OTE - Oregon Travel Experience

July 2011 – Local Heroes Edition

Posted on: September 23rd, 2011 by Madeline MacGregor in Newsletter, Places to Stop | No Comments

Many hands, many heroes: Free Coffee Program volunteers

As the Travel Information Council (TIC) 2011 vision focus on highway users, it’s increasingly clear we don’t operate within a vacuum. Making sure motorists take frequent safety breaks and arrive home safe and secure is one of TIC’s common shared goals with regional volunteer groups. When TIC assumed supervision of nine rest areas within the heaviest used corridors, they also inherited the companion Free Coffee Program.

What do heroes have in common with caffeinated brew? Quite a bit as it turns out—when you combine several missions at once, the result is nothing less than spectacular. Just ask Leslie Kerber—secretary to the World Deaf Timberfest, a non-profit organization that raises money for the hearing impaired.

World Deaf Timberfest (with the help of the Lions Club of Oregon) runs Camp Taloali near Stayton, Oregon. The camp hosts summer fun for youth aged six to 18. Camp Taloali’s long list of activities includes archery, swimming, fishing, hiking, storytelling, and environmental awareness programs. The 111 acres of forested land near the Santiam River is the perfect setting for deaf and hard-of-hearing children to communicate with one another.

At the northbound Santiam rest area, plans were made to build wheelchair accessibility to the TIC office and create a welcoming environment for free coffee program volunteers and motorists. Kerber’s group was the first non-profit to use the new hospitality facilities. When she and her husband arrived at the Santiam for the start of their weekend shift, Kerber was impressed. “It was a big surprise! I didn’t know about the building and the new deck,” she said. Finishing touches had been completed by TIC just the day before.

For Kerber and World Deaf Timberfest, the opportunity to participate in the Free Coffee Program means the ability to fund a brand new portable restroom facility. In addition to Camp Taloali, the group holds a large festival every five years. Timberfest affords adults and families a place to socialize with new friends and participate in a variety of activities, such as wood carving, hiking, swimming, and sporting events—including the most unusual—an ax throwing contest. (Kerber’s husband Rod lays claim to the 2006 ax throwing champion title.)

“About 700 to 1,000 people are expected at this year’s festival,” Kerber said. “Attendees come from all over, including Utah, New York, and California. Around 100 children will be arriving at Camp Taloali on July 22, some from as far away as New Jersey and Alaska, so the new restrooms are really needed.”

World Deaf Timberfest has participated with TIC’s Free Coffee Program before; members volunteered at the Baldock rest area and were able to collect enough donations to support building a new camp pavilion.

Kerber has high praise for TIC’s administration of the coffee program, “TIC’s communications are very positive and friendly. We have wonderful correspondence with the permit-drawing process. When there was a problem with scheduling, TIC worked to solve it quickly.”

If you ask Kerber and the World Deaf Timberfest, the most recent project is sweet success. All you need to add is a little cream and sugar.

TIC Customer Spotlight: Hellgate Jet Boat Excursions

Community heores

Imagine barreling down white water rapids on the Rogue River, bouncing and screaming with joy all the way. From the numerous customer videos on You Tube, it’s evident this popular attraction in Grants Pass is just the kind of fun people of all ages enjoy.

Hellgate Jetboat Excursions is a family owned business with a unique sense of paying their success forward, and in many ways could be identified as one of Oregon’s “heroes.” The Hamlyn family relocated to Grants Pass in the 1980s and fell in love with the river. From designing and manufacturing boats locally, to employing area residents, the Hamlyns evolved into dedicated stewards with a mantra to give back.

Help comes with white water and red wine

This September 16th, for the fourth year in a row, the Hamlyn family will host “Hope Floats,” an event that draws members of the business community together to raise money for non-profit organizations. Last year’s “Evening of Water, Wine, and Wishes” raised over $50,000 for Josephine County charitable groups.

The Hamlyns spent several years figuring out a meaningful way to thank the community they adored. “Hope Floats” was a natural progression since Katie Hamlyn was already working with one of the first proposed beneficiaries—the Women’s Crisis Support Team. As the event’s participation grew, community volunteers and Home Valley Bank joined forces to create an annual fundraiser that honors multiple recipients.

As part of the evening festivities, 75 Monarch butterflies are released on the white streaming waters of the Rogue River. The release symbolizes the river’s flow of opportunity while the butterflies herald transformation and freedom for those who benefit from the event. Fresh local food is paired with locally produced wines for dinner guests and a silent auction raises even more funds for non-profit organizations.

