Celebrate The Library’s Role In The Community

This week we celebrate National Library Week, a time to recognize the positive effect libraries and library staff have on the people we serve. This year’s theme is “Libraries = Strong Communities” and Roseburg is a great example of how a community and a library support each other.

In three months of operation, more than 31,000 people have visited the library for their information and recreational needs. Thirty-one hundred patrons have checked out 25,000 items and logged 3100 computer sessions. Sixteen hundred people have attended 32 children’s programs; a Teen Advisory Council has launched; and we have partnered with a number of local organizations and individuals for programs for all ages.

Tuesday is National Library Workers Day, a special time for me to honor the people who make the library such as a great place to visit.

Adrienne Groves joined the staff in September as the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) AmeriCorps participant and she spent her first few months working behind the scenes to ensure we would have policies and programs when we opened. Adrienne managed storytimes for the first couple of months and now she is focused on adult programming, additional outreach opportunities and supporting youth services. She does it all with enthusiasm and a willingness to learn.

Volunteer Coordinator Elizabeth Hendershott also came on board in September and she has recruited and trained about 75 volunteers. Thank goodness Liz has great organizational skills! Liz recently received her Master’s in Library and Information Science and that background as well as her positive attitude and good humor make all of us thrilled to have her on the team.

Youth Services Librarian Aurora Oberg has been with us for six weeks and she already has put her stamp on youth programming and collection development. Her creativity, collaborative nature and experience have made our staff complete.

I can’t thank Adrienne, Liz and Aurora enough for recognizing the unique opportunity we have and making the most of it.

We rely on volunteers’ time and talent and we simply would not be able to provide the level of service we do without them. They work the front desk, process materials, help with programs, shelve materials and much more. They have logged 1200 hours of service since we opened and they always have a smile.

Our other group of volunteers is the Friends of the Roseburg Public Library, a 501c3 organization whose members advocate for library services and raise funds for programs and materials. We couldn’t ask for more dedicated Friends and library volunteers.

It’s appropriate that National Library Week and National Volunteer Month are celebrated in April because volunteers and libraries make our community strong. And together we’re just getting started.

Stop in and see all that is happening at your Roseburg Public Library.

Originally published in The News-Review

Remembering Megan Smith—A Rare Leader in Rural Development and Community Building

The College of Design community is mourning the loss of Megan Smith, longtime program director for Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) and co-director of the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement (IPRE) in the School of Planning Public Policy and Management (PPPM). Smith passed away Oct. 14 from health complications.

“RARE has reached every community in Oregon, and Megan’s legacy will live on through the public servants she’s inspired to work toward prosperity for Oregon’s rural communities,” said Governor Kate Brown.

For 25 years through RARE (an AmeriCorps program), Smith was a leader in helping rural Oregon communities improve the quality of life for their residents and mentored students to do the same. Her work also included citizen involvement and outreach for the McKenzie Watershed Council as well as community development projects for the U.S. Forest Service and Lane County.

“The ripple of her loss is felt throughout the state,” said Titus Tomlinson, program coordinator for RARE. “She was one of those quiet but strong leaders. It was an honor to work with someone so esteemed in the state of Oregon.”

Smith spent her career building up a network across the state, driving from county to county to find the right communities to place her students where they could best help solve local economic, social, and environmental challenges. Under her guidance, students were placed for 11-month stints in communities statewide, where they worked on everything from facilitating county-wide Geographic Information Systems and coordinating the development of downtown master plans to implementing community health services, enhancing local farmers’ markets, completing economic development plans, and coordinating watershed assessments.

“She was always so thoughtful and very supportive of others, and has played a big role in the applied work of IPRE (and its predecessor the Community Service Center),” wrote PPPM Director Richard Margerum to PPPM faculty, students and UO colleagues earlier this week.

Many in the College of Design community, and in her field, say her commitment to and passion for her work was unparalleled.

Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area (she was a huge Giants fan), Smith came north to pursue a bachelor of science in geography and sociology at Southern Oregon University. She then attended the University of Oregon for graduate school, receiving her master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning in 1996, where she was also a member of RARE’s first cohort. RARE is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

“I don’t know who taught who,” said PPPM Professor Emeritus David Povey, who founded RARE and was a mentor to Smith.  “She had a phenomenal capacity to share her enthusiasm with incoming students or participants in the program.”

The following year, Smith joined the RARE staff as a coordinator, and shortly after became the program director.

Robert Parker, co-director of the IRPE and an instructor in PPPM, and Smith were graduate students at the same time and worked together for 25 years. He explained that Smith’s work was so important because rural Oregon has historically been economically challenged, and the RARE program connected the resources of the university to these communities.

“It’s really hard to overstate the impact Megan had in the state,” Parker says. “Megan was really sharp and incredibly dedicated to the mission of the organization as well as the participants of the organization, and incredibly dedicated to rural Oregon and finding solutions for the pressing needs of rural communities.”

Through her mentorship of students, she was creating problem-solvers for the next generation. Many RARE participants have gone on to work in the communities where they were originally placed. One such success story is Maddie Phillips, who in 2012 received her master’s in Community and Regional Planning from the UO. Phillips was a RARE participant placed in Creswell in 2013. The following year the city hired her as a planning technician, and now she is a city planner there.

“Megan was a tireless advocate in providing young people opportunities in the public sector,” said Phillips. She adds that Smith was key in guiding her through her placement process, redirecting her to Creswell from her first choice, because Smith knew her student would have greater success in this city.

“She helped people clarify their direction,” Phillips recalled. “Her legacy is that she understood how to approach challenges and find a way to bring young people into public service at a time that was critical for both the participant and the recipient.”

Tomlinson has his own fond memories from working with Smith for seven years at RARE.

“When I was first coming on as program coordinator, she took me on this giant tour around the state, up the gorge and through Eastern Oregon,” Tomlinson said. They were driving near John Day when a golden eagle swooped down in front of the windshield. “We were both totally stunned. I just had never seen that part of the state and she was out showing me her stomping grounds. That is a memory I will always hold dear.”

“What impact will her work have? Huge, just huge. In terms of numbers and the lives that she has affected in a positive way,” Povey said.

Information about possible memorial services will be announced at a later date.


News Briefs: RARE Participant

Ariel Kane has joined Gold Beach Main Street program as a Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) participant to help the nonprofit group with its streetscape improvements, economic development and community programs.

“With Ariel’s help, Gold Beach Main Street is excited to focus on our goals, increase community engagement and grow our tiny town with big dreams,” said President Laurie Van Zante. “We’re looking forward to what we can accomplish in the next year.”

Kane will coordinate, plan and manage various projects the nonprofit undertakes, in addition to marketing, event coordination and technical assistance with which other organizations Gold Beach Main Street works.

Kane, a Winston native, spent the past four years teaching English and volunteering in Japan. She will be based at Gold Beach City Hall.

Her position is supported by the city’s Urban Renewal Agency, the Ford Family Foundation and the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Engagement.

Originally published in the Curry Coastal Pilot

New Coordinator Hits Main Street

Jared Sidman has been to Costa Rica and Thailand. He’s spent time in Mexico, Canada and the Micronesian Islands. He’s seen 43 of the 50 states and now he’s settling in at his desk in Cottage Grove as the city’s latest Main Street Coordinator.

“Let’s see, I recently finished a contract with the Peace Corps and they have an affiliation with the University of Oregon — so yeah, I basically found out about the position through UO,” Sidman said in recalling his introduction to Cottage Grove and the Main Street Program.

The position of coordinator is a function of the broader Main Street Program, a network of pro-grams led by grassroots efforts dedicated to improving the quality of life at the local level.

In Cottage Grove, the Main Street Coordinator has taken on several responsibilities, depending on the individual coordinator, and all tied to the goal of acting as a liaison between Main Street businesses and the city.

It’s a goal Sidman has worked into the center of his plans just a week after accepting the position.

