OTE - Oregon Travel Experience

November 2010

Posted on: September 19th, 2011 by Madeline MacGregor in Newsletter | No Comments

History Speaks: Audio Cell Phone Tour at Camp Adair

Even on a cold gray November day, people find their way to Oregon’s historic Camp Adair. Just off the main route of Highway 99 to Corvallis, the remains of what was a WWII US army training camp is a popular destination. The old encampment is accessed via a series of trails and observation points encompassing more than 1,600 acres of the E.E. Wilson Wildlife Preserve.

The Oregon Travel Information Council’s (TIC) audio cell phone tour is a welcome addition at Camp Adair. Cell phone tours connect the curious to a history that lies hidden beneath the everyday—opening doors to the past. The TIC sponsors 35 such tours across the state.

On a recent overcast and drizzling Sunday, cars are parked along the various turnouts which serve as gateways to ponds, wildlife pens, and interpretive signs. In the camp’s memorial garden, tiny American flags ripple in the wind, reminding visitors that Veterans Day was recently celebrated.

Near the main entrance to the garden, ruins of an original building resemble an ancient temple. A brick chimney lies nearly on its side, leaning towards a moss covered wall. In the distance, a dark green quonset hut used during WWII reposes peacefully amid autumn grasses. At the opposite end of the memorial garden, striking white pheasants and iridescent gold cockerels scratch the ground next to nesting boxes. And though it is close to Thanksgiving, a turkey stands impassively—unafraid. Birds raised at Camp Adair are bred for release into the preserve.

The ghosts of Camp Adair’s past seem to haunt the landscape. Low hanging fog over open meadows invites visions of the Kalapuya Indians torching brambles and cultivating native camas and tarweed. The burly white oak trees of the region sustained the native inhabitants and are just as important today to the many wildlife species who populate the preserve.

In 1942, the thriving town of Wellsdale was razed, making way for the military base. Seventy-years later, a surviving oak tree is the only visible evidence that Wellsdale existed. The tree’s thick branches stem skyward and its trunk measures well over three feet in diameter.

Just beyond the massive oak, a wide comfortable trail meanders through the woods. Wrens and sparrows flit through thickets and frogs croak vigorously, breaking the simple silence. An “anglers” lake is the prize at the end of the trail—and a view of mist clad mountains. A family braves the damp, enjoying the serenity and connection to nature. In fall, the relative peace is welcome; hikers speaks in hushed tones—and children flush with excitement discover deer hoof-prints in the mud.

The relocation of a city

When Wellsdale’s citizens were relocated, 60,000 agricultural acres were appropriated to make way for the military training grounds and hospital. A farewell picnic was held for the departing farmers and residents—they sat elbow to elbow, baskets of home baked goods on the ground behind them.

The nearby Lewisville schoolhouse was shuttered and the children moved to outlying districts. Cemeteries were excavated, graves moved, and railroad tracks rerouted. Barracks sprouted where white houses with picket fences had flourished— and Camp Adair was born.

Four military divisions trained at Camp Adair: the 91st Powder River Infantry; the 96th Deadeye Infantry Division; the 104th Timberwolf Infantry Division; and the 70th Trailblazer Infantry Division. The camp housed a combined 40,000 troops, making it the second largest city in the state behind Portland. It pumped money into the local economy by virtue of the jobs it created for Benton County residents who supported the needs of the troops.

The nearby bleakness of Coffin Butte was an integral part of the training ground for division maneuvers. Full-scale models of European towns were constructed to mimic true-life conditions. The daily routine was rough and stark, preparing the men for battle.

Troops who lived and trained at the cantonment fought more than simulated battles— they struggled daily with both terrain and weather. There was no shortage of mosquitoes, mud, flooding creeks, or snakes. Camp Adair infamously became ‘Swamp Adair,” its damp moniker a fitting air to wintery drear. When the war ended in 1944, the divisions relocated as quickly as the citizens of Wellsdale had done.

In 1948, the E.E. Wilson Wildlife area acquired the camp through a quit-claim deed and the understanding that the area would be maintained for native wildlife management. The E.E. Wilson Wildlife area is managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and has become the home of the largest remaining population of Nelson’s checkermallow (an endangered plant species) in the US.

Besides Nelson’s, other species of both plant and animal life abound on the preserve. When visiting the area one might glimpse a dusky footed wood rat, or perhaps a true Oregon beaver. Many species of birds thrive at E.E. Wilson: American kestrels, screech owls, and chickadees.

If Corvallis or Salem is your destination, consider taking the TIC “tour” at Camp Adair. Even in the dark northwest fall, the history and unique relationships of nature and humankind are in perfect harmony on the trails of Camp Adair.

For more information on TIC cell phone tours, call Annie Von Domitz at 503-378-4508.

Rest Area Tales: The Santiam

The weekend before Thanksgiving, traffic is flowing smoothly on I-5 south. Both sides of the freeway are graced with Willamette Valley scenic vistas: old barns, blueberry fields, and acres of wide open pasture facing the Cascade mountain range. A few miles before the downtown Albany exit, a highway sign alerts motorists that the Santiam rest area and free coffee are just ahead.

Although much appreciated, many travelers take rest areas for granted. However, without diligent management and oversight, rest areas would quickly disintegrate into unusable pitstops. The Santiam is one of five TIC managed regional rest areas within Oregon. The pristine grounds resemble a park with its golden maples and green lawn. The Santiam area Albany Visitors Center is housed within a tiny blue cottage reminiscent of the city’s Victorian houses.

