Willamette Valley News, Tuesday 11/29 – Man Running Along Railroad Tracks In Oakridge Struck By Train And Killed, Lane County Board Of Commissioners To Get A Report Back On Renaming Lane County In Session This Morning

The latest news stories and stories of interest in the Willamette Valley from the digital home of Southern Oregon, from Wynne Broadcasting’s WillametteValleyMagazine.com

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Willamette Valley Weather

Man Running Along Railroad Tracks In Oakridge Struck By Train And Killed

On Friday, November 25, the Lane County Sheriff’s Office says it was informed that an adult male had been struck by a train along the Union Pacific rail line by Salmon Creek Road in Oakridge. The sheriff’s office says Oregon State Troopers were first on the scene and attempted life-saving efforts including CPR.

The man was identified as 57-year-old Derek Lee Berling of Oakridge. Preliminary investigation indicates that Berling was running westbound along the railroad tracks prior to being struck. He was reportedly wearing headphones and did not respond when train operators sounded a horn multiple times. Despite conducting an emergency stop, train operators were unable to stop the train in time to avoid a collision.

Lane County Board of Commissioners to get a report back on a legal analysis of what it would take to rename Lane County in Session this morning

An organization in Eugene has proposed to change the name of Lane County to Kalapuya County to honor a Native American tribe that lived in the area long before American settlers.

Organizers from the City Club of Eugene are advocating to change the name of Lane County to Kalapuya County to honor the Native American tribe that was said to be in the area in the early 19th century. Organizers said they have been talking about proposing the name change since 2020 when the city club talked about preserving the history of the Willamette Valley. According to them, that will involve some possible name changes.

Joseph Lane served as Oregon’s first governor. He’s been described as a frontier hero, a general during the Mexican-American War, but he is also known to have supported the institution of slavery during the Civil War. Organizers say the Kalapuya and their ancestors are estimated to have lived in the Willamette Valley since before the last ice age. Organizers in favor of the name change say the Kalapuya were forced to sign treaties to move to reservations, making room for American immigrants.

David Lewis is an associate professor at Oregon State University. He says he first got involved to try to educate people on the history of the Kalapuya.

“We’d like to return some of those place names, some of the history, back to the people here,” Lewis said. “History was never taught in schools. We’d like to fix that and provide equity across the city, across the county, recognize the people that who were here first for 1,600 years or more.”

A county name change has never before occurred in Oregon. In order for that to happen, county commissioners would have to play the leading role. Before any action could be taken towards a possible name change, Lane County commissioners would have to consider the motion. That would then turn into many public meetings with input from the community.

Andrew Kalloch, the president-elect of the City Club of Eugene, says he hopes this initiative will draw a lot of community participation.

“We always hope that people view our forums and then take action. Whatever action they think is worthwhile. I think this is the type of discussion that requires a lot of community input from all across Lane County,” Kalloch said. “You would imagine the commission would host public hearings, they would listen to people in terms of, not just do they want the name change but if so, what do they want the name changed to.”

Organizers from the City Club of Eugene say they are not trying to change history, but instead to remember it.

​​​​​​​Lane County Board of Commissioners Meeting

To watch: County meetings stream at bit.ly/LaneCounty-meetings.

To attend: Board of Commissioners meetings begin at 9 a.m. in Harris Hall, located at 125 E 8th Ave., unless otherwise noted. Doors to Harris Hall open at 8:45 a.m.

To comment: When there’s a chance to comment, people must register for the meeting to do so virtually. After registering, people will get information for how to attend.

Those who go to the meeting in person should sign up on the sign-in sheet located by the entry door.

There will be instructions during the meeting for speaking during public hearings and making public comment.

People also can email diana.jones@lanecountyor.gov with public comment by noon Monday. The subject line should include “PUBLIC COMMENT FOR MEETING DATE 11/29/2022.”

MORNING SESSIONWhen: 9 a.m. Tuesday

What: Commissioners will listen and respond to public comment before considering a consent calendar that includes contracts and the acceptance of $8.3 million in federal funding.

They’ll also get an update on progress toward updating the comprehensive plan for Willamalane Park and Recreation District. That discussion will start at 10 a.m.

The board then will get a report back on a legal analysis of what it would take to rename Lane County.

