03 April 2024

Rest in Power, Dabney Spring


There's a spot on Historic Columbia River Highway, just a few seconds east of the entry to Dabney State Park, along the Sandy River, and just before Neilsen Road forks off and goes up the hill, on the north side of the road.

One year ago, it looked like this:

That stream of water coming out of the pipe in the cement block was termed a spring by people who visited on a constant basis. Now, HCRH is not a wide road and there is literally no safe shoulder there. During dark winter months when I was coming home essentially at night one had to take great care, and especially when it was a heavy rain, there were great opportunities to hydroplane.

During the autumn of last year, though, the Oregon Dept of Transportation and Oregon Parks and Recreation called an end to the free water party. In these days where everything has an electronic constituency, roadside springs do, too, and there was great discussion about it on Find A Spring, at https://findaspring.org/spring/locations/north-america/usa/troutdalespringdale-by-dabney-troutdale-oregon/. There was a lot of dismay in evidence, people upset over it, blaming City of Troutdale and that, but a correspondent posting as Michelle S laid this upon us:

ODOT and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department have decommissioned the reservoir overflow pipe along the Historic Columbia River Highway near Dabney State Recreation Area because of increasing road safety concerns at the site.

The area has become a danger with motorists stopping, often partially blocking the travel lane, to fill water jugs. The drainage ditch is often blocked by illegal dumping of material and damaged by vehicle traffic, which causes water to overflow onto the highway and creates dangerous driving conditions.

Oregon Department of Transportation and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department posted signs and shared the pending plan with the Northeast Multnomah County Community Association before decommissioning the overflow, which is located along the north side of the Historic Columbia River Highway near Dabney State Recreation Area, east of the Stark Street Bridge.

The pipe originally supplied water to cool car radiators at the time of the Historic Highway’s construction over 100 years ago and was one of a handful of similar water access points, most of which have already been decommissioned. The water that supplies the pipe was not intended as drinking water.

ODOT and OPRD will evaluate the feasibility of creating safer access in the future.

ODOT has already seen crashes at the site and is taking this step to help ensure there are no more.

The nearest publicly available free water can be found 3.2 miles north along the Historic Columbia River Highway at Lewis and Clark State Recreation Site.

Coming up a year later, you can see that they were serious about it. Here's what it looks like now ...

Pipes are gone, and the one that dispensed the water has been sawed off to the level of the block. 

The concrete baffle blocks are all gone, and the sign spells it out plainly.

Don't tell the officer you didn't see the sign.

Now, one will notice that there is water flowing in the roadside ditch. It's not coming from here; it seems to be seeping out of the hillside by the intersection of Nielsen Road about 100 feet east from there. 

Maybe there is some sort of spring. Still, the idea of a series of water cooling stations for early automobiles has a certain logic to it.

Anyone going out that way will notice a few signs up on telephone poles along the road:

It's a real thing, they also have a website, https://www.restoredabneyspring.org/. It's one of those pre-desgined, out-of-the-box websites, and it's kind of tasteful, actually. but there's been no further change in the status of this roadside water port, so I'm guessing they aren't getting very far in their efforts, or at least not yet.

I mean, never say never, but I think the likelihood of Dabney Spring returning is vanishingly small. 

Sic transit gloria mundi.

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