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A Peek Into The Past

For a town that is only 122 years old, Cottage Grove sure has packed a lot of history into that time. Not only has a lot of water flowed under its covered bridges but the folks here take their history pretty seriously. Not less than five organizations work to record, research, and present the history of our city and its colorful inhabitants.

In addition to what is already in place, Main Street Cottage Grove, is making some history of its own by starting a new way to serve up the past: History Pub! The first one of these monthly events will be happening Tuesday, April 2 in the historic Burkholder Woods Building, better known as the Axe & Fiddle, from 5 to 7 p.m.

The inauguratory History Pub has wisely chosen a way to see just what was going on almost 100 years ago right where you will be sitting through the Morelock Films. Local businessman William Morelock who operated the Arcade Theatre, would occasionally turn the camera on downtown and capture everyday life in Cottage Grove in the ’30s and ’40s.

In addition to this tantalizing topic, the History Pub will feature a trivia contest for prizes, a 50/50 raffle, and good fellowship with friends met and unmet in a relaxed atmosphere with food and drink available. All funds raised (including 10 percent of your purchases at the Axe) go to the Main Street Organization’s efforts to revitalize our historic downtown. Local historical organizations will also be on hand to let you know more about what they do and have to offer.

Jared Matthew, Cottage Grove’s Downtown Coordinator, said “It is important to keep our downtown vibrant and improving, but to also remember and honor our past.”

He gave the current project of restoring the Bank Building to its original appearance as an example of how we can upgrade but still keep our history. Matthew, originally from Philadelphia, a city whose history runs very deep, is particularly impressed with how passionately Cottage Grovers take their history. He came up with the idea of having a History Pub to allow folks who haven’t connected with our local history a chance to meet some of the Main Street history partners who are working to keep our history alive.

So each first Tuesday you will have a chance to sip a brew and take in another aspect of Cottage Grove’s past. Some other opportunities to absorb some local history: Third Saturdays, Community Center, 10 a.m. CG Historical Society (April 20 topic is History Roundtable, come share your story!); fourth Tuesdays, Magnolia Gardens, 2 to 3 p.m., (March 26, Opal Whiteley) – public invited!

Next up on the History Pub, May 7 at 5 p.m. “Bohemia’s Most Colorful Characters and How They Changed Cottage Grove,” presented by Stephen Williamson.

Come full circle and meet the past in the present at History Pub! Learn more about what is happening in historic downtown at Main Street Cottage Grove on Facebook or @MainstreetCG.

Originally published in The Creswell Chronicle

Agritourism Appeal – Discover Klamath Program Promotes Local Producers

MERRILL — A tour of regional producers linked with a common goal of increasing agricultural tourism in the Klamath Basin were brought together for a day-long “Agritourism Meet and Greet” event on Saturday.

Coordinated by Discover Klamath and Rural Klamath Connects partners; a contingent of farmers, ranchers, small business owners and promoters of the ag industry gathered for a multi-stop trek to visit various local operations.

Beginning in Merrill, participants traveled via bus to locales in Malin, Bonanza and Midland to experience first-hand how other local producers cultivate their product, and how collaboration to promote its tourism appeal could pay dividends.

It was the second year that Discover Klamath had sponsored an Agritourism Meet and Greet, the first event offered as a lunch meeting. Those who participated last year wanted a more involved experience, seeing the facilities and growers to explore collaborative opportunities and how tourism could supplement operations and support farm sustainability amid a growing trend of consumers seeking a farm-to-table experience and deeper knowledge of where their food comes from.

“This is an opportunity for us to meet with local partners and introduce local people in the area who work in agriculture, while finding ways to use visitors, tourists and those looking to explore the area to help connect our local agriculture community,” said Patrick Lynch, rural tourism coordinator for Discover Klamath.

“It is a chance to bring other local farmers, ranchers, producers together — give them a chance to see some of their local agritourism partners in action, and talk with each other and experts about how they can get involved.”

