Current News

USDA Grants PPPM $100K

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) awarded the University of Oregon $100,000 for its Rural Energy Development for Oregon program proposal. The grant was the largest given out of the $1 million dispersed across 17 states and Puerto Rico.

The UO applied to the grant through Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE), Oregon’s AmeriCorps program, housed in the Institute for Policy Research and Engagement (IPRE) in the School of Planning, Public Policy and Management (PPPM).

With the grant, RARE will partner with the Seattle nonprofit Spark Northwest and rural small businesses, farmers, and agricultural producers throughout the state to increase renewable energy generation. (See map of proposed sites below.)

Map of Oregon sites“Over 24 months, RARE and Spark Northwest will work together to evaluate renewable energy opportunities and provide renewable energy development assistance directly to rural small businesses, farms, agritourism operators, and agriculture producers across the state,” RARE outlined in its grant application. “The project will provide education to engage with at least 150 farmers and small businesses about energy opportunities, provide project-specific consultations for at least 40 of these entities, and shepherd at least 20 energy projects successfully through the development phase.”

Read more about the grant program in the Capital Press article, “USDA grants to help farms, businesses cut energy costs.

Originally published by University of Oregon College of Design

PROGRESS: Arts And Eats Expand Across The County

UMATILLA COUNTY — Across Umatilla County, restaurants and arts events are popping up to add a little spice to life.

OMG! Burgers & Brew in Pendleton recently celebrated its first birthday.

Soon after, the Pendleton Downtown Association presented owner Rodney Burt with its 2019 Best Restaurant/Bar/Tavern Award. With a menu that includes the Gouda for You Burger and the Pendleton Whisky Burger, the Main Street brewpub is fast becoming a favorite with locals. Burt proudly notes that all their beef is locally sourced and never frozen, and the buns are baked fresh four doors down.

“Things are going great,” he said. “We’ve expanded into the building next door and doubled our capacity. Now we can host big parties for up to 125 people.”

Next, OMG has an eye on possible new locations in Hermiston, Walla Walla, and the Tri-Cities area.

If hot dogs are more your style, River Dawgs opened its doors this spring in Umatilla, with artfully prepared, extra long dogs and more toppings than you can fit in a bun. Those who’d like to try are welcome to build their own creations with everything from jalapeños to cream cheese.

Just up the road, Rae’s Dayz Diner & Cakery is hitting its stride after just over a year in business. The no-frills eatery offers old-fashioned comfort food like fried chicken, fish & chips, and prime rib. Customers in need of a custom cake can tap the skills of owner Raelynn Gallegos.

For a taste of Asian cuisine, Shiki Hibachi Sushi has been serving Hermiston for a little more than a year. Adventurous diners can try the unagi (eel) or uni (sea urchin), while novices may prefer a more familiar California roll and miso soup. And don’t forget the mango mochi ice cream for dessert.

On the music scene, the latest new venue in Pendleton is an old one: The Lodge.

After purchasing and partially refurbishing the former Elks Lodge, Lance Leonnig kicked off a monthly concert series, “Live From the Leslie,” in April in the roomy performance space upstairs. Slated bands cover a country-folk-R&B-rock mix of genres.

A sizeable grant in May from the Pendleton Downtown Association and Oregon Heritage will allow further renovation to be done, including a second stage and a future restaurant on the lower level.

“It’s a big beast but all of us involved fell in love with the building,” said partner Adam Mack.

Eventually, he said, the downstairs Stag Bar “will be open five days a week, and we want music on that stage every weekend.”

On the coattails of the highly successful Whisky Fest, Pendleton has launched another major music event this summer: The Jackalope Jamboree is set for June 29 in the Happy Canyon Arena. The daylong event features smaller regional bands on two stages — and more affordable tickets.

In downtown Hermiston, the festival street completed a year ago next to city hall is now seeing a lot of use. Creating the urban renewal district was a major step, said Main Street program coordinator Darin Foster, with the addition of planters, trees, and sidewalks that transition seamlessly to street.

“It was designed to make it a lot more pedestrian-friendly and easier to close off for events,” he said.

This year the festival street becomes the site of Hermiston’s first Summer Series. Six events, hosted monthly, will include wine and beer tasting at Cork & Barrel on June 29 and and the Spud Fest on July 13, with a carnival and vendor booths.