Register:us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Yp0yb-WTQWyqZcXT36dcHQ

Hunter Finds Deceased Person Near Noti

On Sunday 11/20/22, Lane County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to the area of Wacker Point Rd. northwest of Noti after receiving reports that a hunter had located a deceased person in the woods. Wacker Point Rd. is located north of Hwy. 126 and is also known as the BLM 17-7-22 Rd.

Deputies responded and identified the deceased person to be a white male in his 30’s. His identity is being withheld pending notification of next of kin. LCSO Case #22-6507

If you have any information about this case or traveled on Wacker Point Rd. on Friday 11/18/22 through Sunday 11/20/22, please contact the Lane County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 541-682-4167.

Suspicious Vehicle Abandoned at Walton Post Office

Deputies are seeking information regarding a vehicle that was abandoned at the Walton Post Office on Hwy. 126W on or around Monday 11/21/22.

The vehicle is a dark gray or blue GMC Envoy SUV bearing OR Plate #682JKZ. Anyone with information about this vehicle is asked to contact the Lane County Sheriff’s Office tip line at 541-682-4167.

The First Christian Church in Eugene is partnering with Lane County Health and Human Services and CAHOOTS to help with the newly-announced Operation Winter Survival Stockpile, an effort to have plenty of warm winter clothing and supplies through donations that will help people experiencing homelessness.

Lane County and CAHOOTS coordinated an event for the drive last Friday – community members can still drop off items at the church between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on weekdays.

Some of the items they need include things like tents, blankets, sleeping bags, hand warmers, and anything else that can be used to keep someone warm as well as other survival supplies. Lane County officials say the supplies would be distributed to homeless outreach providers like CAHOOTS that have direct contact with individuals in need.

Some items that Operation Winter Survival Stockpile’s looking for are:

  • Tents – preferably 2 person
  • Blankets – preferably wool
  • Rain ponchos
  • Sleeping Bags
  • Hand Warmers
  • Socks – preferably wool
  • Tarps
  • Gift Cards
  • Laundry Cards
  • Footwear
  • Thermal Underwear
  • Flashlights/ Batteries
  • Beanies/Warm Hats
  • Gloves
  • Other survival supplies

Items can continued to be dropped off on weekdays between the hours if 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at First Christian Church, at 1166 Oak Street in Eugene.

For more information on Operation Winter Survival Stockpile contact Maria Cortex at Maria.Cortez@lanecountyor.gov

For those who don’t wish to donate in-person, or are just looking for ideas on what to donate, the church has set up an Amazon wish list for Operation Winter Stockpile.

Oregon’s paid family and medical leave program will begin collecting money to fund the new initiative from workers and businesses with 25 or more employees on Jan. 1.

Paid Leave Oregon Logo-FullColor-RGB.jpg

Starting next year, workers will pay 0.6% of their gross wages every paycheck and big employers will contribute an additional 0.4%.

For a worker who earns $5,000 in monthly gross pay, the worker will pay $30 a month into the paid leave fund and the employer will pay $20. If they work for a company with fewer than 25 employees, they will pay $30 a month and their employer will pay nothing. Employers with fewer than 25 employees will not be required to participate in the program, but they can opt in if they wish to access grants to cover the costs such as overtime or a temporary replacement worker.

All workers in the state except federal employees, independent contractors and people who work for tribal governments who earn at least $1,000 in a year and pay into the program will be eligible automatically for coverage, even if they work for a business with fewer than 25 employees. But they won’t be able to access the new benefit until at least September.

For the first eight months of 2023, the state will build up a fund that it will tap starting in September to pay benefits to workers who take time off to care for a new baby or other loved one, to address their own medical needs or for other specific circumstances covered by the program created under House Bill 2005 in 2019.

Once benefits start flowing, workers will be able to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave annually, and in some cases a total of 14 weeks if they are pregnant, have given birth or have health issues related to child birth, according to the state.

The state program Paid Leave Oregon, which is housed at the Employment Department, launched a campaign earlier this month to educate employers about the program using paid radio, social media and digital media ads.

A public information campaign targeted to workers will not launch until “after January,” communications officer Angela Yeager said during a Nov. 2 meeting of the paid leave program’s advisory committee.

Oregon will join 10 other states and Washington, D.C., in offering some sort of paid leave program.

Oregon workers were originally supposed to start receiving paid leave benefits in January, 3½ years after lawmakers passed the law to create the program. But state leaders made key decisions that delayed the program. Meanwhile, Oregon workers will miss out on approximately $453 million in benefits they would likely have tapped if the program had started on time.

