A look back

Some of last year's news


December 29, 2022 | View PDF



At the start of 2022, the Jones family (owners of the Seneca Family of Companies) donated 16 acres adjacent to the Aaron and Marie Jones Field/McKenzie Track for community rebuilding and revitalization after the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire. A range of possible range from affordable housing to a state-certified child care center, as well as multi-use office spaces, community drinking water, septic infrastructure, and more. The McKenzie River Trust said it will manage the site with community partners as open space while community planning continues for the larger Blue River area.

To the west McKenzie Fire and S[pringfield School District crews had to pump water out of the Walterville Elementary School after it was flooded. Damage to the well-loved building was extensive and meant students couldn't return to their normal classrooms for the rest of the year.

Good news came to Leaburg when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced it was transferring the fire-damaged Leaburg Trout Hatchery it had scheduled for closure to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. In 2018, the Corps ceased production of summer steelhead there and outsourced the hatchery's rainbow trout production to the privately-owned Desert Springs Trout Farm in Summer Lake, Oregon. That outsourcing for just two years.


A closely watched area on the South Sister, known as the "Bulge" was bulging in February, according to satellite data that showed an uplift grew by 0.85 inches. A number of small earthquakes had also been recorded in the 12-mile wide area which is located about 3 miles west of the relatively The area gained its nickname about 25 years ago when the upward growth was first recorded. Cascades Volcano Observatory geophysicists also said that although episodes of increased uplift had been observed, the volcano's alert level and color code remained at "Normal/Green."

In a unanimous vote, the board of commissioners approved hiring five deputy sheriffs, two detectives, and one sergeant. The money was sourced through the federal Secure Rural Schools Act (SRS) had declined about 90% since the 1970's when timber harvests generated much more income.

In a return to community gatherings, over 100 neighbors showed up for a Chili Feed at the Walterville Community Center. Besides serving dinner to all those numbers, the Grange-sponsored event also generated 50 pounds of canned goods for the Valley's Food Pantries.


The Willamette National Forest invited people to a virtual public meeting on a proposal to decommission Delta Campground. Dead and burnt trees had been identified as posing an imminent hazard to the public, making the area no longer safe or suitable for camping. The proposal included removing all campground infrastructure, including bathrooms, fire rings, signs, picnic tables, bridge remnants, and paved surfaces.

A different program, from EWEB's McKenzie River Source Protection Program, called for planting 500,000 trees in areas that burned in the Holiday Farm Fire. Officials said the work was designed to safeguard drinking water for metro residents by addressing erosion from high-burn areas, as well as longer-term resiliency to restore floodplain areas that are critical to water quality and habitat.

At Leaburg Lake, dreams of a state-of-the-art interactive visitor center moved closer to reality during the Oregon legislature's 2022 short session. Approval was given to a $3 million lottery fund package earmarked for the development of the McKenzie River Discovery Center. Plans call for building a new 10,000 sq. ft. museum/education complex on the grounds, where fish hatchery-related structures were originally constructed in 1907 and decommissioned in 1953. The 46-acre site includes buildings on the National Historic Registry.


"It was a super cool experience," was the way one McKenzie High student reacted after seeing the Manzanita sculpture and the artists who delivered it. "The gift came from students of the Phoenix-Talent School District who created it after realizing their area wasn't alone in being impacted by the wildfires of 2020. After dropping off their artwork at McKenzie they traveled to the Santiam Canyon School District, which had also been hit by fire.

People interested in local medical care can were invited to learn more at the McKenzie Valley Wellness annual meeting next month. Participants were interested in hearing about the $1.8 million grant the local nonprofit has received to replace a building that burned in 2020. as well as the election of board members.

Snow on the Clear Lake Cutoff proved challenging to three different motorists who all ran off the roadway in separate wrecks on the same day.


A serious landslide on Aufderheide Drive put a serious crimp on recreational activities by limiting access to not only Terwilliger Hot Springs but also numerous day-use sites and campgrounds that would not be accessible from Highway 126. Affected recreation sites include the Echo Boat Launch; After the snow melted and fallen trees were cleared, accessible from the south side was via Oakridge/Westfir.