The first stop was Lana’s Garden, a grant-funded greenhouse operation built by Larry and Becky Robinson near Malin in tribute to their daughter Lana — who loved to garden and tragically passed away in a car accident. Specializing in lavender products, the Robinson’s grow a variety of flowers and vegetables within two hoop houses built on their property.

The group next traveled to Gold Dust/Walker Farms, a large potato processing facility in Malin, which not only provides spuds for In-N-Out Burger and Frito Lay, but is the top exporter of potatoes to several Asian countries.

Trisha Hill, a fourth-generation Klamath farmer, offered a tour of the processing site, where potatoes are washed, bagged and shipped.

Walker Farms also hosted a luncheon, where Erika Polmar of Plate & Pitchfork and Travel Oregon offered sound advice about the regulations which must be adhered to for farms and ranches seeking to explore agritourism opportunities.

“When I started offering a farm dinner series I didn’t know I was breaking policies,” explained Polmar. “I almost went to jail for it, and that led me to work with Travel Oregon helping inform people of how to legally operate within regulations for farm-to-table programs and agritourism.”

Polmar detailed important aspects of Oregon land-use laws, permits and regulations, farm stands, and commercial events producers should know before embarking on public events.

Afternoon tour stops included a trip to Holland’s Dairy in Bonanza and Skyline Brewing Company in Midland.

Around 30 people joined the tour, from brewers to ranchers to government staffers eager to share programs, grants, and collaborative opportunities.

“In the State of Oregon agritourism is huge,” said Lynch. “Think about the reputation that wineries and craft beers have, the various food trails — it’s a huge thing statewide but in its infancy here. We are using this event as a catalyst to get the conversation going locally, and to let producers know that Discover Klamath is a resource here to help them getting involved.”

Promoting tourism through Klamath’s many agricultural producers benefits go beyond a financial boon — though supplemental income and community economic boosts are a definite plus.

Offering tours and allowing the general public into operations can break the monotony of the job, promote the importance of agriculture, establish connections with potential vendors, and build bridges between farmers and consumers.

“We hope this event is the opportunity to connect with each other and get a better idea of what we can do to take the next step,” added Lynch. “Plus, it’s an opportunity to spend a day enjoying what these producers contribute to our area. We know it’s not easy for farmers and ranchers to take a day off, and we appreciate all of our local partners being a part of this.”

Originally published in The Herald and News

Newberg will kick off plan for the future with community visioning event

City officials says the Feb. 5 event is a way for the public to engage in planning the city for next 20 years

To begin envisioning what the city will look like two decades from now, Newberg will host a community event Feb. 5 to kick off the process.

The event, titled “A NewBERG,” will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Chehalem Cultural Center. Community members, businesses and local organizations are invited to participate in the visioning process for the city’s next 20 years.

Charting the next two decades was a goal of the Newberg City Council and 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 Community Visioning Citizens Advisory Committee.

The city has already conducted earlier stakeholder interviews and now is transitioning into a more involved stage for the public to be part of. 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.

An outreach timeline suggests that public surveys, in the forms of forums and workshops, be held through June, with recurring advertising also slated to start this month. There will also be community events throughout the year to serve as opportunities for outreach, as well as committee meetings, and residents are invited to share their thoughts with Ware at The goal in the packet is to have final documents due to the council by July 31; the project ends Aug. 19.

According to the city’s website, “Oregon in general, and the Portland Metro Area specifically, has seen huge growth over the past 10 years. Newberg has seen and felt this growth first-hand. In this rapidly changing time, Newberg has the great opportunity to decide what it wants to be. A Community Vision is a tool that will provide goals for the next 20 years and a roadmap to get us there.”

According to committee documents, Newberg’s population is estimated to grow 56 percent by 2040, which would bring it to roughly 36,700 residents, and states the city is growing at a faster rate than both Yamhill County and the state as a whole.

According to the committee, 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 roadmap to a preferred future, and at the end of the project there will be a completed document outlining specific goals providing that roadmap.

The plan would also provide a “clear picture of the city’s resources so we can identify priorities” and unify different city sectors to accomplish the vision.

