Is the Tri-Cities growing as if the future matters?

History tells us that what we call the Tri-Cities started out as one railroad town and a handful of tiny farm-to-market burgs spread out along the Columbia River.

Today, it is a proper metropolitan area with more than 300,000 people. On May 6, the Columbia Basin Badgers Club will tackle the thorny question of growth. Are we thinking about the future?

Kennewick was growing but it was mostly a farm town in the early decades of the 20th century. The first highway bridge across the Columbia was not completed until 1923.

Things changed in an unexpected direction in 1943 when Richland went from a few hundred folks to 55,000 in five months!

Over the next couple of decades, Hanford continued its mission to produce plutonium for the nation’s defense. Meanwhile, Kennewick was growing to the east, toward Finley and the West Highlands were the home of orchards and vineyards. (Juice, not wine.)

Everything changed again in 1969 when Columbia Center opened on a windswept bluff halfway between Richland and Kennewick.

It changed again in 1984 when the Interstate 182 bridges connected west Pasco with central Richland.

Pasco extended municipal services all the way to the Columbia River, touching off its spectacular westward development.

For the most part, Richland (or the Corps of Engineers) planned Richland, Kennewick planned Kennewick, and Pasco planned Pasco. Who was planning the Tri-Cities? Was anyone? Look around and decide for yourself.

At its May 6 forum, the Columbia Basin Badger Club will ask the question, “Is the Tri-Cities growing as if the future matters?”

Jim Wise, president of Sustainable Tri-Cities and Jeff Losey, executive director of Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities, will help our audience understand the issues and the alternatives.

Looking ahead, our May 20 forum will be “Lessons from the Pandemic.”

We will hear from a Seattle-based vaccine researcher and people who found themselves on the front lines in our community. What did we get right? Where could we have done better? Are there lessons yet to be learned?

For more information and to register for the forums, go to columbiabasinbadgers.com. Nonmembers pay $5 to attend. It is free for members.

Kirk Williamson was a founding member of the Badger Club and currently serves as its president.

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