Salem, OR – September 5, 2013
On Monday, September 9, 2013 at 1:00 p.m., Oregon Travel Experience and its community partners will hold a special ceremony at the northbound I-5 Baldock rest area (Milepost 281). The public is invited to the multi-speaker event that will feature an Oregon Department of Transportation senior historian, tribal and community representatives, and costumed interpreters.
The City of Wilsonville, the French Prairie Forum, Clackamas and Marion Counties, and the City of Aurora collaborated on the re-naming project. The name “French Prairie” has a direct connection to the area’s first citizens, the Kalapuya Indians, and the impact of the French Canadian settlers and their Indian wives who farmed the open prairie in the north Willamette Valley.
Confederated Tribes of Siletz representative Sherry Adis, a representative from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, ODOT Senior Historian Robert Hadlow, Oregon Travel Information Council Chair Gwenn Baldwin, and Greg Leo will speak to the early and contemporary history about the land where the rest stop is located.
In their proposal letter to the Oregon Transportation Commission, the re-naming committee stated “We view the re-naming of the rest area as an opportunity to provide interpretive definition both to French Prairie and to Robert H. ‘Sam’ Baldock’s extraordinary life and transportation accomplishments.”
Baldock was an Oregon highway engineer who played an integral role in Oregon’s pre-WWII interstate development. ODOT has dubbed Baldock the “father of Oregon’s modern highway system.” Baldock was a major pioneer in using blacktop surfacing for roads, and pushed Oregon to adopt the material long before the rest of the nation.
The re-naming committee also stated in their proposal, “This name change would benefit the surrounding communities by clearly defining the region through its unique history, giving a context for tourism promotion and future economic development by anchoring the rest area in the geographic and historical significance of the area.”
Oregon Travel Experience (OTE) manages the French Prairie rest area through an inter-agency agreement with ODOT. OTE’s Chief Community Assets Officer Annie von Domitz said the success of the project was due to a core group of dedicated individuals, including Karen Townsend from the Aurora Colony Visitors Association, OTIC member Charlotte Lehan, Clackamas County Commissioner Jim Bernard, and Greg Leo. Local ODOT District Representatives Tim Potter and Vivian Payne advised the committee on the proposal and its journey to approval by the Transportation Commission.
During the event, OTE’s partners will provide relevant public and local travel information, including motorist safety tips. Oregon State Patrol will host a safe-traveler table with OTE and ODOT. Costumed interpreters from Champoeg’s Visitor’s Center and the Manson Farmstead will stroll the grounds interacting with visitors, and give a brief presentation following the ceremony.
Oregon Travel Experience is a semi-independent state agency located in Salem, Oregon with a focus on transportation. The agency and its governing Council’s mission is to ensure a safe and convenient motoring experience. OTE oversees highway safety rest area management, helps motorists find essential services through blue highway logo signs, and helps connect the first-time Oregon visitor to tourism partners through its travel information centers. OTE also administers two Oregon heritage programs: historical markers and heritage trees.