“Basically, I’m working with the Main Street board and getting my feet under me and learning the town,” he said. “I’m meeting with the business owners and letting them know that there’s someone in this position full-time for the first time in a while and I will be their connection to the board and information.”

So far, he’s met with approximately a dozen businesses and has started outlining his plans for the year. First up, Halloween.

Each year, Cottage Grove hosts Downtown Trick-or-Treat, an event that often sees up to 3,000 children, decked out in their Halloween best, flood Main Street to scoop up candy being offered by local businesses.

“I’ll touch base with the business owners and make sure they’ll have their doors open and be involved for Halloween,” Sidman said. “That’s beneficial for them to be there and have their faces seen when everyone is there.”

He’s also throwing his weight behind the annual Christmas celebration that sees caroling in All-America Park and an appearance by Santa Claus via South Lane County Fire and Rescue’s fire truck.

“I’m also working with the board on an upcoming spring fundraiser,” he said.

Aside from lending a hand for community events, Sidman will apply his computer science and teaching degrees to working with businesses on future issues, like construction.

Earlier this year, the city applied for a $10 million grant to help fund the refinement plan — a yet-to-be finalized upgrade for downtown featuring new sidewalks, street signs and lighting.

The grant is expected to be awarded in December of this year and if Cottage Grove receives the funds, construction could become part of the everyday on Main Street.

“The other big piece I’m working on,” Sidman said, “is what we’ll call the business tool kit. They’ll be construction in 2021 on Main Street and the details of this we’ll put out later but we’ll need to work with the businesses to make sure they can stay open when Main Street is under construction.”

Sidman is the second cordinator in almost as many years. He’s replacing Carlene Giroud who was let go in Dec. of last year after she was hired in a transitional role, replacing longtime coordinator Shauna Neigh who resigned her post.

Prior to Giroud’s arrival, the coordinator was not a direct employee of the city.

That changed.

Giroud worked under city planner Amanda Ferguson, was paid by the Economic and Business Improvement District (EBID) and worked on addressing downtown businesses’ concerns and attempt to facilitate relationships.

The position has since changed again and morphed into a full-time position thanks to added funding from the RARE Program or Resource Assistance for Rural Environments.

According to city manager Richard Meyers, Sidman’s full-time position is paid for by RARE funds as well as the city and EBID.

When asked what he would like residents and businesses to know, Sidman said, “My door’s open. I have a lot to learn and I’m not going to be perfect but I think the big thing is I’m here full time and open to working with people and hearing their ideas and getting that to the board to get everyone on the same page.”

Originally published in the Cottage Grove Sentinel

The RARE Effect on Small Towns: AmeriCorps program makes a lasting impact

Bayoán Ware has two deadlines to meet on this particular Friday.

First, he is putting the final details on a grant application that could help new and emerging food businesses in the Columbia Gorge have a place to grow.

He also has to finish his application for a second year working for Resource Assistance for Rural Environments at the Port of The Dalles.

RARE is an AmeriCorps program through the University of Oregon’s Community Service Center. Its aim is to increase capacity of rural communities to improve their economic, social and environmental conditions. The program does that by providing trained, graduate- level participants who live and work in rural communities for 11 months.

RARE begins its 25th year with the fall class of RARE planners.

Wasco County has benefitted from more than a few RARE planners through the years. Some have stayed in the area. The current RARE group includes three involved in Wasco County-related issues.

Bayoán grew up in Chicago and was living in Puerto Rico with his mother when he learned about RARE. He chose The Dalles to explore a part of the country he had never seen, and for the opportunity to experience life in a small town. His projects include not only the food facility but also Gorge Works, a community-based internship program.

“I think just being here helps you really understand the intricacies of ideas and how they interact with each other,” Bayoán says. “All these different perspectives have to cohabit and interact with each other. Relationships are everything in a small town, no matter what you’re talking about.”

Photo of Bayoán Ware
Bayoán Ware, a Chicago native, serves as a RARE planner at the Port of The Dalles. Photo by Kathy Ursprung.

Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch from southern Idaho is a project manager at the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance. The work brings together a number of her interests: economic development, regional planning, food systems and a deep sense of place. It also incorporates storytelling, a key interest of Lauren’s.