Originally published in The Newberg Graphic

City explores helping fix blighted homes

PENDLETON, Oregon – Staff for the Pendleton Development Commission is working on a census of blighted homes in the downtown area. Associate Director Charles Denight says intern Kaitlyn Cook is compiling a database of the properties and information about their owners as the PDC explores making funds available to fix the eyesores.

“A lot of them are rentals, but there are a number of them that are owned by people who live in them, but who have very low or almost no income, and they’re not able to fix them up because they just don’t have the money,” Denight said.

The census by Cook is essential to giving the PDC a comprehensive overview of downtown blight.

“Amongst the owners, you can identify people who own homes and rent them and maybe don’t do a good job of keeping them up; or there are people that own the homes and live in them; or there are people that own them, inherited them, and they live somewhere else.”

The PDC has been providing grants and low-interest loans to businesses in the downtown area for years for façade improvement, expansion, and second-story development. It has not yet tackled the issue of helping the owners of blighted homes.

Originally published in My Columbia Basin

Building a bike & bed

DALLAS — Marlene Cox, the owner of Latitude One in Dallas, will apply for a Main Street Revitalization grant to transform the second story of the restaurant building into a hostel catering to bicyclists.

The upstairs of the building, located at 904 Main St., is vacant. If successful, the project would build a hostel with men’s and women’s bunk rooms, bathroom and shower facilities, a kitchen, and two private rooms. Guests would have a place to secure their bikes next to their beds.

Cox also wants to purchase the vacant former gas station at the corner of Main and Washington streets to create a bike park with a wash and repair station, restrooms and a pocket park. The park would be one block from the hostel.

Cox said the Dallas Downtown Association will help write the grant, which is due in March. The grant is offered through the Oregon Parks & Recreation State Historic Preservation Office.

“Our Downtown Dallas Association is really trying to push bike friendly,” Cox said. “We want to be able to support bikes and cyclists.”

She said there aren’t amenities in Dallas specifically for bicyclists, which means the town is potentially missing out on a tourism niche. Cox said the idea began to take form when Polk County was selected to participate in Travel Oregon’s Rural Tourism Studio.

“Cycling, that was the big main pitch. I realized that Dallas has much to offer for cyclists to come,” Cox said. “I just think some lodging is what we definitely need to have. If this … works well, it’s going to encourage other owners with the old buildings with the second level empty just like this.”

Marshall Guthrie, a bicycle enthusiast from Monmouth, said there are a lot of towns in Oregon, including Dallas, that he would rarely visit, if at all, except for on two wheels.

“I go to the farmers market, coffee shops, I meet my bike club here. If it wasn’t for my bike, I would spend zero dollars anywhere but the courthouse in Dallas,” Guthrie said. “I could say the same thing about Jefferson. I could say the same thing about Perrydale. I could name a lot of towns in Oregon that have gotten my money that wouldn’t get it if there wasn’t a reason to ride my bike there.”

He said the hostel and the bike park would not only invite bicycle tourists, but cater to what he believes is a growing movement of people moving away from cars as their primary mode of transportation.

“I think we are entering an era where individual car use is going to taper off. I’m not going to say a decline, but per capita, you will see a decline,” Guthrie said. “As the population increases, cars will increase, but I think we are starting to see a resurgence of a community that is focused on people getting around some way other than in a car.”

Gabriel Leon, the DDA manager, said he’s invested in the project as someone who has commuted by bike, but it’s also in line with the organization’s goals.

“It has a personal place in my heart. I’m doing what I can so the town can have a bike-centered space,” Leon said. “The downtown association in general is always really excited about historic preservation and making sure that the bones of our towns and cities carry on into the future.”

Cox added that downtowns must evolve to say vital.

“Let’s make some reasons to come over to Dallas,” she said. “The old days of retail is gone. If we are going to do something, it’s going to have to be what people’s lifestyles now reflect and what they want.”

Originally published in Polk County Itemizer-Observer

RARE AmeriCorps Applications NOW AVAILABLE!