Local innovations and green thinking

Hellgate’s General Manager Travis Hamlyn is the second generation of Hamlyn’s to help steer the business towards innovation with green technology and locally sourced labor and innovation. All of Hellgate’s jet boats are designed, tooled, and engineered in the local community. Hamlyn’s company was one of the first to build jet boats in the US rather than outsourcing to other countries.

“We’re big fans of creating local jobs and keeping dollars flowing through the Grants Pass economy,” Hamlyn said. “Plus, our boats are very unique—the water we operate in is very technical—depth of water and draft all affect boat design. We also need to operate safely while achieving maximum excitement for our customers—especially since we execute specialized maneuvers including 360 degree spins.”

Hamlyn says plans for the boats to use alternative fuels has been in the works for over three years. As part of the transition from traditional gasoline powered engines, Hellgate is partnering with Canadian and US manufacturers to produce propane-fueled boat engines.

“Propane-powered engines allow us to reduce our dependency on foreign fuel sources and what’s really great is that the boats will produce no particulate matter. Carbon dioxide and water vapors are the only by-products generated,” Hamlyn said.

Propane not only has an impressive safety record used this way, but lessens the bio-marine impacts. Since safety is one of Hellgate’s primary goals, the new vessel is being reviewed by experts, including a marine-fire engineer and the US Coast Guard. “We have seven-tiered safety features and are the first and only company in the country doing this kind of research,” Hamlyn said.

The mission inside out

Hellgate’s work with the community doesn’t end with green technology and charitable endeavors. Their mission as a company includes “walking the talk.” Several years ago the Hamlyns and their employees underwent a three-month process to develop core mission values.

Hellgate’s Marketing Director Karen Fronek sums up the process. “I believe very strongly that you can’t just market a company from the outside in. You have to have more of an integrated process, something that everyone agrees on in order for it to be successful.”

Out of the 90 day brainstorm came the following principles that both staff and administration took ownership of:

  • Integrity: Be authentic and respectful in our actions to each other; our environment, and our guests.
  • Trust: Empower each person to create an outstanding corporation.
  • Communication: Speak words that encourage, listen to and support each other and our guests.
  • Courage: maintain the path that leads to greatness by doing what is right.
  • Fun: Cherish our role in providing unique experiences for our guests in an environment of laughter and joy.
  • Teamwork: Appreciate our individual strengths to support the vision with collective passion, flexibility and a standard of excellence.

Small businesses like the Hamlyn’s are the backbone of rural communities, since they forge relationships and dialogue between all kinds of services, agencies, and individuals. With integrity and dedication, the Hamlyn’s have channeled their business success into a model for others to emulate. The Oregon Travel Information Council is proud to call Hellgate a sign customer for the last 11 years, and thank them for their commitment and innovation.

Historical Marker Heroine, Beverly Vogt

A personal remembrance of her tenure, by Beverly Vogt

When I first joined the Historic Markers Committee in 2002, I thought I knew a lot about Oregon. I had worked briefly with the Committee in the early 90s when I was with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. At that time, we were working on coastal signs warning about earthquake and tsunami hazards. As a geologist, I had been to many remote places in the state and had seen rock outcrops and road-cuts in places that most Oregonians don’t even know exist. I knew our wonderful state by its rocks and geologic history, not by its people and communities. And as a geologist, I measured history as a geologist does—in millions of years. What a surprise it was when the Historic Markers Committee’s history experts like Lewis McArthur, Dick Ackerman, and Lowell Tiller started talking about places, roads, trails, and relatively recent events I had never heard about. Thus my introduction to the human history of Oregon began. And I began to realize the importance and value of existing and planned markers since they educated Oregonians and visitors about what had happened.

As the years sped by and we reviewed applications and worked on texts for markers, I learned more and more about our state. I went to places that were new to me and talked with local people who otherwise I would never have had the chance to meet. And when I went to familiar places, I saw them—not by their geology—but through the eyes of local residents and business people. Finally, as we developed the new regional markers series, we realized the people who lived in an area actually knew much more about it than we did—and that many of them wanted to tell visitors about it.

What fun—and what an education it all was. One highlight was a dedication in Lake County to jointly celebrate our new Fort Rock marker and new BLM Scenic Byways signs made possible by enthusiastic local supporters. We celebrated that dedication by first standing outside listening to Larry Chitwood of Deschutes National Forest describe the millions of years of geologic history that had produced the beautiful Basin and Range scenery before us—and then going inside to feast on barbecue and listen to a local cowboy poet describe cowboy life.