A few blocks to the west, the 4,600-square-foot Maxwell Pavilion saw completion in March. The new venue opened with the first annual Maxfest Craft Beer Festival, and the Maxwell Farmers Market wasted no time shifting to the new location in May.

The market runs every Thursday from 4-8 p.m., with live music starting at 5 p.m.

Originally published in the Eastern Oregonian

Pendleton Considers Urban Renewal Program For Blighted Homes

PENDLETON — The Pendleton Development Commission could soon get into the home improvement business.

On behalf of the commission, Kaitlyn Cook, an associate from the University of Oregon’s Resource Assistance for Rural Environments program, studied downtown blight and presented the results at a commission meeting on Tuesday.

Cook said she did the study so that the commission, which is comprised of members of the Pendleton City Council, would better understand the issue of blight while members consider how to move the urban renewal district forward during the last four years of its lifespan.

“I’m not a structural engineer,” she said. “I looked at the buildings and looked at determinators of blight.”

Cook studied every structure from Southeast Sixth Street to Southwest Sixth Street, Umatilla River to railroad, and graded them on a 900 point scale.

She assessed the buildings based on nine qualities of blight, including peeling paint, yard maintenance issues, and structural problems.

Based on her scores, she determined that there were 52 blighted buildings in the downtown area, 25 of them residential.

Although city officials have long been critical of absentee landlords and banks who let their properties fall into disrepair, only a little more than half of the blighted structures were renter occupied.

The development commission’s advisory committee has been exploring how the urban renewal district could take a greater role in housing, said Charles Denight, the commission’s associate director.

They’ve been busy crafting a proposal to improve the urban renewal district’s existing stock while still filling an unmet need.

Denight said the Greater Eastern Oregon Development Corp. and Community Action Program of East Central Oregon already offer housing renovation programs, but they’re more focused on paying for projects that will improve the health or safety of a homeowner.

Additionally, previous city programs like Restore Pendleton would make a financial effort to fix up a home, only to see it fall back into disrepair.

To avoid duplication or previous pitfalls, the advisory committee is considering a five-year forgivable loan program that can be applied toward external renovations.

Under the program, homeowners would be able to give their houses a facelift on the commission’s dime, as long as they can pass a series of inspections.

With each passed inspection, the homeowner would get 20% of their loan forgiven. If the owner passes all inspections after five years, they owe nothing.

Denight said the program could also be available to renters, but they likely wouldn’t be able to access a fully forgivable loan.

If the commission moved forward with the loan idea, it wouldn’t lack the funds to sponsor it.

If they relied on tax revenue alone, the urban renewal district could spend another $5.9 million on projects. But if they decided to access their full line of credit, that number expands to $33.5 million.

Originally published in the Eastern Oregonian

Free LED Light Bulbs Offered In Talent

Talent residents can get up to 16 energy-saving LED light bulbs installed at no cost under a joint program by the city of Talent and Rogue Climate that runs through the end of May. Low-flow shower heads and faucet aerators also are available.

Bulbs and plumbing devices are funded by a 3% state of Oregon charge attached to utility bills for reinvestment into energy-efficient projects.

As of Monday, the team had worked in 44 houses and changed out 526 LED bulbs, 21 aerators and 10 shower heads. The program, which began in April, aims for installations in 100 homes, said Michael Hoch, program coordinator for the city.

“There’s always some concern on how the program is working. When you explain that (the residents) are actually paying for it, they are very appreciative of what we are doing,” said Hoch. “Talent citizens are very concerned about energy consumption and usage.”

Judy Finses and her husband, Jim, along with neighbors Jill and Don Miller, make up one of the volunteer installation teams. The couples first practiced on their own homes in April.

“You’re supposed to save up to $10 per year per bulb,” said Judy Finses. “Each bulb costs around $4. You can get up to 16 bulbs. That’s a huge savings.”

Her team worked initially in Oak Valley, a development off West Valley View Road for residents 55 and older. They’ve also worked in another retirement community.

“Sometimes the color is too bright, so they haven’t wanted them in a certain areas,” said Finses. Almost every home she had been involved with has taken the full 16 bulbs available, although some homes already had LEDs in some fixtures, she added.

In 2017 Rogue Climate ran the program on its own. That year the nonprofit installed 1,094 bulbs in 114 homes. Bend is the only other city in Oregon that has done a similar program, Hoch said. Funding for the hardware comes from Pacific Power and Avista through fees on customer bills.