Are you interested in community building, natural resources, food security, natural hazard planning, economic development or land use planning?  Does your organization have community building, natural resources, food security, natural hazard planning, economic development or land use planning projects that you do not have resources to complete?  If so, you should consider applying to the Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) Program. Continue reading “RARE AmeriCorps Applications NOW AVAILABLE!”

RARE Opportunity Taken

In the fall of 2014, a group of citizens came together in Roseburg around a common mission: To improve quality of life for Douglas County residents while saving them money by catalyzing a shift to renewable energy and energy conservation.

Douglas County Smart Energy was formed, and two years later, they took a uniquely Oregon opportunity to boost their impact by participating in a program called Resource Assistance for Rural Environments. Each year, the RARE Program places thirty Americorps participants in rural communities around Oregon for a one-year period to coordinate a variety of collaborative community service projects.

RARE is how I landed in Roseburg from my former home of Hood River, and my one year of service is now wrapping up. I have had an incredible time working with Douglas County Smart Energy, coordinating renewable energy projects and promoting energy efficiency. With just a few weeks left, I am reflecting on the successes I’ve helped create and the remarkable people I’ve gotten to work with. Here are the top projects I got to work on:

  • Coordinating the submission of four grant proposals to place solar arrays on the buildings of community groups serving low-to-moderate income residents. Two of these grant proposals were to the Pacific Power Blue Sky Foundation, the fund made possible by contributions of Pacific Power rate payers. We won’t know for a couple more months if these projects will be fully funded, but we are feeling very encouraged by the fact that we recently received partial funding for one of them.
  • Supporting the development of an additional four solar projects for nonprofits in the county that will serve the low-to-moderate income population as a member of the statewide Sunshot Solar in Your Community team, coordinated by Sustainable Northwest.
  • Helping pave the path for more funding options for medium-to-large solar projects in Douglas County by making it easier for nonprofits, local governments, churches and other groups to take advantage of the federal investment tax credit, which can reduce project costs by 30 percent.
  • Participating in the submission of a grant to get four new electric vehicle charging stations in Roseburg.
  • Creating a plan to promote energy efficiency awareness that targets multiple sectors, including contractors, home builders, realtors, county and city staff and officials, K-12 students, and the general public.
  • Conducting outreach to twenty Douglas County school districts to get out the word about Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s solar curriculum program, Renewable Energy Leadership Lab.
  • Developing a list of Douglas County energy efficiency success stories of people who went the extra mile and built very energy efficient homes, discovering along the way how quickly the investment paid for itself.
  • I am in the midst of my last RARE project, surveying realtors and contractors to help DC Smart Energy better understand how to promote energy efficient construction. With buildings being responsible for approximately 40 percent of all energy consumption in the United States, and there being many tried and true (and cost effective) methods for constructing buildings that consume a fraction of the energy of buildings built to code, there is plenty of room for leaders in Douglas County to make a difference. This survey should help us better understand opportunities in the building industry in Douglas County, and potentially bring relevant training to the county.

At this point I haven’t decided what I’m doing next, but I’m finishing up my RARE year with immense gratitude for getting to work on such fun projects with such fantastic people. I’ve gotten to do work I care deeply about, and have discovered passion for a new career path I plan to pursue.

To those of you in Douglas County Smart Energy and others who helped make this possible, thank you, and keep up the excellent work.

Sander Lazar is a RARE volunteer working with DC Smart Energy and UCAN as the Renewable Energy Coordinator. For more information on energy efficiency and renewable energy, visit, or on Facebook by searching DCSmartEnergy.

Originally published in The News-Review

OSU Extension – Welcome, Lauren Johnson!

We are pleased to welcome Lauren Johnson as the new Member Services Coordinator for the Oregon Community Food Systems Network. Lauren is a RARE/AmeriCorps volunteer and will be based out of the OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems for her year of service with OCFSN.

In her own words:

“I got a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, but my heart was always with food and farming, so I often explored those themes in my research. After college, I spent the winter farming in Costa Rica, and then came to Oregon for a RARE (Resource Assistance for Rural Environments) AmeriCorps service position in Wallowa County in 2014. My job was to engage with different facets of the County’s local food system, from health care to farmers markets to schools to community gardening programs.

