A look back at the Top Stories of 2020

The Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year award went to Coast Fork Feed Company and Brew Station for its community involvement

As Cottage Grove readies to ring in a new year, The Sentinel takes a look back at some of the top stories of 2020, a year which brought with it a series of both proximate and nationwide hardships including the coronavirus epidemic, the loss of a Cottage Grove city councilor and smoke from wildfires which blotted out the sun throughout the region. But despite the challenges, the year also saw Cottage Grove’s community rally to support its struggling local businesses, donate graciously to its local support groups and witness the opening of three new affordable housing projects for those in need. Here’s look back at some of the stories that defined our community in 2020...

Chamber celebrates business, community leaders

(Jan. 23)

City officials, local residents and Chamber of Commerce members gathered Saturday, Jan. 18, in the Cottage Grove Armory for the 71st Annual Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce Installation and Awards Dinner.

The Business of the Year Award went to a Cottage Grove business for outstanding achievement in good business practices and involvement in the community.

This year’s winner Coast Fork Feed Company & Brew Station was awarded for its efforts to support youth and their families with walking and running events, promotion of the Cottage Grove area and other family events.

“How lucky am I to work with the people I love most,” said owner Dale Smith. “The beautiful thing about family is you don’t have to give birth to all of them. And that’s the case at Coast Fork Feed & Brew Station. We really are a family and I think that’s what we bring to the community.”

Community gathers to remember local ‘Rosie’

(Feb. 13)

Pews of the United Methodist Church filled Feb. 8 as the community gathered to honor and remember Opal Marie Nelson, who passed away Jan. 15.

Nelson, a decades-long resident of the area, was recognized as an energetic community organizer and one of few remaining “Rosie the Riveter” members in Cottage Grove.

“She could captivate an audience of any age with her energy and sense of humor,” said Yvonne Fasold, past national president of the American Rosie the Riveter Association (ARRA).

Saturday’s service, officiated by Pastor James Markus of the Trinity Lutheran Church, incorporated prayer, scriptural readings and music separately performed by Cascade Chorus and bagpiper Steve Allely.

“Opal was a neighbor of mine as well as a friend,” said Markus. “She was a blessing to me every time I saw her. She always brought me joy.”

Gov. Brown: ‘Stay home, save lives’

(March 26)

Gov. Kate Brown issued Executive Order 20-12 on March 23, ordering Oregonians to stay at home to the maximum extent possible and added more businesses to a growing list of establishments that must re- main closed to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 in Oregon.

The move comes as the state’s count of coronavirus cases continues to rise, totaling 209 confirmed cases as of press time, which includes five positive tests and one death in Lane County.

“This order is designed to flatten the curve over the coming weeks, preserving scarce hospital space and equipment. It will also ensure that any place of business that

remains operational does its part to enforce social distancing rules,” said Brown. “It is designed to be more sustainable over time, to allow Oregonians to keep their jobs when their work does not add to the growth of COVID-19 in Oregon.”

The order is effective immediately and remains in effect until ended by the governor.

BMD canceled due to financial, public health uncertainty

(April 23)

Summer in Cottage Grove this year will proceed without its biggest and longest-running attraction.

On April 15, the Bohemia Mining Days (BMD) board of directors voted to cancel the 61st annual BMD festival scheduled for July 16-18 due to concerns related to COVID-19.

In the same meeting, the board accepted the resignation of board president Cathy Simmons and voted in Don Williams as the board’s new president.

“I’m honored to step back into the presidency of this community organization that brings so much pleasure to thousands of people each summer,” said Williams, who had previously served as BMD President from 1979-1984. “Our decision to cancel BMD 2020 came after much soul searching and examining the facts with a cloudy crystal ball.”

Due to uncertainty surrounding the length of the state’s social distancing orders issued by Gov. Kate Brown on March 24 and the financial impact of the public health crisis on local businesses who would normally support the festival, the board stated that holding the event this year would be “financially impossible.”

The Grove loses iconic councilor, community member

(May 14)

Cottage Grove lost a city councilor and committed community member with the passing of Bob Ehler on May 10 at age 67 due to complications related to cancer.

“My brother Bob was the kind of person who was so much involved in helping others that he didn’t have time to take care of himself,” said Ehler’s sister Shelly Duncan. “He will be missed by all who came into contact with him.”

Brothers fondly remembered motorcycle trips with Ehler while other family members recalled his love for the outdoors.

“Our dad was an ‘enjoy the open road’ type of guy,” said daughters Adriana Morgan and Sabrina Ehler. “He loved it when we would call him and tell him we were picking him up to go on a drive. We never knew where we’d end up next, just that we needed a coffee, some old country music and the open road — even if he’d fall asleep every time. If we weren’t going to the coast, driving through Wildlife Safari, or taking a random back road, then we would be at his favorite fishing spot or watching a movie together. We were lucky enough get to spend our time with him outdoors where he loved it the most.”

SLCFR fire chief reinstated, board VP resigns

(June 25)

A majority of South Lane County Fire and Rescue board members voted to return Fire Chief John Wooten to full duty without disciplinary action last 

Thursday (June 18.)

Following more than an hour of executive session discussion regarding the matter, board members Tom Monroe, Cheryl Shannon and Dan Duffy voted in favor of the reinstatement while Board President Joel Higdon and Board Vice President Jennifer Radcliffe voted against the motion.

