Heritage Grove Memorializes 10th Mountain Division
If you have ever traveled on Highway 26 to North Plains, Oregon, you may have noticed a small grove of trees taking root over the last 12 years. The trees at milepost 54 memorialize a group of very special Oregonians—the state’s late members of the 10th Mountain Division.
During the summer of 1943, members of the National Ski Patrol and other rugged outdoorsmen with mountaineering skills were recruited to form a highly specialized combat division.
The US Army trained the division in harsh environs. The recruits scaled treacherous heights in the Rocky Mountains and on Mount Rainier, facing extreme conditions of wind, altitude, and exhaustion. Learning the skills necessary to survive in bleak surroundings—many from the 10th Mountain Division mastered sleeping on the snow without tents.
The 10th Mountain fighters were deployed to Italy in January 1945, and the division was one of the last of US forces to see combat. Although their tour of duty was brief, casualties were extremely high—over 1,000 soldiers perished while 4,000 suffered debilitating wounds.
When the war ended, it was not uncommon for soldiers who had served with the division to establish careers in the ski industry. Tenth Mountain Division veterans were instrumental in developing winter recreational destinations—including the famous resort at Vail, Colorado. Retired soldiers designed ski-lifts, became ski coaches, and even raced competitively.
Late 10th Mountain Division veteran and Baker City, Oregon native Montgomery Atwater was considered the founder of avalanche research and forecasting. Atwater helped develop the “Avalauncher,” a pneumatic cannon device used to propel avalanche control explosives on slopes around the US.
In 1993, Oregon’s 10th Mountain Division veterans and their descendants organized a Highway 26 litter crew. From their quarterly meetings, the idea of a highway memorial heritage grove surfaced, and in 1996 the first tree was planted. In all, 75 trees will be planted to represent Oregon’s late members of this courageous league.
As WWII fades from the collective consciousness of younger generations, it becomes more important for its aging veterans to tell their stories. Heritage programs like 10th Mountain maintain the dignity and integrity of their accounts. We salute the 10th Mountain Division for their commitment and service, and recognize the impossible odds faced by these men. Oregon’s 10th Mountain memorial trees are a proud reminder of the sacrifices made on behalf of all Americans.
A public dedication ceremony is planned for the 10th Mountain memorial grove on Saturday October 2, 2010 at 10:00 a.m. Location: Milepost 54, Highway 26, next to the North Plains truck weighing station.
Vanport Marker Connects Travelers to Cell Phone Tour
Although a new Oregon law prohibits the use of a hand-held cell phone while driving, travelers now have a new use for the ubiquitous device.
The latest heritage project of the Oregon Travel Information Council (TIC) incorporates cell phone audio “tours”—and connects drivers with vibrant oral history. Each tour runs one to five minutes and is filled with first-hand recollections of sometimes unfamiliar events.
The Vanport marker and audio tour, located at Portland’s West Delta Park (near the Portland Expo grounds) is one of 35 interactive tours that will be launched during the week of September 27, 2010. One of Vanport’s past residents, Ed Washington, paints a vivid picture of how the city’s African American community was dramatically transformed by a failing dike.
When Washington’s family moved to Oregon in the 1940s, Kaiser Shipyard was hiring thousands of African Americans from the southern US to work on defense projects—and most were in desperate need of housing. Vanport was built to accommodate the influx of the newly hired workers and their families. Regrettably—and unknown to many of its inhabitants—the community was built on a floodplain within reach of the Columbia River.
Washington was still a young child when Memorial Day 1948 dawned. Heavy spring rains, followed by a high snow melt, had expanded nearby Columbia River waters close to the flood stage. On the morning of May 30th, a notice had been pinned to the Vanport families’ front doors. The note advised residents that the river was expected to crest in several days, and possibly spill across the surrounding dikes. Everyone thought that the water would rise slowly and felt there was no need for concern.
At around 3:00 p.m. Memorial Day afternoon, Washington’s mother decided to take her children down to see the swollen river. As the family walked towards the water, an emergency siren began to blare. Washington’s mother was stopped by a policeman who told her that the dike had broken. He urged her to evacuate immediately. She ran back to the house, packed a few belongings, and ushered the children to higher ground.
Washington recalls that he and his siblings stood on top of what is now I-5, overlooking the lowlands of Vanport. They watched amazed, as wave after wave consumed the town. Washington estimates it took 45-minutes for Vanport’s total destruction. If the flood had occurred at night, there would have been unthinkable loss, killing far more than the 15 residents who actually perished.
In less than an hour, the entire Vanport populace was displaced. As a result, hundreds of Portland’s citizens opened their homes to the survivors. Washington states that Portland’s African American population was forever changed. “Portland today, owes its multi-cultural ethnicity to Vanport,” he says. “Had it not been for Vanport, it maybe would have happened, but it would have taken a lot longer.”