One unusual dedication was at Camp Adair, north of Corvallis on Highway 99W. Camp Adair was an important place during World War II for training soldiers before they went off to fight the war. As part of the dedication, local high school students marched and presented arms. Men who had trained at Camp Adair and couples who had met at dances and later married spoke about the importance of this site—both to their personal lives and to the country’s defense in wartime. When I mentioned the dedication to my friends, several of them told me they had gone to dances at Camp Adair, since young women were recruited from all over the state to help entertain lonely and homesick trainees who were about to go to war.

Finally, several members of the Committee met in Florence with the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. We met members of the tribes, heard about their histories, and learned what they felt about our markers and what they would like to see in future ones. Before we left the coast, they treated us to Indian tea in their plank house, and as we sat there sipping tea from a large shell and watching the crackling fire, I knew I was having the rare experience of being able to feel, at least for a brief moment, how life must have felt for Native Americans down through time.

These are just a few examples of how, during my years on the Historic Markers Committee, I learned about the real Oregon. Our markers add the dimension of time to the Oregon story, and as the Historic Markers Committee expands its story-telling capability with new technology, it will be able to reach wider audiences in more vivid and exciting ways. Now that I have retired from the Committee, I want to thank the Travel Information Council (TIC) and its dynamic leader Cheryl Gribskov for support of the Committee over the years; TIC staff people Jim Renner, who was taking care of the Committee when I first joined it, and then Annie Von Domitz, who so capably replaced him; the Historic Committee members I met during my tenure on the Committee; and the Salemtowne volunteers, who have worked tirelessly over the years to maintain and restore the markers—and their liaison Wayne Sharp, who regaled us with stories of their accomplishments, adventures, and occasional misadventures. Knowing them all has enriched my life.

Beverly Vogt served on the Oregon historical Marker Committee for nine years and recently retired from her duties on the committee. TIC thanks Beverly for her years of service and her unwavering commitment to preserving both the geological and historical interests of Oregon for future generations.

Rest Area Heroes: Animal Planet?

TIC rest area supervisors have many talents; from professional contracting skills to selling farm fresh eggs— they’re people with a passion for life. Some even have a special affinity for animal rescue. Recently, several four-legged critters found new homes thanks to supervisors using their initiative to help relocate lost or abandoned pets and wildlife.

In Boardman, Supervisor Donnie Huberd was en route for a final check before his shift ended when he spotted a doe lying on the side of the freeway. Unfortunately, there was nothing Huberd could do for the deer, she was already gone. But still alive and clinging to its mother was a small spotted fawn. Huberd took the fawn with him for safekeeping and contacted the Rowena Wildlife Clinic in The Dalles. Arrangements were made for the fawn’s transport to the rescue operation. Huberd’s fawn was in good company; that same day three more orphaned deer were sent to the center from other locations.

At Santiam rest area north of Albany, Nancy Rold found a dog running loose in the parking lot. After checking around with motorists, Rold learned he had been dumped by a trucker. Rold fed and watered her new charge and later in the afternoon, walked him in the pet exercise area. A rest area visitor noticed the handsome young dog and started up a conversation with Rold. The driver just happened to be with Oregon’s Cat Adoption Team (CAT). From time to time, CAT fosters abandoned dogs so the visitor offered to take Rold’s new buddy to the shelter. At TIC, we’ve nicknamed Rold the “dog whisperer” since she seems to attract abandoned and lost dogs on both sides of the Santiam rest area.

Huber summed up what TIC’s supervisors experience on a daily basis. “We really do touch all walks of life, not just human.” It’s abundantly clear that when describing our supervisors, calling them “heroes” is not a cliché.

New Living History Panels: Woodburn marks the first in a series

If you happen to meander by the Woodburn Company Stores, be sure to stop at the Travel Plaza and check out our new living history panel. Historic images and a contemporary slant on the old town’s multi-cultural mix help educate both out-of-state visitors and Oregonians about the city’s founder. TIC hopes to create other living history panels for regions nearby rest areas and Travel Plazas. It’s a little bit like an abbreviated history lesson, only much more fun!

For more information on living history panels, contact TIC’s Harry Falisec, 800-574-9397.

Check out what the first panel looks like Woodburn-History. (pdf)

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