Over the lifetime of the installations, $70,786 in savings is projected, said Hoch. LED lights are estimated to have a 22- to 25-year lifespan. Aerators and shower heads are expected to last 10 to 15 years.

“We decided to reinstate it this year because Rogue Climate helped pay for part of the costs,” he said. The group donated funds for program administration and volunteer coordination. They also bought all the tools and materials, including plumbers’ tape, pliers and light bulb extractors for vaulted ceilings. Six volunteers are working in outreach and 10 are doing installations and other work.

Two types of light bulbs are available, lamp style and recessed can bulbs. They are tested for compatibility with dimmer switches. Specialty bulbs are not offered.

Hoch is an intern with AmeriCorps Resource Assistance for Rural Environments working for the city of Talent through the University of Oregon. The city has allocated a portion of his time to help Rogue Climate run the program. During his 11-month tenure, Hoch has focused on energy management. He does energy consumption analysis, energy education and research on renewable energy alternatives in Talent.

A group of Talent residents, along with city officials, created a Clean Energy Action Plan for the city to help transition to 100 percent clean energy. One goal of the plan is to reduce Talent’s energy use by 30 percent.

The teams do installations by appointment during the week. On Saturdays, usually two or three teams will knock on doors to see whether residents want the devices. They can perform the work then or schedule it for another time.

The program is available only to Talent residents. A shower head and faucet aerators are available for Avista natural gas customers. Residents can call 541-236-5038 to schedule an appointment or set it up online by going to

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at

Originally published in the Mail Tribune

Grant Moves Bike Hostel Forward

DALLAS — One of Dallas Downtown Association’s goals is to make Dallas a bike-friendly town. It just received a big boost in the form of a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Program.

The grant will help pay for preservation, seismic upgrades and remodeling to transform the upper floors of the Latitude One and Dallas Yoga & Balance Studio buildings in downtown Dallas into a bike hostel.

“It was very competitive, and we were funded to the fullest level, so we won the full $200,000 for the seismic retrofit and the modernization of the 904 Main St. building, which a lot of people know as Latitude One, and the yoga studio (115 SE Court St.),” said Gabriel Leon, the DDA manager. “The purpose of the Main Street Revitalization grant is to provide a spark for a lot of these rural main streets to become modernized economically that can support tourism and other economic development.”

The grant will cover about half the cost of converting the vacant space into a bike hostel that will have 30 to 40 beds and a few private rooms, Leon said.

He said once completed, the hostel will attract bicycle tourists to Dallas at the rate of 11,000 bed rentals per year. Those guests are likely to spend time and money in Dallas.

“Because of those 11,000 bed stays, the way we calculated it was, if each person spent about $35 to $40 on food and retail goods, which is a really low number, that would generate about $250,000 new investments in tourism dollars in our downtown, so that’s a really big deal,” Leon said. “Particularly for our restaurants and retail, that will be a big boost.”

The Oregon Heritage division of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department awarded 30 grants worth $5.2 million to Oregon Main Street Network organizations across the state for building projects that encourage economic revitalization, according to a OPRD press release.

The grant application received support from the Itemizer-Observer, the city of Dallas, local bicyclists, the Willamette Valley Visitors Association, and the Salem Area Trail Alliance, along with other bicycle coalitions in the area.

“The city of Dallas has considerable potential to be a magnet for bicycle-based tourism, with excellent nearby opportunities for both mountain biking and road cycling and cycle touring,” wrote Salem Area Trails Alliance President Beth Dayton in a letter of support for the project. “The hostel project would close a significant gap in tourism infrastructure by providing up to 30 beds at an affordable price in a very attractive sociable setting.”

Mark Thackray, the vice president of Mid-Valley Bicycle Club, said Dallas is near a coast-to-coast bicycle trail called the Adventure Cycling TransAmerica Route.

“The official route goes through Corvallis, up Highway 99W, very close to Dallas, Oregon,” he wrote in a letter of support. “In many towns along the route, one finds bicycle hostels and accommodations. They are enjoyed by bicycle tourists, who then spend additional dollars in the community during their stay.”

Marshall Guthrie, of Monmouth, who uses his bike as his primary form of transportation, said the project isn’t just about tourism, but supporting cycling as a viable option for commuting.

