Clark County veteran shares views on region’s growth and change


At 75, war veteran and retired airline operator Dave Garrett has lived in Clark County for his entire life. Having resided in both Battle Ground and Ridgefield, Garrett has seen those cities evolve amidst their growth.

Garrett, who currently lives in Ridgefield, spent his formative years in Battle Ground, graduating from high school in 1967. He vividly remembers when the city’s commercial buildings were plain fields half a century ago.

“In the summertime, when we were out of school, we’d buck bales,” Garrett recalled. “We’d be taking the hay bales out of the field and stacking them in the barn. Everybody grew hay around here, so you could find a haying job anytime you wanted to.”

Garrett grew up on a 70-acre-property, where his family would stack hay. Today, his old home’s acreage has since been split up into several residential homes. As the farmlands Garrett knew turned into buildings and parking lots, he noticed long-time residents disdain the changes that come with growth.

“(Battle Ground) didn’t have enough sewage treatment plants. They were running out of water. They had all kinds of problems that all caught up and corrected itself over the years,” Garrett said. “That’s what happened in Battle Ground, turning from 800 to 23,000 (residents) in not a long period of time.”

Two years after graduating Battle Ground High School, Garrett was drafted to serve in the Vietnam war in 1969, calling himself “one of the lucky ones to make it back.” He later moved to the Salmon Creek area before settling into a plot of land in Ridgefield in 1997. Garrett said Ridgefield is experiencing the similar challenges of growth that challenged Battle Ground.

“When I moved here in ’97, there was nothing here except that convenience store and a restaurant and a gas station. Now you’ve got everything out here from strip malls to grocery stores to Costco going in and fast food restaurants, you know, and everything you can think of,” Garrett said.

Although he won’t be traveling as far to shop at Costco, Garrett worries that rapid growth has already negatively affected the city. He noted that the schools are overcrowded, although bonds have become too costly for long-time locals to consider. Garrett said the proposed bonds to build two new additional school buildings, which failed on April 23, would have raised his property tax costs to $2,000 a year. Growth has also led to traffic congestion becoming more common, as more facilities and road maintenance projects have been frequent, he said.

“The people out here in Ridgefield, they have the same complaints as the people back in Battle Ground in those years,” Garrett said. “You know the old saying, ‘They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, as far as you can see.’ … I just wish that the growth wouldn’t happen as fast as it does because it causes other problems that they don’t take care of first.”

Despite several changes, many of the region’s landscapes that formed his childhood have maintained their natural beauty. Garrett spent much of his time enjoying the county’s lakes and rivers after school. He recalled jumping almost 55 feet into East Fork Lewis River from the Heisson Bridge, north of Battle Ground.

“I still enjoy just driving down to look at Battle Ground Lake a couple of times a year in the nice weather,” Garrett said. “I still make the drive up the Lewis River very often, just [to] drive up through Lucia and Moulton falls. I enjoy being on the river whenever I can.”

Garrett retired from Alaska Airlines in 2013, providing more opportunities to enjoy the scenery. Garrett maintains his yard, which he has decorated with fountain statues. Over the years he has gathered a collection of classic vehicles, which he enjoys driving to the county’s many lakes and rivers. He drives a 1972 Volkswagen bus and a 1954 Bel Air. Garrett is a dog lover and is currently taking care of Louis, a 3-year-old Chihuahua, and Oscar, a 7-year-old Havanese. Garrett said taking care of them has been his biggest pleasure in life, and he doubts anyone loves dogs more than him.

“I’ve got my own little piece of heaven right here. I’m just trying to keep up my place and trying to keep up the daily routine of life,” Garrett said. “... Don’t get me wrong, I don’t kick as high as I used to, but I’m still kicking.”