“During that year, I had the opportunity to attend the Oregon Community Food System Network’s first annual convening. I remember
feeling so energized being surrounded by all these incredible people and organizations working at the forefront of community food systems development. Not only were they implementing what was then fairly new and innovative programming to support community food systems, but they were also engaged in a difficult conversation about how to make that work more impactful.

“During my graduate degree in Environmental Studies at the University of Montana, I interned with OCFSN’s Policy and Advocacy Working Group because I believe in what they’re doing so strongly. Now, I’m so excited to be working full time with these 53 organizations, spread throughout Oregon and engaged with every facet of this state’s food system. It’s pretty incredible to get the bird’s eye view of community food systems in my daily work.”

Thanks, Lauren, and welcome.

‘We don’t want to overflow our streets but we want people to come and enjoy this place’

COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. — Jared Sidman says it didn’t take long for him to fall for the charms of Cottage Grove.

“So we’re full of beautiful murals; we’ve got covered bridges around town that we’re known for,” said Sidman.

The native of Philadelphia is the new full-time coordinator for Cottage Grove’s Main Street program.

Only a few months ago, Sidman was wrapping up a two year assignment in Micronesia, for the Peace Corps.

“So I was actually on a one square mile island with just a few hundred people, doing some teaching in the schools,” said Sidman.

And doing projects to boost tourism. Now, Sidman wants to see what he can do in Cottage Grove.

“So I’m trying to translate that to here,” said Sidman. “We don’t want to overflow our streets but we want people to come and enjoy this place.”

Sidman acts as a Liason Officer between city hall and downtown business owners.

Business owners, such as Candace Solesbee, is getting ready for a downtown infrastructure face-lift called, the Main St. Revitalization project.

“It’s a pretty big deal down here,,” said Solesbee. “It’s going to help us even out our roads because we’ve got a real “barrel” in our roads–so it will be great for the citizens here.”

Yet-to-be-finalized projects may include new sidewalks, more downtown lighting and other elements if funds from a $10 million state grant are approved. Sidman also dreams of funds to erect some billboards and attract more people downtown. in short, he’s bullish on the town’s future.

Originally published on NBC 16

Colorful Coburg

Coburg, Oregon continues to hold its place in the heart of the South Willamette Valley despite its proximity to the Eugene area. In large part this can be attributed to its small-town appeal including Coburg’s National Historic District of vintage style homes with architecture dating back to the 1800s. Coburg’s agrarian flair has been established through cultivated connections to surrounding farming communities, long stretches of country roads and backdrop of the Coburg Hills. The well -preserved homes of varying styles include cottages, barns and bungalows which recall over 150 years of Coburg history. Coburg residents’ value their small-town charm and are fervent to sustain preservation of these assets. During 2017 the community completed its Visioning project with Rural Development Initiatives identifying historic character as a substantial priority to retain and build upon in the years to come.

Coburg’s Heritage Committee continues to play an important role in advancing projects that aim to inspire community involvement. One such project was Coburg Community Historic Art Contest which culminated in Coburg’s first Art Show this past May. The art show displayed depictions of historic structures in Coburg as a means to spotlight local artists and historic buildings. Other projects including an updated Historic Walking Tour Brochure and Colorful Coburg Coloring Book. The Colorful Coburg Coloring book printed through 2018 Certified Local Government (CLG) Grant funds includes depictions of historic homes and architecture included in our Coburg Historic Walking Tour Brochure. Through a partnership with local business owner and active community member Terry Dawson, the Coburg Coloring Book was reproduced from a previous edition dating back to the 1980s. The Coloring Book will be available throughout the holiday season to engage more youth interest in historic preservation. Through these projects, we wish to promote creative expression for future generations as we maintain and enrich ties to our past.

Written by: Emma Vallillo, Community Development Project Manager, RARE AmeriCorps Member for City of Coburg

Originally published on the Oregon Heritage Exchange