“Creating a culture of support for cycling means that all residents, especially low-income residents, can more easily and inexpensively get to work and businesses,” Guthrie wrote in his letter in favor of the project. “A bike-friendly community encourages more people to enjoy parks and public spaces, and improves their personal health as they do. Cycling leaves a community more vibrant, healthier, and better off.”

Leon said there’s still some work to do on financing before the project can start, but with the Main Street grant in hand, the renovation will move forward. He said the DDA and building owner Marlene Cox will apply for a National Trust for Historic Preservation Grant.

“That’s hyper-competitive. Last year, there were seven projects chosen and about 1,000 applied,” he said. “There are very, very narrow chances we are going to get it. We have a couple other smaller grants that we’ve been thinking of, and we are in line for about $20,000 of in-kind donations.”

Leon said he’s supportive of cycling as a form of transportation and historic preservation, so to be part of the team that wrote the grant is thrilling.

“I definitely was jumping up and down about it,” he said. “This was what we needed, so we’ll go forward with the project regardless.”

He said Dallas lacks amenities that cater to bicyclists, and he hopes that is project will begin to change that.

“I feel like this will kind of push Dallas in that direction of being more welcoming to bicyclists,” he said. “We are working on a lot of other projects that are adjacent to it, and I think it will be good for Dallas, both for downtown and the rest of the city’s development.”

With the seismic upgrade and work on electrical and plumbing, he said the grant will help preserve one of the features that makes downtown Dallas unique.

“I think everyone really appreciates the building. It’s kind of unique in that it’s a beautiful Victorian building. It’s on the courthouse square,” Leon said. “There’s not another one like it in Dallas.”

Originally published in the Polk County Itemizer-Observer

Housing Challenges Front And Center At Pendleton Conference

Less than two years ago, the city of Pendleton hosted a housing conference to connect potential home builders with available land in Pendleton.

On Monday, the city held another conference to target the other part of the equation: homebuyers.

The city brought together real estate agencies, housing assistance organizations, and 74 prospective homebuyers and renters at the Pendleton Convention Center.

In his opening remarks, Mayor John Turner said the most recent conference was spurred by a housing study that showed a significant number of Pendleton’s workforce commuted from out of town.

With the hope that more Pendleton workers will make the city their home if given the chance, the homebuyers and renters conference was born.

The conference started with speeches explaining how credit works and ways attendees can save money for new housing.

Denise Jerome, the housing director for the Community Action Program of East Central Oregon, suggested that audience members could take on a second job, sell personal items on eBay, or rent out a room to earn extra income.

Attendees were then separated into “buyers” and “renters” groups, and after half the room emptied out, the buyer group was given a presentation by Greg Galloway, a branch manager for Stearns Home Loans.

Galloway said Pendleton, along with the rest of the Northwest, is a seller’s market, meaning home sellers have an advantage in negotiations because housing stock is scarce.

Additionally, going through the multi-step home buying process can be intimidating for first-time buyers.

“Most people, the first time they do this, they go, ‘Holy crap, this sucks,’” he said.

But Galloway encouraged the audience to explore buying a home as an option, saying potential buyers don’t necessarily need perfect credit to secure a mortgage and a house’s value was more likely to rise than a rental unit’s rent was likely to fall.

Galloway’s latter point sunk in for Lowell and Carolyn Britt, who are in the process of finalizing the purchase of a house in town.

Lowell said the Pendleton couple had learned many of the lessons discussed at the conference the “hard way.”

Lowell had access to a home loan through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, but he was stymied from getting a mortgage until he could establish more work history.

He was able to do just that when he got a new job, but the couple still faced a competitive market when they looked at houses. When they bid on their future house in the McKay Creek area, it had been the second bid in the two days the house had been on the market.

Lowell and Carolyn said they were more interested in buying into the neighborhood than the house itself, which they plan to fix up (the Britts said their new house was unaffected by the April flooding).

Abel Lozano is earlier along in the home buying process, but he was glad that he could get some more information at the conference.

Lozano said he’s applying for a home loan through the U.S. Department of Agriculture because of its low-money-down allowances.

A single parent, Lozano said he wants to move out of the trailer park he lives in so his daughter has room to grow.

The challenge for Lozano is finding a suitable house in a market where many homes were built in the 1930s and 1940s and are in a state of deterioration.

“The market is kinda slim,” he said.

