20 April 2012

[branding] Whither And/Or Whence Oak Grove, Oregon?

2799Seen in The Oregonian today:

The sign just appeared. If anyone knows where it came from, they haven't come forward. But there it was -- the white and green "Welcome to Oak Grove" sign nailed below the green state signs on southbound McLoughlin Boulevard alerting drivers to the next towns coming up.  
That was April 4. Two days later, Milwaukie crews took the sign down because it wasn't actually in the unincorporated Oak Grove area, but one-third of a mile north, inside Milwaukie's city limits. Instead of trashing it, Milwaukie staff turned it over to Oak Grove resident Fred Nelligan. 
As it would happen, Oak Grove is a community laying roughly in the northern part of the unincorporated area of Clackamas County between Milwaukie and Gladstone. It doesn't include the whole of that area, of course; if you go to the corner of SE McLoughlin Blvd and SE Oak Grove Blvd, right by the Oak Grove Fred Meyer store, and draw a circle about 1.5 miles in radius about that point that'll pretty much take in most of the community. While some definitions have it between the Willamette River and Oatfield Road, others are a little more generous going east. And I'll be frank; I don't know what the neighborhood association's definition is.

But it's a pleasant enough place. I know several people there and they're very happy with the area; there's always been a banked fire of pride about being from Oak Grove. But never a strong sense of that thing we can't do without any more, 'brand identity'.

What is Oak Grove? Well, it's a bit of land in Clackamas County with a community that has a shared identity. It's got all sorts of incomes and lifestyles, from high to low; its axis is one of Oregon's oldest highways, State Hwy 99E, also known as McLoughlin Blvd, named for Oregon's most notable European pioneer. Follow that road south just a couple more miles and you land in Oregon City, where Oregon (and most of the organized American West) began. There are prosperous middle-class residents off either side of McLoughlin, even if some of the properties along that old road seem rather distressed. And there's a panoply of opportunities to spend your money on the main drag; chances are, if you can't find it along McLoughlin, you can get by without it for a little while. There is some local history, if one considers the famous "Bomber", which has a quirky history of its very own.

What Oak Grove is really doing right now is growing an identity. Up until now, that identity was pretty much a place you passed through either just after leaving or just before you get to Milwaukie. There's bound to be some basic human "you had to be there" silliness, like an unknown signster putting up a "Welcome To Oak Grove" sign up on a state milepost sign that's actually 1/2 mile inside the Milwaukie city limits.

But Oak Grove is a nice place with a whole lot of nice people, and community is a good thing, and they have a right to be proud as they build that community.

More power to them.

Just put the right sign in the right place, next time. Remember, it's easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission, as someone once said.

You should probably try getting permission next time though.


Shasha Kidd said...

We tried to buy a house in that neighborhood! It's a nice neighborhood.

Samuel Klein said...

It is a nice place. We considered it, but it's a little TOO far out from city center for us, and inconveniently-located for just about everything we usually do. Nice folks out there too.