Radcliffe announced her resignation immediately following the vote.

Wooten had been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave after a controversial post made by Wooten on Facebook was amplified by a KEZI News report on June 2.

The post in question read: “So I made the comment we should shoot the rioters and someone asked me how I could possibly do that. I replied it depended on distance, wind, temp, humidity and a few other variables but once I had the calculations done it would be a matter of breathing control and trigger squeeze.”

Public responses to the report were split into both support and condemnation of Wooten and his post, prompting petitions and even a street-side rally backing the chief.

Podcast ‘Encounters’ topics in The Grove

(July 16)

Binding people of diverse view-points poses a challenge in turbulent and polarizing climates, but podcasters Josh Fattal and Rosie Foraker are hoping a modern solution can help solve this age-old problem.

The hosts of the Encounter Cottage Grove podcast have been digging their fingers into the soil of small-town concerns for a couple months now, while attempting to place the community in a broader national and sometimes global context.

“It’s the idea that each person is a mystery unto themselves and we are encountering each other,” said Fattal. “And part of the podcast is exploring each other. But it’s also exploring each other and having the town encounter itself in a sense.”

DevNW completes six new homes in CG

(Aug. 20)

Nonprofit DevNW unveiled six new affordable homes in Cottage Grove on Monday, moving the city another step forward in its mission to increase housing availability in the area.

“Cottage Grove was really great in terms of all the permits and helping keep the project on track,” said Erin Dey, DevNW director of real estate development. “We had a very good experience with the city.”

DevNW was created last year when nonprofits Neighborhood for Economic Development Corporation and Corvallis-based Willamette Neighborhood Housing Services united to in- crease regional impact. The nonprofit aims to empower communities through a variety of methods such as financial counseling, revitalization projects and assistance programs.

The cluster of Cottage Grove cottages were developed just off Arthur Avenue and all six homes are scheduled to be closing deals by the end of the month with families ideally moving in soon thereafter.

Smoke, power outages sweep Willamette Valley

(Sept. 10)

Smoke from regional wild- fires filled the Willamette Valley Monday night as power outages swept the region, affecting many rural communities including Dorena and London.

Lane County Emergency Management issued a warning Monday at 4:30 p.m. that strong easterly winds were expected starting that afternoon, continue into Wednesday. By Monday evening, smoke and ash from wildfires had begun its descent into the valley.

Much of the smoke came from the east where a wildfire along the McKenzie River, now called the McKenzie Fire, started Monday evening around 9 p.m. when a power line reportedly went down. A Level 3 “Go Now” evacuation notice was issued on Tuesday for all residents from Walterville Elementary east to the McKenzie River Station, including all roads north and south of Highway 126 along the 35-mile stretch.

Stinnett appointed to Ward 2 council seat

(Oct. 1)

The Cottage Grove City Council convened as a full seven-person body Monday night for the first time since the passing of Councilor Bob Ehler in May this year.

In a unanimous vote, the council decided to appoint candidate Jon Stinnett as councilor of the Ward 2 seat, a position Stinnett is currently vying for in the General Election on Nov. 3, 2020.

In the council’s memorandum, it was reasoned that appointing Stinnett before the election would not only fill the seat with a voting body, but provide an opportunity for Stinnett to get accustomed to the role of councilor.

At the council’s June 8 meeting, councilors discussed the possibility of filing the Ward 2 seat. Several possible applicants expressed interest at the time and two candidates ended up applying.

Although councilors had decided to let the election play out rather than appoint an applicant, candidate Ashley Rigel withdrew on Aug. 18, leaving Stinnett to run unopposed.

New shelters to provide respite for unhoused

(Nov. 25)

As night temperatures continue their gradual seasonal decline, a new model of warming shelters is set to debut in Cottage Grove this December.

The Cottage Grove City Council voted for the purchase of 18 Pallet Shelters on Oct. 26, addressing an anticipated need to secure shelter this winter for the unhoused.

Currently erected and standing by in the Cottage Grove City Shops property, the shelters are awaiting site preparation, which is estimated to be completed mid-December.

The shelters are manufactured by the Washington-based company Pallet, which defines itself as a “social purpose company” aiming to end unsheltered homelessness and develop a nontraditional work- force.

The structures are built to be an efficient, safe and affordable option for temporary cottage-style housing.

Legion Cottages welcomes first occupants

(Dec. 17)

Cottage Grove passed another milestone in affordable housing this week as Legion Cottages, a Homes for Good project to provide housing for low-income veterans, began welcoming in tenants.

“It’s really getting people into a solid and safe, clean place to live that they can stay in for the rest of their lives if they want to,” said Homes for Good Real Estate Development Director Steve Ochs. “There’s no end to when they can stay here.”

Legion Cottages consists of four tiny home developments located between Ash Avenue and Main Street behind the American Legion.

All four approved tenants are veterans coming out of homelessness, determined as the most in need for housing in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs out of Eugene.

The 384-square-foot, loft-style homes will be managed and maintained by Homes for Good staff from Riverview Terrace, another Homes for Good apartment community located directly across Main Street from the cottages.

The partnership with Riverview Terrace will give veterans access to the complex’s community room, laundry facilities and maintenance staff.

And now, on to 2021...

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