While the conference got several positive reviews from the audience, it also got a thumbs up from a real estate agent in attendance.

Jef Farley, a broker/owner at Coldwell Banker Whitney & Associates, praised conference organizers for getting good turnout on a Monday evening.

In an interview after the conference, Farley agreed that Pendleton was a seller’s market.

He added that Pendleton has two months of available housing inventory, meaning all houses that are currently available for sale would be sold in two months if no new houses come onto the market. A neutral market would have five months of inventory.

Although the city has been active in selling lots for housing development, resulting in new housing at Sunridge Estates and on Westgate, Farley said the next challenge is building new lots for housing.

Kevin Hale, another real estate agent for Coldwell, echoed Farley’s statement at the conference.

“If you think housing is tight and you think rentals are tight, then just try to find a lot to build on in Pendleton, Oregon,” he said.

Farley said he’s been studying a recent boom in real estate interest in The Dalles and he thinks Pendleton is poised to become the next hot real estate market, but the city needs to be prepared to create the capacity.

Before attendees left for the evening, the city collected a housing survey they issued to the audience.

The survey asks respondents about their current housing situation, the challenges they face in finding new housing, and their interest in city-sponsored home loan programs.

Originally published in the East Oregonian

RARE Member, Kaitlyn Cook, organized the conference as part of her service with the City of Pendleton.

Out Our Back Door – Collaborative Effort Seeks To Save the Oregon Dunes

As you read this, the Oregon Dunes are disappearing. But at the same time, while this unfortunate situation unfolds, something is being done about it. And you can help.

For the last four years, a collaboration of user groups, individuals, resource agencies and Indian tribes have been working on solutions with the US Forest Service, which manages the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (ODNRA).

The problem, in two words, is invasive species: European beachgrass, Scotch Broom and gorse.

Before I continue the story, however, I must admit that people are correct when they point out that we’re all invasive species. It’s just that some are more robust than others. For example, if nothing is done about the Oregon Dunes, resource officials say they’ll be overgrown in less than 75 years.

This chilling prediction led to the formation of the aforementioned collaborative effort, known as Save the Oregon Dunes. Sharing details of their efforts is Florence-based Dina Plavis, USFS volunteer dunes interpreter, who’s made recent presentations at venues ranging from Southwestern Oregon Community College to “Pub Science Night” at 7 Devils Brewery in Coos Bay. She’ll speak at the June 4 First Tuesday Talk at Coos History Museum in Coos Bay, among other places.

At the talks, Dina said she and other volunteers will also be present at Dunes events such as the UTV Takeover and DuneFest, as well as at upcoming Earth Day events and at the various fairs and festivals coming up on the Central and South Coast. Volunteers are actively sought to help with the efforts, she said, ranging from staffing information booths for an hour or two to distributing Save The Dunes brochures, posters and other materials. More dates and details at the end of this article.

At the presentations, Dina explains European beachgrass was planted from the 1930s to 1950 to stabilize embankments at the mouths of coastal rivers so they wouldn’t silt in. Their roots consist of fibrous rhizomes that aggressively spread and overwhelm other species as well as open sand. Forest Service aerial photos show how the Dunes have been steadily getting overgrown through the decades. But why do we care? Dina said the answers take in everything from habitat preservation (there are more than 400 species out there, including the Siuslaw Hairy Necked tiger beetle, fastest insect on the planet) to recreation (ATVers, hikers, equestrians, anglers, boaters and paddlers) to economic stimulus (in 2017 the Dunes were estimated to have generated $271.1 million dollars in visitor spending).

In addition to clearing beachgrass and brush, giving presentations, and supporting Forest Service plans – about which more in a moment – Dina said a gratifying aspect is the participation by all user groups, from ATV riders to those who enjoy the Dunes’ vehicle-free areas. “We’re working together without other agendas, because division doesn’t do anything to solve problems,” she said.

Dina praised the ATV group Save the Riders Dunes for their work parties at the Bull Run and Signal Hill areas in the Dunes. At the 7 Devils presentation, riders group president Leo Cox and treasurer Jody Phillips discussed recent “smash the grass” events in which ATVers show up to do battle with invasives with everything from their ATVs to hand tools to bulldozers.

With Forest Service support, the collaborative developed goals of preserving the best of what’s left and restoring “landscape-scale” projects to get the sand moving again. The idea was to bulldoze a large swath of land from the foredune through the deflation plain to open sand, followed by spot application of herbicide to preserve the newly-opened area.

