Make the McKenzie Connection!

Closing out

with some of the last year’s news

January

During the start of the year, opponents of the 5,000-acre Flat Country timber sale east of McKenzie Bridge had convinced Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa to form an interdisciplinary review team to review it. Their report resulted in the sale being put on hold.

A new report concluded glacier retreat has accelerated, with 20 of Oregon’s glaciers disappearing since the mid-late 1900s, and no glaciers remaining in the Wallowa Mountains.

The number of greenbacks involved - $117 to $230 per megawatt hour (to bring the generators back into full service) versus $33 MWh (to buy power from the BPA) helped assure gain a unanimous vote by the EWEB board on January 3rd that called for the removal of the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project.

“Revitalize, rebuild, and restore” were the themes at the core of a public meeting in the new gym at McKenzie Schools. Some of the conversations that day included ways to promote compact, small-town development patterns.

The Oregon Dept. of Transportation was asking the public to share safety concerns and experiences on the McKenzie Highway as part of a new Hwy. 126 safety study.

February

Via the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Wildfire Programs Advisory Council, Oregon decided to postpone the release of a draft of statewide wildfire risks after considering several recommendations that would substantively change the map itself.

ODOT’s $5 million “Greenwood Dr - Vida” project was scheduled to go out to bidders. Officials say the pavement resurfacing project would replace deteriorating roadway surfaces that had come to the end of their useful life.

At their February 7th meeting, the Lane Board of County Commissioners (BCC) voted unanimously to place the renewal of the current public safety levy before voters during the May 16th election. Passage of the measure, officials said, would not increase the tax rate.

March

An unidentified man was killed in a fall on the east side of Aufderheide Drive (USFS Rd. 19), a short distance south of Terwilliger Hot Springs.  First responders arrived on the scene to find a man lying motionless on the ground at the bottom of a cliff.

The Lane County Sheriff’s Office was seeking help in identifying individuals involved in recent thefts occurring in the Vida and Leaburg areas. Investigators suspected a mid-2000s Suzuki Aerio and an unidentified suspect wearing a hooded sweatshirt and pants were likely involved.

After more than three years of effort, excavation was planned to get underway within a few weeks for a 2,669 square-foot fire station in Blue River - with two full-size engine bays, a training room, a locker room, bathrooms, and some storage space.

The Annual April Fool’s also appeared, with headlines like: “Passing wind strands Pacific Trail hikers.”

April

FINN ROCK: A public forum for candidates seeking seats on the McKenzie School Board didn’t pan out as planned when only four of the eight candidates showed up to answer questions.

A week of “boats galore” included McKenzie Drift Boat Boat builders who were busy at the McKenzie River Discovery Center. Others brought their boats to the Wooden Boat Festival at the Eagle Rock Lodge, and the last boat built by Woodie Hindman was a welcome donation to benefit the creation of the new Discovery Center,

Upper McKenzie firefighters who earned top awards this year were: Firefighter of the Year: Jose Ramirez Solano, 2023 Rookie of the Year: Taylor Wickizer, Chief’s Award recipient Dirk Rogers, and Jess Boykin who received the annual EMS Award.

May

The Lane County Board of Commissioners granted a right-of-way okay to Blue River Drive allowing it to join the ranks of Territorial Highway, East 30th Avenue, and Gilham Road. How? The unanimous vote put a stamp of approval on the creation of a “Design Concept” that will allow downtown rebuilding plans to mirror the way the town’s streets had been configured for over 100 years.

The Eugene Water & Electric Board Commissioners planned to provide an overview of what is likely to occur as plans move forward to permanently discontinue generating electricity at the Leaburg Hydroelectric Project. Issues they said were sure to be aired included when work to remove Leaburg Dam could get underway and if the utility’s federal license to operate the project would also require removing the Walterville project.

The Thurston High School mass shooting continued to be hard to comprehend 25 years later. Since then fatal shootings have become more frequent, while decisions on making schools safer, gun control, and sentencing juvenile offenders remain in flux.

June

The McKenzie River Ranger District was seeking comments on a variety of upcoming projects ranging from residence improvements at the Big Lake Youth Camp to restoration work at Owl Creek Meadow. The largest would be work related to restoring the floodplain near the confluence of the McKenzie and South Fork McKenzie rivers.

A controlled burn didn’t comply when a prescribed burn to reduce fuels in a thinned stand escaped and burned into 120 acres of National Forest land outside of the unit’s perimeter. Declared a wildfire that night, the W-470 was located approximately two miles northeast of the McKenzie River Ranger Station north of Highway 126.

July

The area moved to ‘High’ Fire Danger, impacting approximately 1.9 million acres of state, private, county and Bureau of Land Management lands in Lane, Linn, and portions of Douglas County.

Over at the Tokatee Golf Club’s annual celebration, animated patriotic icons - ranging from the Statue of Liberty to the American flag - were joined by the club’s logo in brightening the night sky. The images were part of a 13-minute drone light show.

