5 Reasons Why My Suburb Doesn’t Suck

13 10 2011

Yes, Tigard is on the hopelessly uncool west side of Portland. No, we don’t have the bike-friendly streets, the quirky cafés, the walkable communities of the east side. And the only thing resembling an art supply store south of Highway 10 is Michael’s. Marcie and I have lived here for eleven years (!!), and we’ve always said we wanted to move across the river, but now– blasphemy of blasphemies– I like it here! I know my east Portland therapist friends will put it down to cognitive dissonance, but I say it’s for these reasons. Which really are all one reason (spoilers): Tigard invests in itself.

1. The Library

When we first moved to town, Tigard had an eminently serviceable library, but it was old and inhospitable. In 2002, Tigard voters passed a bond to expand it. Two years later, the new building opened on the other side of Hall blvd, and it is an absolute gem. There are plenty of books, but that’s not strictly a characteristic of the Tigard library, because it essentially shares a collection with the whole county. Request a book online, and they will pull it from wherever it lives to your home library. It’s hard to pinpoint just what makes this library great; there are luxurious reading rooms, community rooms hosting events all the time, a large bank of computers for public use, acres of surrounding greenspace, a café in the lobby…but more than that, the whole place is just hugely inviting. I always believed in the idea of libraries, but I never went out of my way to patronize them before living in Tigard. If I could I would hang out there every day.

2. The Skate Park

I’m not a skater, I don’t know any skaters, but I’m happy to live in a city that sees fit to build a complex of ramps and bowls for skaters right in front of city hall. Kids and teens may not pay attention to bond measures, but they are bright enough to pick up on the attitudes expressed by a community’s actions. If that attitude is apathetic self-interest, guess what? You get bored, apathetic, self-interested kids. Besides, who wants to grow up in a place where there’s nothing to do? A skate park is a small thing, but it can do worlds of good.

3. The Wes

One of the best things about Portland is the Max, the mass transit light rail. It doesn’t measure up to, say, the Paris Metro, but by American standards it’s a pretty great system. It is expanding to more regions of the Portland metro area, but the process is slow. Tigard sits far south of the main Max line, and we won’t get a connecting line for 10 years or more. But all is not lost! The regular train tracks run north-south, right through downtown Tigard. In 2009, a heavy rail commuter train– the Wes– started sharing the tracks with freight trains. It runs from Wilsonville in the south to the Max line in Beaverton. It only runs during rush hour on weekdays, but it means we are connected to the Max system without having to go through years and years of costly planning and construction. The implementation of the Wes was met with howls of derision from all the usual suspects, but it immediately filled up with commuters and has increased ridership by 14% since 2009. Take note, haters; the Wes works!

4. Downtown Tigard

In it’s current state, Downtown Tigard does kind of suck. Our little stretch of Main Street is unfortunately not much fun to walk down. Still, the area has a lot going for it; several fabulous restaurants, a nice post office, the transit center with Wes and abundant bus service, my dentist which I bike to, a new off-leash dog park, and nearby trails. And, there is a plan in place to build on these assets and turn Main Street into “a vibrant, active urban village.”  The downside is, it will take 30 years. But it’s a gradual process, meaning little improvements show up over time. I doubt if we will still live here in 30 years, but if we do, we will surely be found wandering up and down Main Street on a regular basis.

5. Fanno Creek Trail

A permanent greenspace runs behind our house and through the neighborhood. Part of it features a bike and foot path where I get to walk the dog every day. This may be the thing I miss most when (if) we move away.





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