The Oregon Travel Information Council is indebted to Ed Washington and his audio tour counterparts for telling Oregon stories that not only enlighten and educate Oregonians, but all visitors to our state.
Industry Partner Spotlight: Kyle Jansson
Do Swedes rule? You bet they do… and Kyle Jansson, coordinator for the Oregon Heritage Commission is no exception. Although he and Oregon Travel Information Council (TIC) Chief Operating Executive Cheryl Gribskov like to rib one another about the spelling and pronunciation of their last names, Jansson is serious when it comes to preserving Oregon’s heritage programs.
Jansson connected with TIC a decade ago while helping to develop a heritage tree program for the Marion County Historical Society. The TIC’s interest in heritage trees as a travel destination sparked a team effort and a statewide program was forged.
Kyle is eloquent in his praise for the council’s fostering what he calls “eco-tourism.”
“The Oregon Travel Information Council is a wonderful agency and their heritage programs develop real resources for a broader audience. They’re continuously looking at ways to promote heritage tourism.”
Gribskov admires Jansson’s numerous contributions. “The aspect of Kyle that I most appreciate is his ability to be a great partner,” she states. “He equally respects all of us in the heritage community and does a great job of making sure that we keep informed. His networking skills are extraordinary, as is his ability to keep all those balls in the air.”
Jansson’s work with heritage programs doesn’t end with his connections to TIC and the heritage commission. He serves as chair to the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Program (OCF&R) management committee—a recognition program devoted to showcasing some of the oldest family owned agricultural operations in the state. Jansson also acts as the immediate past president of the Oregon Museum Association.
“My relationship with the TIC has been multi-faceted—sometimes they have the information I need for projects that I’m working on, and sometimes I have the information they need. It’s been beneficial to both organizations.”
“The OCF&R Program is a good example,” Jansson points out. “People enjoy driving on the road and seeing farms and ranches.” The metal roadside signs identifying OCF&R lands are provided by a TIC donation to the Oregon Agricultural Education Foundation. “It’s a perfect venue for all to be involved in,” says Jansson.
Thanks to partners like Jansson, the TIC couldn’t agree more.
Southern Oregon Umpqua Valley Regional Marker Dedication
The Oregon Travel Information Council debuts its new line of exhibit-style regional markers in Roseburg. The Southern Oregon Umpqua Valley marker will be dedicated in a public ceremony on October 19, 2010 at 4:00 p.m. at the Roseburg Visitor’s Center, 410 SE Spruce St.
The TIC’s regional markers, framed in Port Orford cedar, differ from traditional historic markers. The markers feature an entire region rather than just one site. The program series was developed in 2008 but met the economic crisis head on. However, TIC remained convinced that regional markers were intrinsically valuable to both in-state and out-of-state visitors.
Since the program is funded by public sponsorship, the new markers make the most of everyone’s resources as two or more organizations can team up to help fund fabrication and installation.
The Southern Oregon Umpqua Valley marker highlights the magical geological birth of Crater Lake, the exotic mineral deposits that supported 19th century mining in the area, and the indigenous tribes who benefited from the Umpqua Valley’s natural sources of wild foods and fish.
New markers for each of the state’s seven regions (including Portland Metro, Mt. Hood and the Gorge, the Willamette Valley, Central Oregon, and Eastern Oregon) have been proposed by the TIC, but sponsorship is critical to their success. Fortunately, a second marker representing the Oregon Coast was funded by the City of Yachats and installation is slated for spring 2011.
Criteria for sponsoring a regional or more traditional style historic marker may be obtained by contacting Annie Von Domitz. The Oregon Travel Information Council’s toll free line can be accessed at 800-574-9397.
OTIC Quarterly Council Meeting Agenda
The Oregon Travel Information Council (TIC) will hold a quarterly meeting on Thursday, September 30, 2010 in Baker City, Oregon. The meeting starts at 8:00 a.m. and is held in the Geiser Grand Hotel, 1996 Main St, Baker City. For directions to the hotel, call 541-523-1889.
• Approval of minutes, Dave Porter
• Chief Executive Officer report, Cheryl Gribskov
• TIC financial report, Mike Drennan
• Baldock rest area, Bob Russell
• QR tags, Annie Von Domitz
• Rebranding, Rod Miles
• Sales, Rod Miles
• Heritage Program report, George Forbes
• Rest areas:
– Coffee program, Annie Von Domitz
– Mike Barnes review, Jim Renner
• Business services, Tim Pickett
– New biennial budget
– Information systems
• Signs, Jim Renner