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» Scenic Albany: Thoughts on the Santiam Canal

HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Scenic Albany: Thoughts on the Santiam Canal

Written September 28th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

We’re looking south along the Albany Santiam Canal, from the 12th Avenue bridge. To get this angle, you have to get down on your knees and peer through one of the arches in the concrete railing.

If you stand up, the view looks like this.

Which is still pretty scenic, you have to admit.

The canal has been there since the 1870s. For years it was the source of Albany’s domestic and industrial water supply. It still is that, but since the city built a second intake and treatment plant off Scravel Hill on the Santiam River in 2006, it’s no longer the only source.

You’d think a publicly owned canal right through the middle of town would be exploited as a scenic or recreational asset. On sections in south Albany, for a short distance one might even paddle a canoe.

But for a variety of reasons the city administration, which runs the canal, does not see it that way. It does not want to mess with an important water supply, and it doesn’t want the liability of people getting too close, let alone using the canal for anything.

For years when he was on the city council, the late Ralph Reid Jr. was pushing for an idea of his: Put the canal in a big pipe. That would solve all kinds of problems, he thought. Then we could build a shallow creek on top of the pipe to make a nice little stream with sloped banks and benches and so forth. You can review Ralph’s concept here.

But there was never any support for that concept, and there isn’t any now. Think of the millions of dollars it would cost. The city’s urban renewal program once included doing something less dramatic with the canal downtown, but that’s been dropped as well.

So if you want a scenic look, you have to stand or kneel on one of the bridges and gaze along the water. And then, when you turn around, you see the reality: A section of the barbed wire fence that lines both sides of the canal to keep people from getting too close. (hh)



8 responses to “Scenic Albany: Thoughts on the Santiam Canal”

  1. Bob Zybach says:

    What are the plants along the canal? Native or weeds? Plantings of native plants, such as camas, California poppies, red flowering current, Washington lilies, etc., would look beautiful, would provide excellent habitat for certain native insects and animals, would be educational, and would justify the use of barbed wire and cyclone fences to discourage pet and human access. Also, wouldn’t cost millions of dollars and could be developed into a seasonal visitor attraction.

  2. Jim Engel says:

    Hows this idea? From say 34th Ave north put the canal in a tube. Buried low enough to allow a grassed promenade on top for pedestrian access. Throw in a bike lane for H.H.’s likes. As it is now we’ve got a water ditch that will be here probably till 2100 AD. Nothing about it in it’s present state is conducive/practical for public access, use, or “canoeing”.

  3. Dick Olsen says:

    Thanks Hasso, I’ve always thought our canals could be a wonderful, unique, asset. The power they generated made Albany the industrial HUB City before electric power came along. If you go to Lebanon you can see it flowing through parks and back yards. The way it’s kept up you can tell it’s an enjoyable thing to have. My neighbors and I have a good time with our small side-stream along 8th ave. The original CALUTS plan for downtown called for upgrading our canal system. However the nattering ninnies thought otherwise. I guess they thought someone might get wet, or, maybe have some fun. To bad, CARA could have funded it.

    • Helen Burns Sharp says:

      Hello, Dick–

      I agree, as did George Crandall in the CALUTS Plan. It seems like a missed opportunity. Maybe someday!

      Hope you are doing well–

      ~Helen in Tennessee

      • Dick Olsen says:

        Thanks Helen,
        I’m a year into my 9th term if you count being Mayor as a term on the council.
        George had a good plan. Unfortunately some of it hasn’t worked out as planned. For instance, street lighting has turned out to be o hodge-podge of styles, sizes and light colors. We miss you in the Planning Dept.
        Hope you’re well, Dick

  4. J. Jacobson says:

    Given the canal’s exotic location and it’s exciting history, it would appear that to not exploit one of the area’s finest attractions does a disservice to Albany taxpayers, while simultaneously denying Historical Buffs Society types, (wealthy, aging Baby boomers with nothing left to do but seek a more comfortable past,) the opportunity to explore and spend their way along a significant section of Willamette Valley history. Some Food Carts placed strategically along the length of the Grand Canale’, so gondola-riding consumers might experience a Taste of Albany.

  5. T. D. says:

    scenic ~ plant~water~benches~promenade ~bike path~sounds like another place for the homeless to bath and trash…..a taste of Albany

  6. Jeff Simpson says:

    When I was growing up in Lebanon we spent every summer on the canal swimming, floating & fishing. Most of the home owners who live along it’s banks have improved their properties by making access so much easier than here in Albany. When we moved to Albany out on 39th off Grand Prairie my folks were surprised no one in our neighborhood had any access to the water literally flowing through their back yards. They had a backhoe come in and make a gentle slope so we could build a deck just above the flood line and we (and every kid in the neighborhood) spent many many hours fishing, swimming and relaxing in the shade of the trees. I’ve always wondered why there is no access downtown it seems like a waste of a unique and valuable resource.

 

 
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