Rest areas like the Santiam depend not only on TIC supervision and structure to monitor daily maintenance and custodial duties, but also on the friendly and informative volunteers who staff the free coffee trailers.

On this pre-holiday Saturday, Sharon Moore from the Salem Emblem Club is dispensing free coffee to motorists with a smile and easy conversation. It’s a busy day at the southbound stop—Oregon State University Beaver fans pull in and just as quickly pull out, eager to be on their way to Corvallis. But a few drop by Sharon’s trailer for the free coffee and cookies. A local radio broadcaster chats with Sharon and they agree that coffee should be coffee, not the ubiquitous “designer frou-frou stuff” that Americans find so appealing.

Moore has seen hundreds of dogs stretching their legs alongside their owners, but today she is astounded to see a pygmy goat at the end of a leash. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a goat taking a potty break,” she says. The goat and his youthful owner are on their way back to Oroville, California.

The Santiam rest area is a north-south area with two stops on either side of the freeway. Travel Information Council Supervisor Greg Adams and Assistant Supervisor Nancy Rold assume hands-on responsibility for the busy areas. Stories of who, what, and how travelers were helped abound. The most recent rescue story hails from the northbound side.

The Santiam rescues four-legged friends

Last week as Rold cleaned trash cans, she noticed a woman peeking out from the handicapped restroom. Assured the woman was not in distress, Rold resumed her work. A short while later, traffic escalated and cars zipped into the parking lot. Rold became concerned when she saw two dogs running loose and asked a nearby visitor if they belonged to her. The visitor replied that when she had investigated noises coming from the handicapped women’s restroom, the frightened animals had darted out.

Rold corralled the dogs and held them safely in her office. It was obvious to her they had been abandoned intentionally—a pink blanket on the cold bathroom floor was the last act of kindness their desperate owner could afford. One of the dogs was merely a puppy— a two or three month old chocolate Labrador The pup’s companion was a senior miniature Dachshund.

When Rold spoke about the abandonment, she vowed “I am not going to leave here today until I can get these dogs to a no-kill shelter or find someone to foster them.” Because of Rold’s determination and her ability to use available resources, there was a happy ending. Both dogs were placed by the end of the day and Rold is grateful to the new foster parents.

Although most travelers use rest areas without much thought other than convenience, compelling stories transpire at every stop. Through the efforts of both community volunteers and paid staff, countless rescues take place every day —and illustrate TIC’s dedication and compassionate action towards the state’s visitors and travelers.

The TIC is grateful to its area managers for their “above and beyond” work and will continue to tell their stories as they occur. Look for more rest area adventures in our next issue of the online newsletter.

The OTIC Customer Speaks Out: Customer Satisfaction Survey Results

The Oregon Travel Information Council (TIC) prides itself on customer service. Without customers, TIC would not exist. And without blue highway signs, it’s very likely that Oregon’s traveler satisfaction would disappear as well.

The blue highway sign is a beacon to both kinds of TIC customer—those who rely on signs to direct them to comfort and refreshment—as well as the businesses who depend on them to bring stability to the local economy.

Feedback by the use of surveys becomes a “road map” that TIC can follow to evaluate their performance as an agency. Both the Governor and the Legislature need to know how well TIC does their job. If improvements are necessary, the agency can respond by creating a strategic plan to correct any problems.

Positive performance

As an example of positive feedback from the most recent blue-highway sign survey, it was determined that Willamette Valley business owners felt the signs gave them increased visibility along the I-5 corridor. The TIC staff were deemed “excellent or good” from 100 percent of the respondents. The ease of the signing process was reported to be “excellent or good” 86 percent of the time.

In addition to the blue highway sign customer survey, a motorist survey was conducted to assess the pulse of the interstate traveler. For travelers, rest areas are an oasis. They deliver a variety of services both personal and essential. In the September 2010 survey, 37 percent of motorists said they use a rest area every time they travel on I-5 or I-84. Twenty-two percent use them “most times,” and 29 percent use them “occasionally.” When the data is crunched, the conclusions are obvious: rest areas are of significant value to almost every motorist on the state’s highway system.

When asked about blue highway signs, 87 percent of travelers recalled noticing the signs. An incredible 94 percent of respondents said that the blue highway signs were “very helpful” or “fairly helpful.” This type of data is crucial for the TIC to fulfill its mission to every customer it serves—advertiser and traveler alike.

The information gleaned from these all important surveys helps TIC ensure the viability of local business by maintaining a robust regional economy and enhancing the travel experience of the state’s citizens and its visitors.

Thank you to all of our customers who participated!

OTIC Quarterly Council Meeting: December 2010

The Oregon Travel Information Council (TIC) will meet on December 10, 2010 at the TIC offices in Salem. The address is 1500 Liberty St SE, Suite 150, Salem, 97302. This meeting is open to the public.

The meeting convenes at 9:00 a.m. and will feature an agency report by TIC’s CEO Cheryl Gribskov. Council public member Mike Drennan will follow Gribskov’s presentation with a financial report. Council Chair David Porter will lead the meeting.

For a description of the full agenda, please contact Tracie Gibson at 503-373-0155. Requests for ADA accommodations should be made to Gibson 48-hours in advance.

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