OTE - Oregon Travel Experience

August – September 2011: Signs of the Times Issue

Posted on: September 23rd, 2011 by Madeline MacGregor in News & Press, Newsletter | No Comments

We are your frontline experience: The TIC Signs Program

The crew in action

Josh Flores and Josh LoBue park their state vehicle on the side of the freeway. Wearing bright orange safety vests, the two men step carefully from the truck, while only a few feet away, traffic whizzes by at 60 miles an hour. As part of the OTIC Field Operations sign crew, the truck serves double-duty as stationary office and transportation to and from sign installations and maintenance.

OTIC employs five field operations personnel to serve the entire state. Not only does the sign crew install, clean, and repair major interstate logo signs, they also service signs that direct motorists to local community activities and attractions.

A day on the job

At 7 a.m., Flores and LoBue report to ODOT’s Sign Operations shed. Housed within the metal barnlike structure are huge machines that cut metal sheeting, wood and steel poles, and slice vinyl reflective material and overlay. Strolling past stacks of neon yellow and bright red signs, Flores and LoBue check OTIC’s storage area for any logo plaques that may have been delivered. The plaques belong to OTIC customers whose applications have been approved for installation.

This morning’s installation is located five miles from the ODOT shed. Before they exit the yard, the men gather all supplies they need for the plaque installation. A mobile water tank is filled, the plaque is loaded, and if a brand new blue and white sign needs to be installed, poles made from steel or lumber are hefted onto the truck via strong shoulders and a manual conveyor. Large wood posts weigh over 300 pounds, so it’s imperative to lift in teams.

Once onsite (alongside OR-22), LoBue and Flores work in tandem to unload their tools and materials. At this location, they’re installing a new logo plaque on what is known in the industry as a “six-plaque,” a sign that can accommodate six large logos. Flores pulls out a water hose while LoBue unloads an extension ladder. The ladder is tall enough to extend the approximately 18-feet to the top edge of the sign. As LoBue says, “You can’t be bothered by ladders and do this job!”

Flores climbs upwards, and LoBue hands him a long handled scrub brush. As Flores scrubs, LoBue maintains a steady stream of water, rinsing road grease from the existing plaques. The team works quickly and efficiently, brushing and spraying from both ground and ladder.

The new logo plaque is wiped clean after LoBue drills deep holes through the vinyl. As Flores ascends the ladder once more, LoBue helps steady the plaque for its ascent in Flores’s free hand. The logo is amazingly large—5-feet wide and 3-feet high. A slight wind lifts the plaque at an awkward angle but the two workers manage to keep it from knocking Flores to the ground.

Flores tightens the bolts around the perimeter of the sign, but leaves the top bolts for his taller co-worker to tighten. LoBue’s additional height comes in handy for ensuring a plaque isn’t blown loose from its mooring during one of the Willamette Valley’s fall windstorms.

When the day is done

The last bolt is tightened, the hose is coiled back into its nest on the truck, and the ladder is secured for its trip to the next stop. Flores and LoBue check their schedule and head for the next sign on I-5. The sign crew’s other team, Assistant Field Operations Manager Mike Bryant and Technician Randy Kleinschmit, are busy in another part of the state going through the same routine. They’ll meet up the next day to go over scheduled installations or signs that Bryant may have noticed need cleaning or repairs while traveling from one location to another.

When asked if they enjoy their jobs, Flores and LoBue nod their heads enthusiastically. “I get to see new places and new things that I never knew were there,” says Flores. “I climb up on the ladder and there might be an old neat house hidden behind the trees.”

“I think we have a sense of ownership about our work,” says LoBue. “We drive on the highway and can say with pride, ‘I put that up!’ If a sign gets dirty, we provide a rapid response to any calls that might come in. If we’re in the truck at the end of the day and we drive past a dirty sign, our supervisor Mike Bryant will pull the truck over. We handle it right then and there, even if it means we get home late.”

For the OTIC sign crew, the customer really does come first. If you think your business would be a good fit on one of OTIC’s logo signs or would like to find out more about our Signs Program, contact us at 800-574-9397.

New sign: Welcome to Oregon!

The Oregon Travel Information Council (OTIC) and Ontario, Oregon community business leaders have joined forces and installed a new “Welcome to Oregon” sign at the Ontario rest area on I-84 (at milepost 37).

Ontario Rest Area Supervisor David Patton said the onsite OTIC office had received numerous requests from the motoring public for a welcome sign located in a safe spot. For many travelers crossing state lines, snapping a quick photo in front of a welcome sign is a long-standing tradition.

“We felt that since Ontario was right on the border, the welcome sign would be a natural tool for inviting visitors to the area,” said OTIC’s CEO, Cheryl Gribskov. Gribskov is a member of the OTIC Ontario Rest Area Coalition which helped steer the sign project forward. Community coalitions like Ontario’s help improve and maintain economic infrastructure for businesses and services located near OTIC managed rest areas.

Volunteers are the foundation

The sign was crafted and built in Salem by Salemtowne historical marker sign volunteers. These dedicated volunteers maintain a woodworking shop where they manufacture both new and replacement historical markers from cedar. The group has been actively involved with the Oregon Historical Marker Program since 1992.

Without their work and volunteer hours, the new welcome sign would not have been possible, nor would Oregon’s Historical Marker Program be able to carry out its mission to serve the public. Salemtowne volunteers have long been the backbone of the program, making needed repairs and donating materials and man-hours. The men from Salemtowne have helped OTIC’s sign crew dig new holes and install posts when older markers were relocated due to ground erosion or property issues.