The McKenzie School District dealt with a shortage of school bus drivers by combining the downriver routes, to and from school. The district offered to hire and train qualified driver candidates with pay up to $21/hour with a $1,200 sign-on hiring bonus.

A report of a deceased male near the eastern snow gate of Hwy. 242 was followed up by the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office. The corpse had been located by a mushroom hunter. Investigators said they found no evidence of foul play.

The Oregon Fire Chief's Association honored five McKenzie Fire & Rescue volunteers for their long-term commitment to the community. Receiving the OFCA Award of Excellence were Dana Burwell – 45 Years, Thomas Maddock – 45 Years, Rusty Flanders – 37 years, Dale Ledyard – 35 Years, and Jim Ellis – 30 Years of service.


Vida's turn-of-the-20th-century stagecoach stop was transformed into live musical performances thanks to the construction of a large wooden stage. The first concert held there was a fundraiser for the Vida Community Center, featuring doo-wop twang, country blues, and progressive bluegrass tunes.

Volunteers from the Scorpions were busy restoring the McKenzie River Trail - between Deer Creek and the Trailbridge Reservoir. The work included restoring the tread on sections that were damaged by slides, trees, rock falls, etc. Last Tuesday they focused on a section with a very steep side slope - building rock retaining walls.

Subscribers to River Reflections were urged to send in their email addresses to continue receiving copies. The notice came as a warning that the mailed print edition would soon no longer be available due to unsustainable print and delivery costs.


Three upgrade projects were put into motion after McKenzie Community Schools classes were let out in June. Scheduled to run through the summer and fall, some of the most extensive work involved the "Old Gym." Work on the structure aims at ensuring the gym would be better able to withstand an earthquake while also providing a safe way to exit for students and staff. Some other work on the storage building, concession stand, and replacement of the grandstand is scheduled to be completed by late October.

A 71-year-old man was dead and a 37-year-old was in jail for his killing following a Friday night altercation at the deceased man's residence. When police arrived on the scene responded and found Gary Stuart Coulter on the ground outside with severe injuries. He was transported by to the hospital by paramedics but died a short time later.

$6 million in grant funds were awarded to the McKenzie and Upper McKenzie fire districts to help them "staff up." The Upper McKenzie department received funds to hire temporary seasonal firefighters McKenzie Fire hired two seasonal firefighters and planned to bring on additional personnel during extreme fire danger periods. The grant aimed to help to keep fires small and away from communities.


Activists hung a 30-foot banner across Highway 126 as the old-growth timber fight continued near McKenzie Bridge. Opponents of the Flat Country timber sale continued to call on the Willamette National Forest to cancel the proposed sale, saying it would have significant impacts on the climate, drinking water, and community safety. USFS officials argued the project was designed to provide a sustainable supply of timber products, increase vegetative habitat complexity and hardwood composition along streams, and actively manage stands to improve stand conditions on the sale's 4,438 acres.

Due to the increased risk of wildfires in the region, Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI) closed its Oregon forestlands to public access. Officials said the decision was based on several risk factors including increasing weather temperature, excess dry vegetation, low moisture levels, and long-range weather forecasts.

Similar concerns caused ODF&W to offer tips for hot weather angling, noting that in drought, fish are stressed out. People were advised to consider recreating in alternative places to have less of an impact on fish, wildlife, and habitats. Anglers were being steered toward warm-water species that were less sensitive to the heat of summer or for trout in cooler high mountain lakes.


Campers & recreators along Aufderheide Drive) were given the"Go Now" order due to the growth of the Cedar Creek Fire. The closure area included the Box Canyon Campground, Box Canyon Staging Area/Horse Camp, and Skookum Creek Campground, as well as all the surrounding dispersed camping areas. People were told to not take time to gather things because of immediate and imminent danger.