But the plan was derailed with the discovery of coastal martens – a small, furry mammal that lives in the relative shelter of the densely-forested deflation plain. “They didn’t want to divide the marten’s habitat in two, creating open sand, because martens don’t like to cross open sand as it exposes them to predators,” said Dina. It’s estimated there are less than 200 martens left, with endangered species designation expected by this summer.

So now they’ll try plan at Baker Beach at the north end of the dunes and evaluate its results. Dina noted the plan will not affect the 5600 acres of Dunes open to ATVers, except for lowering speed limits in some forested areas, a change actually supported by many ATV users.

Meantime, work parties are planned for further hand removal of the invasives. Individuals are also welcome to clear brush on their own. Gorse and European beachgrass must be completely dug out, but Scotch Broom can be trimmed to its crown to kill it. Stack cut brush and leave it to decay, but don’t put it on top of the native groundcover plant called kinnikinnick.

Brush and beachgrass removal sessions are planned for April 20 at Dellenback Dunes near Lakeside and April 27 at Honeyman State Park south of Florence. More volunteers are also needed in communities at the south end of the Dunes.

Space limitations here have necessitated a compressed overview of this subject; for more information, or to sign up for emails, or to make donations, check the website . The ATV rider group’s website is , with further details on their Facebook page.

Originally published in the South Coast Shopper

Council Gets Update On City’s Community Visioning Process

In anticipation of an August completion date, the city of Newberg received an update on their Community Visioning process Monday ahead of an April 16 town hall on the matter.

The vision is a plan to chart the next 20 years of Newberg’s future and was a goal of the City Council. The city went to the University of Oregon for help and were provided a participant from the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments Program to serve as a visioning coordinator. That coordinator, Bayo Ware, drafted a community profile for the city’s Community Visioning Citizens Advisory Committee.

Community Development Director Doug Rux said several topic categories have been identified through stakeholder interviews and from a first round of community survey work. These include: community engagement, community identity, community leadership, cultural assets, economic development and livability and development.

These vision topics were used to create the online survey residents participated in over the winter, and lead to the first community forum that was held in February. Rux said that more than 60 people participated in that forum.

In March, Rux said a volunteer group called the Community Corps began drafting a vision, goals and strategies based on the 900 survey results the city received.

Public events should last through June. The following step is an action plan, which is gathering all the data and putting it into a plan to finalize the vision. There will also be community events throughout the year to serve as opportunities for outreach, as well as committee meetings.

Newberg’s population is estimated to grow 56 percent by 2040, which would bring it to roughly 36,700 residents. At that number the city is projected to grow at a faster rate than both Yamhill County and the state.

The committee has previously stated a visioning project “is a way for the community to participate in planning Newberg’s future.” The community is rapidly growing, “and if we don’t plan for the future, then it will become something that no one wants.” It states the benefit of the plan is it creates a road map to a preferred future and at the end of the project there will be a completed document outlining specific goals providing that road map.

The Community Corps is working on the community vision statement. Rux said the group will appear before the council on April 16 at a town hall event to outline the visions for each topic area, and that there will be a second round of survey work to come.

“We’ll work with the community to get feedback to see if they are on topic,” he said.

The schedule to have the vision completed by August remains on track, Rux said, adding that Ware is making sure all goals and benchmarks are met.

According to the time line in place, following the April 16 town hall at the Newberg camps of Portland Community College at 135 Werth Blvd., where the vision draft will be presented, the next event will be a second community workshop on May 14. Following that, there will be a second public presentation town hall June 30, followed by a community vision workshop July 10. The vision is expected to be completed by August.

The project is being funded through the Planning Budget in the General Fund, and $23,500 has been budgeted for the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) participant through Professional Services. The program provides a small match toward the overall costs. Money has also been budgeted for office equipment and costs for community meetings, workshops and events.

Residents with questions or feedback, may email Ware at

Originally published in The Newberg Graphic

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

RARE expands capacity of rural towns

Program matches young professionals with development efforts

In 2016, when Elizabeth Gronert graduated from the University of Iowa, she didn’t quite know what to do next. She knew she wanted to get out of the Midwest. She knew she wanted to build career connections. And she knew she wanted an adventure.