“Telling stories of rural communities is an interest of mine,” she says. “It’s a necessity in rural tourism.”

Portland native Kiara Kashuba works with Oregon State University Wasco County Extension on projects related to healthy-eating education and increasing food access in the Columbia Gorge. Her RARE work involves developing plans and systems for the Columbia Gorge Food Security Coalition and the local Blue Zones project that will serve the area for years to come.

“In the end, I hope that in my RARE year I have made a positive impact on the physical and mental health and well- being of our community,” Kiara says.

Photo of Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch
Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch is a project manager for the Columbia Gorge Tourism Alliance. Photo courtesy of Lauren Kolojejchick-Kotch.

Once her RARE year is complete, Kiara plans to stay and take a job with Gorge Grown, a local food and farm advocacy group.

A number of former RARE planners continue to have an impact locally.

Michael Held, a West Virginia native, preceded Bayoán at the Port of The Dalles. After earning his master’s degree in public administration, he was looking for a community where he could set roots and begin a career.

Michael worked on plans for the Columbia Gorge Industrial Center—the newest industrial center at the Port. He also launched a process to reconcile wetland issues in the industrial area.

He attributes his success and a deeper understanding of his professional interest, ambitions and capacities to RARE.

“I was able to get my hands dirty with complex local issues and connect with amazing professionals along the way,” Michael says. “I gained a network of friends and colleagues that I continue to engage on a daily basis.”

Michael lives in Salem, but continues to affect Wasco County through his work with the Rural Development Initiative.

Photo of Kiara Kashuba
Kiara Kashuba holds a cooking demonstration as part of her work with OSU/Wasco County Extension. Photo courtesy of Kiara Kashuba.

Carrie Pipinich, a Seattle native, came to The Dalles in 2011 with a master’s degree in urban and regional planning. Working for the Mid-Columbia Economic Development District, she coordinated a group of regional governments in exploring opportunities for collaboration and worked on MCEDD’s comprehensive economic development strategy for the region. She also worked on a needs analysis for the regional housing authority.

Today, Carrie works as a project manager for MCEDD, coordinating the Wasco County Economic Development Commission and helping bring broadband connectivity to rural communities, among other things. She also plans to supervise a new RARE planner for MCEDD this fall.

“The projects I was working on were a perfect introduction,” Carrie says. “I had to get to know all of the stakeholders very quickly.”

Matthew Klebes, a New Hampshire resident, came to The Dalles in 2013 to coordinate the town’s fledgling Main Street program. He and his wife, Krystal, had recently returned from the Peace Corps in The Philippines, a program RARE supports.

Matthew stayed in The Dalles after his 11 months with RARE, first serving as executive director of Main Street and then as assistant to the city manager at the city of The Dalles.

“One of the great things about RARE is that it can open up opportunities for employment,” Matthew says. “The program can often put you in a community you’re unfamiliar with where you work closely with a lot of community members. It helps you grow some roots.”

Jeremiah Paulsen, of Sequim, Washington, met Michael, Carrie and Matthew while living in The Dalles and working as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Wishram, Washington. When that post ended, he decided the professional development aspect of RARE sounded interesting.

Jeremiah went to work for Matthew on Main Street projects. A few months later, when Matthew took the city job, Jeremiah took over as Main Street executive director.

Jeremiah praises the connections he has forged through RARE.

“You meet people you will probably talk to for the rest of your life,” he says. “Those connections you build—RARE is amazing in that regard.”

Amanda Hoey’s story is a little different from the others in the group. Raised in The Dalles, she worked with AmeriCorps and then RARE in 2005- 2006 on the Oregon Coast, developing youth entrepreneurship programs. Her RARE ties brought her back home.

“I had never heard of MCEDD before,” she says.

Another RARE planner told her about a project manager job at the organization and she applied. Today, she is MCEDD’s executive director.

“Coming out of college, I think you don’t always know what the next step is,” Amanda says. “RARE helps you refine your skill set and decide what you want to do with your education.”