EWEB's canal conundrum continued some 95 years after the utility made the decision to build the Leaburg hydroelectric project. Choices for the facility's future ranged from full modernization to minor upgrading - as well as the possible removal of all structures. Those options could total between $179 million to $257 million. The public was asked to submit comments by October 10th.

This time of year, people looking in an area river or stream might come across salmon carcasses or see ODFW staff and volunteers slinging carcasses into the water. The dead salmon were at the end of their life's journey after gathering to spawn and die. Fishery crews distribute carcasses from hatcheries to provide nutrients for algae and other aquatic plants, as well as food for aquatic invertebrates. dead salmon. ODFW tries to avoid areas where dogs may encounter them to avoid canine health risks.


The Bottle Boys (and girls) gained some front-page coverage in the Ruralite, a monthly magazine distributed to 47 consumer-owned electric utilities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and California. The article noted the citizens - who dubbed themselves the Blue River Bottle Boys - had collected and turned in recyclable bottles and cans totaling about $50,000 to make a difference in their community. The group was also recognized as the Lane Electric Coop's "Member of the Year."

Protesting "Kayaktivists" took to the Leaburg Lake to call for the cancellation of the Flat Country Timber Sale while urging the crowd of 100 to go further. They also targeted European settlers for their ongoing colonization of Oregon and an exploitative relationship when it comes to its relationship with the indigenous community. Over at the Willamette National Forest officials said an internal regional review of the Flat Country sale was underway. No date had been announced for when a harvesting contract would be offered to bidders,

At McKenzie High School students and staff were able to "make a mark" by putting their handprints or initials into the wet concrete forms under the newly reconstructed bleachers replacing those lost to fire. Like area structures built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, it's hoped the slab is likely to be something students can visit with their own offspring in the years to come.


Environmentalists were chalking up a win in their efforts to stop a Trump-era rule that allowed more logging on post-fire land without conducting detailed environmental reviews. The ruling allowed the Bureau of Land Management to move ahead on logging projects they said would involve minimal environmental impacts. Six environmental groups had sued the agency in October of 2021, citing concerns associated with post-fire logging that included impacts to soils, understory vegetation, fuel loads, and post-fire features like snags and burned logs.

The family of a pilot killed in an accident in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness got some help from a GoFundMe campaign to recover the Piper Cherokee. Dave Sparks, known as "Heavy D," and Dave Kiley, known as "Diesel Dave," who starred in the reality show "Diesel Brothers" helped raise close to $50,000 to hire two private helicopters to recover the damaged aircraft that was located at about 6,500 feet in a federal wilderness area miles away from any road.

The McKenzie Valley Wellness board of directors terminated their agreement with Pivot Architecture of Eugene. Some disputed issues included concerns about drawings that included measurements for property line setbacks, discrepancies between exterior and interior renderings, and the placement of overhangs of the proposed new clinic building.


A plan to block one of Blue River's few paved roads generated some local controversy. The request to vacate part of River Street cited traffic safety concerns and trespassing. Some issues cited by opponents included the importance of an alternative access and egress road for area residents in emergency situations, as well as one of convenience and maneuverability. A final decision could need to be heard following a public hearing by the Lane County Board of Commissioners.


Combining wood and steel and switching from log to concrete abutments and steel I-beam stringers is hoped will greatly increase the lifespan of a replacement bridge over. Creek. The span, near the outflow of Clear Lake, involved workers who hauled the I-beams 8/10's of a mile to the bridge site using a motorized wheelbarrow and a customized trailer.

Thanks to donations, the Leaburg Library is now home to a world-class collection of angling-related books. 560 volumes were donated by To Ripp and another 60 - from the estate of Kevin Winter - were donated by his wife Deanna. The collection is housed in a new "Angler's Roost" room at the library and ranges from "how to's" to etchings or photography or "just beautiful literature."

This year's Business Holiday Lights Contest winners were announced. In first place was the East Lane Veterinary Hospital in Leaburg. Tied for second were the McKenzie River Discovery Center at Leaburg Lake and the McKenzie Stage Stop Restaurant in Cedar Flat.


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