Portions of the McKenzie River were closed to salmon angling due to concerns about protecting wild Chinook. The salmon holding in the stream near Leaburg Dam were identified as meeting broodstock needs for hatchery production. The portion of the McKenzie River that prohibited salmon angling effective July 15th was to be in effect through December 31st. It extended from Leaburg Dam downstream approximately one mile - to the mouth of Trout Creek.

August

“Cobbler Creativity” was headlined at the Upper McKenzie Community Center’s Ice Cream Social. The winner of the Cobbler Contest was Judy Roth. Her Blueberry-Raspberry entry was awarded a blue ribbon. Over 100 people attended the Saturday event and had the opportunity to see plans for future improvements to the historic structure.

A group of dedicated classic car collectors who had set out from Seattle for a 1,500-mile road trip to California made a stop in McKenzie Bridge. The route of the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, which traveled through mountain passes and along the Pacific Coast would continue before ending at the famed Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance collector car show.

The Lookout Fire escalated to “Leave Now” for residents in the areas north of Hwy. 126 - from Blue River Reservoir Road east to Drury Lane.

An open-access bridge was added to the McKenzie River Discovery Center’s fishing pond. Thanks to a $19,000 grant from the Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife, the pond has been upgraded to host angling and education/outreach events.

September

“Famous, fabulous, and full of family fun” defined the 71st Walterville Fair. As in years past, it featured the popular mile-long parade as well as displays of prize-winning canning, baking, fruits and vegetables, handcrafts (quilting, crochet, knitting), arts and crafts, antiques, and photos- all topped off by the popular Barbeque chicken dinner.

The Old McKenzie Pass opened again following a wildfire closure thanks to reductions in the Lookout Fire evacuation levels. The highway had been blocked off due to fire activity from the lightning-caused fire.

Plans to rebuild Blue River were dealt a blow when it was determined a planned community sewer system would pollute waterways. Lane County reported that the proposed 35,000-gallon-per-day (GPD) community wastewater system would pollute both the Blue River and McKenzie River Instead, planners were proceeding with designing a 2,500-gallon-per-day onsite wastewater system for the Blue River Park, as well as another one for the Old Mill property.

October

The McKenzie Valley Long-Term Recovery Group received funding to help pay for - or reimburse - eligible property owners whose primary residence was damaged or destroyed by the 2020 Holiday Farm Fire. The program could cover up to $5,000 for the survey of a lot linked with a primary dwelling.

A man arrested for multiple crimes was facing 19 charges. Some involved car break-ins at the Ben and Kay Dorris Boat Landing as well as vehicle theft. Others included four counts of Unlawful Entry of a Motor Vehicle, 1st and 2nd Degree Theft, 3 counts of Criminal Mischief, Felon in Possession of a Weapon, Burglary 2, Fraudulent Use of a Credit Card, and 3 counts of Identity Theft.

Forging a new beginning and being mindful of the past were themes stressed when people gathered at the McKenzie Community Track. The day-long event celebrated the area’s heritage, and community spirit, and shared commitments to “take care of our home.”

A new bridge, leading to the Pond Road (USFS 805) was built as part of the initial phase of a larger-scale project to restore floodplain habitat across 180 acres of land in the Quartz Creek sub-watershed.

November

A kickoff for the reconstruction of the new 3,200-square-foot medical clinic in Blue River was another well-attended groundbreaking event. Besides patient exam rooms and office areas, the clinic is planned to include a community or multi-purpose room on the site next to the new Blue River Fire Station, already under construction.

A camp to remember was on the minds of “White Branchers” who shared memories on a day of celebration at Camp White Branch. There were plenty of reminiscences from people who either attended camps or worked there.

Green Island marked twenty years of recovery for the 1,100 acres at the McKenzie/Willamette confluence. Since the McKenzie River Trust acquired land from the Green family in 2003, the acreage has been evolving. The property is now recognized as the site of some of the least altered fish and wildlife habitats in the Willamette Valley.

December

A recurring landslide plugged Aufderheide Drive again near Terwilliger Hot Springs. Traffic was reduced to one lane near milepost 55.5 - about ¾ of a mile south of Cougar Dam. Repair work was expected to be ongoing and intermittent, with the possibility of more rock falls, according to forest spokesmen.

Could Hwy. 126 be safer? An ODOT study identified 9 “hot spot” areas for improvement. They include the Walterville canal bridge, the area near the Leaburg hydroelectric spillway, and Ben and Kay Dorris Park, as well as four intersections with Hwy. 126 - at Deerhorn Road, Ross Lane, Holden Creek (east and west), Johnson Creek Road, and Goodpasture Road.

Santa and his elf weren’t alone in spreading Holiday cheer at the Vida Community Center’s Christmas Bazaar. The annual event drew a steady stream of people to the event located inside the Walterville Grange Hall to sample vendors’ offerings, music, and food.

 

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