Originally published in the Northern Wasco County PUD’s Carousel

Workers remodel Reedsport landmark the Burdick Building

REEDSPORT — Through plenty of grit, cash and capital, a historic downtown building is looking better.

Reedsport city councilors, City Manager Jonathan Wright, Main Street Coordinator Emerson Hoagland and others toured the Burdick Building, which now houses apartments.

“We have five new apartments up there,” Hoagland said. Plans call for another two, but the spaces need more remodeling. That will include reflooring, new appliances, electrical, plus repainting.

“And we were able to get that done with the other five apartments with the $150,000.”

Money to spruce up structures such as Burdick come from what’s known as the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant. A city must provide part of the matching grant with the merchant giving the rest.

“In this case, Mr. Jones provided the match,” he said. State officials provided $100,000 and Jones $50,000.

Eugene resident BJ Jones owns Burdick Building and Hoagland said he’s been great to work with.

“Obviously with that match, the $50,000, (and) his willingness to provide (this) , made the project happen,” Hoagland said.  Jones provided all appliances. “He was flexible where he needed to be flexible.” This included roof repairs and electrical work.

City leaders, Hoagland and others toured the building, with Hoagland showing visitors around July 20.

Workers built Burdick in 1926. Realtor Liz Adamo of Mal & Seitz said the building is listed for sale for $495,000. ”

“We actually have a pending sale on it now,” the Reedsport realtor said, adding in the phone interview that “we had four very interested buyers” and there was a backup buyer.

“I think it will make a big difference down here,” the Main Street coordinator said, adding that for the project “it took us three months maybe once we got it all bidded out” and that there were “no major hiccups.”

The next round of funding comes in 2019 with potentially up to $200,000 from the same grant, Hoagland said. This money comes every other year.

“I have heard this is $100,000 to $200,000,” he said.

Wright emphasized that if a resident knows of a merchant who might benefit from project money, please let Hoagland know.

Employees from the Benjamin Hill Construction Company of Reedsport provided labor.

Reese Electric and Unger Construction were subcontractors.

Hoagland said Hill was quite willing to take on the huge effort and “I can’t say enough about him.”

“It went pretty well, pretty much according to hopes,” Hill said, although some more plumbing and electrical labor needed done.

Mayor Linda McCollum was also on hand.

“Yeah, he did a great job,” McCollum said. “Working with a building this old it’s got to be difficult. Yeah you really tell how how much better it is.”

Originally Published in The Umpqua Post

Upper Floor Housing Sparks Investment in Downtown Reedsport

The City of Reedsport has gone through many changes in the years since it was incorporated in 1919.  Originally a boardwalk town built on the banks of the Umpqua, then a crucial site of lumber transportation and processing, and now it is a place where one can enjoy a small town lifestyle in the bucolic setting of Oregon’s Coast Range.  While many things have changed in the past century, it has always been Reedsport’s Downtown that has embodied the heart of the City.  It was out of recognition of Downtown’s core importance that the Reedsport Main Street Program was created to utilize citizen volunteers to make Reedsport a more livable, sustainable, and effervescent place to live.

Down Town Reedsport

Historical Photograph of Downtown Reedsport with the Burdick Building (right)

In 2017 the Main Street Program had the opportunity to apply for the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant to rehabilitate the Burdick Building.  The Burdick Building in many ways exemplifies Reedsport’s heart and the changes the town has undertaken over the years.  It is located in the center of Downtown and bears the name of a historical resident.  It has also endured the ups and downs the economy and the wear and tear of the wet, coastal, weather.  To address this deterioration, Reedsport Main Street devised a plan to rehabilitate five upstairs apartments and bring the facilities up to a condition in which they could be rented.

Oregon Main Street awarded the Reedsport Main Street Program $100,000 to match $50,000 provided by the Program.  This rehabilitation project would serve several needs of the Reedsport community.  Bringing apartments into Downtown would increase the number of people who would shop in local stores, eat and drink at local restaurants, as well as create a safe and homey environment.  It would also provide affordable living in a housing market constricted by geography and economic conditions.  This need is critical in Reedsport since many employers could not find housing for workers and so had unfilled positions.  This meant less people making, and spending, less money in Reedsport.  Obviously, something had to be done.

