John Jamieson slides his lanky frame from the cab of his pick-up. New to OTE’s rest area management team, Jamieson is the new supervisor at Baldock, one of the state’s largest and busiest highway rest areas.
Approximately 25 miles from Portland (on Interstate-5 at milepost 281), Baldock’s footprint extends outward in 50-acre parcels from both sides of the freeway. Constructed in the mid 1960s, thousands of motorists visit Baldock’s forested terrain daily.
Jamieson’s experience as a park ranger (as well as familiarity with Baldock’s large trees and sweeping grounds) brings new insight to managing a large public rest area.
“Baldock shares many of the same features with state parks,” Jamieson suggests. “If you look at the picnic areas, walking paths, and (mid-century) buildings—it has many similarities.”
However, Jamieson understands that that is where the similarity ends. OTE rest areas operate under the same standards set by the Oregon Department of Transportation, and must adhere to state and federal right-of-way laws.
“One of the biggest differences is that there is a major highway running right through the middle of the area,” says Jamieson. Since there are no connecting roads—rest area staff must navigate to the nearest exit in either direction to access north or southbound sides of the Interstate.
Leaning towards the future
After helping rest area team members Kory Morris and Jason Linder resolve a mechanical issue, Jamieson inspects Baldock’s northbound overflow parking lot near PGE’s solar station.
“We’re looking to open this area up more for the public, which should make things easier on everyone,” says Jamieson.
The latest traffic count performed by OTE logged 2,500 cars (not counting multiple occupants) visiting Baldock daily. Between visitors, staff must clean and re-stock facilities. Closing restroom buildings, even for a short time, is nearly impossible to do with the weekend’s non-stop traffic flow.
Gesturing towards shuttered restroom buildings, Jamieson says that work performed to re-open them should accommodate the increased demand by the public and ensure the quality of OTE’s services.
“At this point, the buildings have been unused for about 20 years or more,” Jamieson says, “but we’re almost ready to begin construction. We’ll start with plumbing upgrades, light fixture and toilet installations, and new paint. We’re really fortunate these buildings are structurally sound for their age.”
Jamieson and his team recently completed trimming several low hanging branches near the entrance of the PGE solar station and interpretive panels. Jamieson points towards a large diesel rig negotiating its way around a tight curve near the tree.
“Before the tree was de-limbed, commercial trucks didn’t have proper clearance. In order to avoid scraping the tree, their wheels had to roll over the curb. Deep trenches in the grass were forming and it was becoming a potential hazard for both pedestrians as well as truckers. All it took to resolve the problem was to cut those branches. As you can see, trucks are now able to pass through into the overflow lot without damaging either the grounds or their cabs.”
Teamwork: essential to public service
With over 10 years in public service, including tenure as a National Park Service interpretive park ranger, Jamieson feels that he has the experience necessary to inspire both the public and his team members.
“We know the public wants clean and safe rest stops,” says Jamieson. “In order to deliver on our promise, our team will act immediately on any issues that compromise that objective.
“I’m extremely pleased about the level of commitment and teamwork by our rest area staff,” Jamieson adds. “Our team takes ownership about their responsibilities to the public. For all of us, public safety comes first.”
Jamieson’s training in a wide variety of public service programs helps strengthen OTE’s objective to create clean and safe rest areas. He obtained an Associate degree at Skagit Valley College Parks Law Enforcement Academy that supports an easy approach to public problem solving. His course work in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) critical incident management, emergency medical and fire training, and public facilities and maintenance management help cement a strong daily rest area operation.
“When dealing with the issues of a public rest area, our team will demonstrate the initiative to resolve problems before they occur, and not wait for something to happen,” concludes Jamieson.
Update: The construction has now been completed on the old restroom building near the solar array. Motorists are welcome to drive to the back parking lot and use the restored facility. Learn more.