Elizabeth Gronert

Gronert found the answer with the University of Oregon’s RARE AmeriCorps program. RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) matches successful applicants, most of them recent college graduates, with rural communities and organizations that need skills in specific areas but may not have those resources.

RARE is building a cadre of committed young professionals — many of whom choose to stay in Oregon — who can gain valuable experience while expanding the capacity of rural communities. “In rural communities, the ability of one person to make an impact is immense,” says Titus Tomlinson, RARE’s acting program director. “As an AmeriCorps program, RARE adds the spirit of service to the table, and it’s a beautiful way to give back.”

A win-win proposition

For Gronert, RARE offered “just a big ball of benefits.” In return for working 11 months, participants receive a $1,600 monthly stipend, graduate credits, an education award that can be used to pay off loans or future educational expenses, and the chance to make connections, amass experience, and become part of the tight-knit RARE community.

“What they are really getting is real-world practice, real-world experience and the chance to make real-world decisions,” says Tomlinson, a RARE alumnus who came to Oregon 12 years ago to serve with the city of Winston’s planning department in updating its floodplain management plan. “It was a life-changing experience for me, on both a personal and professional level,” he says.

Titus Tomlinson

Since RARE’s inception in 1994, AmeriCorps has placed more than 500 RARE members throughout rural Oregon. In its first year, RARE AmeriCorps placed 13 members; this year, there are 31 members. Participants work for municipalities, nonprofits, regional groups or statewide organizations. Projects are as varied as the needs of communities, including economic development, planning, tourism, fire communication, art and library development.

For Tomlinson, like many participants, culture shock played a role in the learning experience. “I moved from very liberal Arcata, California, to conservative rural Oregon — full beard, dreadlocks to my waist,” he remembers. “They accepted me with open arms. Politics aside, what matters most is a sense of community. I befriended the police chief, the mayor … I was part of that family. It was an extremely special experience, part of my life that I will forever hold dear.”

Statewide partners

This is Gronert’s second year working with the Oregon Coast Visitors Association on projects relating to agritourism and recreation on the south coast, including the burgeoning Oregon Food Trail. Her position is co-funded through OCVA, the Wild Rivers Coast Alliance and Travel Oregon.

Statewide partners are an increasingly important component of RARE. Organizations such as Travel Oregon, the Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Main Street Program and The Ford Family Foundation provide funding, training, hosting, information sharing and expertise.

“We’re thankful to have such great local and regional partners that also want to make investments in capacity to support rural communities,” says Travel Oregon’s Alexa Carey. Carey was a RARE placement in 2012-2013, helping the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians in Roseburg develop its small-business incubator, the Umpqua Business Center. She worked in Oregon after her RARE term ended and is now Travel Oregon’s director for community-based services.

Tomlinson looks forward to increasing the program’s number of statewide partners, which has the effect of increasing the support available to rural communities. “When we come into a rural community, we are able to really wrap around their needs,” he says. “You don’t just get a RARE member, you get access to our partners.”

Projects benefit from RARE

This year’s 31 RARE participants are working in small communities throughout Oregon on a wide variety of projects. Many are collaborative efforts between regions and organizations. Here’s a glimpse of what RARE placements are working on:

Oregon Coast Visitors Association: Travel Oregon’s Oregon Food Trails program guides tourism communities in how to identify their strongest agritourism products and market them to Oregonians and visitors alike. Four food trails have been developed with the help of the RARE program: Wild Rivers Coast, Great Umpqua, East Gorge and North Coast.

City of Roseburg: The RARE participant is supporting the initial start-up of the Roseburg Public Library, helping develop library policies and procedures, including those related to the recruitment and retention of a large volunteer workforce.

Clackamas County: RARE is helping assess opportunities and barriers for community solar initiatives, coordinate public engagement and outreach, and identify partners and participants for a community solar installation.

Eastern Oregon Healthy Living Alliance: The RARE placement is helping conduct a social marketing campaign aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption with Latino moms in Malheur, Morrow, and Umatilla Counties.

City of Florence: The RARE participant is helping the city’s public art committee members select and install two large-scale public art pieces in Florence’s Urban Renewal District.

City of Veneta: The RARE participant is supporting entrepreneurs, including the formation of a pop-up retail district and the formation of a brewery incentive package.

Originally published in The Ford Family Foundation’s biannual newsletter, Community Vitality, Spring 2019