Renovated kitchen Reedsport

A renovated kitchen including new appliances, floors, cabinets, and paint

Just over a year after the Reedsport Main Street Program was awarded the OMS Revitalization Grant we are happy to report that we have completed our project and are already reaping the rewards of our work.  Not only do we now have a stock of quality apartments in our Downtown ready to be filled by tenants, but there has also been a virtuous cycle of spending carried out by private owners.  Vacant store fronts have been filled, facades have been redone, and new businesses have been started since we received this grant.  While Reedsport Main Street cannot take credit for all of this positive change, many private owners have referenced this project, and the fact that we have a Main Street Program, as a reason they felt confident investing in Reedsport.

While our work on Main Street is never truly over, we are proud to have made substantial progress in our partnership with Oregon Main Street on raising local property values, encouraging new and current businesses, and creating a vibrant sense of place in Downtown Reedsport.  Reedsport has changed a lot since it was built on the banks of the Umpqua, and no doubt it will continue to adjust in the future, but when people come together with the common mission of making their town a better place, that change will be in a positive direction.

Written by: Emerson Hoagland, Reedsport Main Street Program

Originally Published in Oregon Heritage Exchange Blog

Friends of Scappoose Parks officially kicks off

As the city is deep in efforts to develop new parks, Scappoose now has its own parks improvement organization.

Friends of Scappoose Parks was established this year and kicked off its first meeting on May 17.

The group was started as a way to complete small park improvement projects and raise money for city parks, while gathering and passing along community input about parks and recreational opportunities in Scappoose.

In its infancy, the group is currently facilitated by Garett Peterson, an AmeriCorps program participant working with the city of Scappoose.

Peterson says Friends of Scappoose Parks will eventually become a citizen group, independent of the city.

“We envision it as a community-run program,” Peterson says. “I’m just helping to get it up and going. Hopefully I can hand it off.”

The city already has a parks and recreation committee, which primarily serves as an advisory committee to the Scappoose City Council and city staff. The Parks and Rec committee is tasked with helping the city develop its parks master plan, while making recommendations to city officials.

The “Friends” group will serve a different purpose.

“There’s essentially four different parts to it,” Peterson explains. “Fundraising — identifying park improvement projects; community outreach; volunteer clean up events; and the Adopt a Park program.”

By offering an organization, business or benefactor the option to adopt a city park, that person or group becomes responsible for maintaining a park, or a park section.

Citizens stand to play a key role in the future of the city’s parks as Scappoose works to develop Chief Concomly Park alongside Scappoose Creek, and presses Columbia County to deed over land for the development of a park at Chapman Landing.

The parks endeavors come despite the city’s lack of dedicated staffing for park maintenance or upkeep.

During an inaugural meeting last month, interested residents brainstormed a few projects the group could take on over the next few months, says Peterson.

Those projects include adding more trash receptacles to city parks and adding signage on trails and parks where possible to denote natural features of interest or historical significance. Participants also pitched the idea of adding native and pollinator-friendly plants in parks around the city, particularly ones that border waterways.

“They came up with some good ideas that are reasonable, and even overlap with the city’s own goals,” Peterson notes. “A lot of these projects don’t cost much and are low maintenance.”

Projects and areas of focus for next year are expected to be narrowed down at the next Friends of Scappoose Parks meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, June 21, at Scappoose City Hall.

Everyone is invited to attend.

Originally Published in The Columbia County Spotlight

Vet clinic, downtown association to ask for Pendleton Development Commission dollars

With the Pendleton Development Commission in the process of obtaining a $3.5 million line of credit for new projects, two organizations are already stepping forward for a piece of the pie.

At a commission meeting Tuesday, members will hear funding requests from the Pendleton Veterinary Clinic and the Pendleton Downtown Association. Continue reading “Vet clinic, downtown association to ask for Pendleton Development Commission dollars”