can have a dramatic positive impact on health, wellness, and quality of life.


Open Spaces, Trails, and Open Space Protection in the Mid-Columbia Today (PDF 5.97 MB)

  • Existing Federal, State, and Regional Open Space and Trail Resources

  • Inventory of City and County Open Spaces and Trails

  • Current Open Space Protection in Each Jurisdiction

No other place on Earth is like the Mid-Columbia. Massive basalt flows, cataclysmic floods, and other geologic processes created the ridges and rivers landscape that defines our sense of place. Visual and physical access to these places – views of them and from them – help us to understand and physically and emotionally connect with a landscape we recognize as “home”. Open spaces, whether viewed or explored, are our portals to making these connections.

In order to move forward with an appropriate strategy for developing a regional system of connected open spaces, it is important to understand the existing conditions in the Mid-Columbia area. This chapter summarizes major open spaces and trails in each jurisdiction. Also summarized are the jurisdictions’ regulations for wetland and hillside development. A regional plan will help provide a consistent, region-wide mission, goals, vision, and objectives for coordinating open space and trails planning on an inter-jurisdictional basis, while still providing local jurisdictions with the discretion over their individual open space planning efforts.


The Planning Process (PDF 1.47 MB)

  • Planning Process to Date

  • Workshop Results Summary

  • Questionnaire Results Summary


This chapter describes the public planning process that has occurred since early 2008. A total of four workshops were conducted to take public input on desires for preserving open space and improving trail connectivity in the Mid-Columbia. In addition, a questionnaire was circulated in hard copy and on-line formats to expand opportunities for public comment. These workshops and the availability of questionnaires were widely advertized in newspaper articles, a variety of organization newsletters (including those of Tridec, Benton Franklin Council of Governments, and several non-profits), and on organization web sites. The results of the workshops and questionnaires are summarized in this chapter and listed in more detail in the Appendices.



Future Needs and Vision for Open(PDF 17.3 MB)

  • Recommendations for Open Space Protection and Trail Linkages

  • General Policy Recommendations for the Mid-Columbia Region

  • Suggested Policy Recommendation Implementation Timeline

The Mid-Columbia Region stands at a crossroads. On one hand we are blessed with open lands and scenic vistas. On the other we have been successful in maintaining a strong economy while expanding the population base at an exceptional rate. Both contribute to the economic and social vitality of our region, yet how do we balance the two? Without thoughtful planning now, urbanization will continue, historic access may be denied, and regional resources devalued. Without care, an economic resource will be squandered in an environment where all advantages are important.

Recommendations are presented on two different levels. The first section discusses 22 recommendations for designating new protected open spaces and trail linkages. The second section provides 23 general policy recommendations. Some recommendations are relatively straightforward to implement, others will be challenging. In total they represent an open space and trail system much larger than the sum of its parts in terms of potential impacts on our economy, quality of life, and health.


Plan Implementation (PDF 0.99 MB)

  • Action Plan

  • Available Tools

Implementing the vision described in this document in a timely and effective manner could be complex given the rapid rate of growth and change that is occurring in the Mid-Columbia. Through the planning process and extensive research into techniques used by other similar jurisdictions, a variety of methods and implementation strategies designed to advance open space protection opportunities were identified. This chapter presents approaches for achieving protection including acquisition, land exchanges, conservation easements, regulatory measures and incentives. A variety of funding mechanisms are discussed and strategies for cost-effective maintenance and operations of a regional open space network in the Mid-Columbia are suggested.


Appendices (PDF 11.2 MB)

  • Project Proposal to the National Park Service

  • Proposed Action Plan

  • Public Meeting Records

  • Questionnaire Records

  • Funding and Implementation Strategies

  • Example Practices for Development

  • Transmittal Letter

  • Distribution List

The appendices contain a large amount of background and supplemental information that will be of value to the planner, policy maker, and citizen interested in the planning process and implementation of the vision presented in this document.