Members were honored in August at an appreciation barbecue held in Bush’s Pasture Park. Stories and photos were shared by volunteers who had worked with the marker program for almost 20 years. Members of the Salemtowne crew who received recognition included: Richard Potter, Arol Masters, Robert Herzog, Melvin Christy, James Childers, Jack Childers, Jack Carrol, Howard Palmer, and Wayne Sharp.

Stay tuned to OTIC for information on a grand unveiling of the new sign. Information will be posted to our web site at www.ortravelexperience.com and also on our OTIC Facebook wall and blog. We’re also creating a new web site where motorists and visitors to Oregon will have a place to post photos from their visit to the new sign. So load up the car and make sure the kids, the dog, and the cousins don’t miss a perfect photo-op!

For more information on the Oregon Historical Marker Program, contact Annie von Domitz at 503-373-0864.

Customer spotlight: You! The Community!

Wondering how to get the word out about your community’s music in the park program or hops festival? This issue of the E-news focuses on “signs of the times” and nothing could be timelier than our current events backlit display panels at Woodburn Company Stores Travel Plaza.

Created by OTIC’s Harry Falisec, the program is flourishing. “The panels differ from our long-term contracts since they are limited duration. For one month, community-driven activities and events get the spotlight,” Falisec said. “We’re accepting applications right now for fall festivals and holiday events. Our fees are intentionally low so that organizations and events-planners can take advantage of the exposure at Woodburn Company Stores.”

In addition to the large colorful panels, customers are encouraged to stock brochure racks with cards or brochures for motorists. The racks are provided at no additional charge during the short-term contract. Over 4.4 million visitors stop at Woodburn Company Stores each year; tucking a harvest festival brochure with a map and directions into a pocket may be all it takes to drive traffic to your community venue. Falisec said each backlit panel is displayed for a nominal fee of $50.00.

Recent customers include the St. Paul Rodeo and Woodburn’s Tuesday Evening Market. Tuesday Evening Market runs during mid-summer in partnership with the Woodburn Library’s “Music in the Park” series. Held in the city’s historic downtown area, the combined music program and farmers’ market promotes local growers, artisans, restaurant owners, and merchants. In August, Tuesday Evening Market was able to extend their panel display without additional charge from OTIC.

Although the market has completed its run for 2011, information about permits for 2012 can be obtained from Market Supervisor Julie Chappelle. You can email Julie at Julie.chappelle@ci.woodburn.or.us.

For more information on how your event can be spotlighted at Woodburn Company Stores Travel Plaza, contact OTIC’s Harry Falisec, Director of Sales, at 503-378-3555, or 1-800-574-9397.

Heritage Tree Program: The new chair’s perspective

Conserving Oregon’s history through serving our trees, by Chair Jennifer Karps

I love trees. Trees from vivid childhood experiences are etched into my memory: the southern magnolia in our front yard whose strange, pokey fruits inspired tales of extraterrestrial visitors; the sweet-smelling Jeffrey pine under whose sturdy boughs we camped each summer; our family drives through the magnificent coast redwood forest, which meant a day out of the city exploring the beach.

I brought my love of trees with me to college where I studied plant ecology and biogeography with a focus on forest dynamics. As a coordinator for a City of Portland tree planting program, I work to improve the health of our watersheds and the livability of our city through expansion and enhancement of our urban forest. Fortunately for me, I also have the pleasure of filling the city representative seat on our state heritage tree committee.

I admire our state Heritage Tree Program because it uses our living cultural trusts—our venerable trees—to tell Oregon’s stories. Such a great idea—trees are natural story-makers. They bear witness to our celebrations and victories, our challenges and defeats, and solemnly stand by to represent the tales.

I became involved with the program in 2007 when the Oregon Travel Information Council Heritage Tree Coordinator Jim Renner and I met over the nomination of the oldest grafted fruit tree in the western United States. The tree sits in a small cul-de-sac on the Dosch Estates in Portland, dwarfed by the many larger trees that characterize the landscape. With its weathered appearance and reliance on extensive structural support, the Dosch yellow bellflower apple exudes history.

Reverend Albert Kelly planted this tree on his homestead in 1850 as part of an orchard, using stock sourced from the pioneer Luelling and Meek Nursery in Milwaukie. Sixteen years later, Colonel Henry E. Dosch purchased the property and restored the by-then neglected orchard. In 1976, the Home Orchard Society recognized the tree as the oldest living grafted apple tree in the western United States. After more than 150 years of service, the sole remaining yellow bellflower still produces fruit! Today, this venerable tree planted from pioneer stock is recognized and protected by our state and city heritage tree programs.

Each of the more than 50 trees and groves in our state program has an important story to tell about the people and events that helped to shape our path to statehood and our development into a prosperous, destination state. Service as state heritage tree committee member, vice-chair, and now chair has given me the opportunity to visit some of our state’s nooks and crannies, meeting new trees and the people whose stories they share. Each foray reminds me how deeply trees improve and enrich our lives—and how fortunate we are to live among them.

Jennifer Karps is Chair of the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee. She is employed by the City of Portland’s Grey to Green Initiative. Grey to Green expands stormwater management techniques, protects and restores natural areas, and improves watershed health. This is her first term as chair for the OTIC administered heritage program.

Council to hold its quarterly meeting in Grants Pass

On Friday, September 16, 2011, the council will meet in Grants Pass, Oregon, at The Lodge at The Riverside, 955 SE 7th St, Grants Pass, OR 97526. The meeting runs from 9:00 a.m. until noon and the public is invited to attend. A targeted discussion on the Manzanita rest area homeless population will be held with comment by local law enforcement. For more information and a complete agenda, contact Tracie Gibson at 503-373-0155.

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