The program will cover leave for the birth or adoption of a child, for serious illness or injury, for taking care of a seriously ill family member and for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking or harassment, according to the state.

Paid Leave Oregon has an employer tool kit online to help employers understand the program.

ODOT Short On Snowplow Operators

The Oregon Department of Transportation is short on snowplow operators but says it’s still prepared for possible winter conditions this week. ODOT spokesperson Angela Beers-Seydel says the shortage is a concern, especially if conditions are anything like the winter of 2019.

If snow does hit, Beers-Seydel says roads may not be plowed or sanded as often as they have been in the past.

That’s why she says drivers should be fully prepared for possible inclement weather before they hit the road.

“You should check those tires right now; check those windshield wipers, check the fluids in your car,” she says. “Make sure you have blankets and supplies so you’re ready if you get stopped somewhere for a long period of time.”

Beers-Seydel says anyone interested in becoming a snowplow operator can check ODOT’s website.

Oregon grant program aims to reduce wildfire risk, protect lives and property

SALEM, Ore.—A $20 million landscape resiliency grant program is making Oregon’s landscapes more resistant to the threat of wildfire by treatments done through unique partnerships with private landowners and other local, county, state, and federal agencies.

Oregon’s 2021 Legislature invested nearly $195 million to address Oregon’s wildfire crisis through Senate Bill 762. Of this $195 million, $20 million created a two-year landscape resiliency and mitigation grant program that the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) has been administering. 

“Projects like this are a major step towards protecting communities and natural resources in Oregon by making forests healthier and more resilient in the face of changing climate and wildfire environment,” said Cal Mukumoto, Oregon’s State Forester,” said Cal Mukumoto, Oregon’s State Forester.

 Just over 200,000 acres of Oregon landscapes are planned to be treated by June 2023 when the program ends. These projects in some of the highest-risk landscapes will greatly reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in those treated areas. Not only will it make the forestland around communities and resources safer, but it will also encourage forest health, resiliency, ecosystem health, and shared stewardship. 

Recently, a small group of experts that helped ODF design project criteria met on a cold sunny day in Sisters to see this program unfold.

“We went to see five different projects—five different stories of what landscape resiliency looks like,” said Jeff Burns, ODF’s All Lands Initiatives Unit Manager. “These five projects boasted just shy of 2,000 acres of fuels mitigation and resiliency work. However, the real highlight of the tour was the focus on what our partnerships and relationships can achieve together. The support and collaboration of these diverse groups are key to the success of getting this work done on the ground in such a short period of time.”

The tour highlighted innovative technology such as air curtain burners, fuels mitigation creating in-stream habitat, fuels reduction with an element of wildlife habitat management, slash burning, and mastication groundwork. 

Some of the projects visited included: 

  • The Upper Deschutes Watershed Council removed trees on 58 acres that provided approximately 750 trees to be used for in-stream work and habitat restoration.
  • The Ponderosa Land & Cattle Company project that included 727 acres of roadside brushing, thinning, mowing and mastication for fuel breaks. It also treated 590 acres of unit mowing, mastication, thinning and ladder fuels.
  • The Black Butte Ranch project highlighted the use of an air curtain burner that can be used to dispose debris from their project of 79 acres of roadside brushing, thinning, stump grinding, limb removal, and mastication. Two other private landowners had projects concentrated on thinning and pruning pine trees, removal of juniper, mastication of ladder fuels such as bitterbrush, and burn piles. 
  • The Ludwick Property Project treated 170 acres
  • The Glynn Property Project treated 200 acres.

“Access to programs like this enable ODF to work closely with our public and private partners to support communities, local economies, and natural resources while making them safer from wildfires,” Burns said. “At the end of these projects, we hope we can show a level of success that will encourage future funding for this type of work.”

For more information visit ODF’s Landscape Resiliency Grant Program website.

For the first time in two decades, the Oregon Senate will have a new president. 

Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego and the current majority leader, on Friday won a private vote of the 17 incoming Senate Democrats. He’ll take the reins from retiring Salem Democrat Peter Courtney, who has served as Senate president since 2003 and has been a legislator for 38 years. 

“Senator Wagner is a good choice for the next Senate President,” Courtney said in a statement. “He’s smart and can handle this responsibility. He will serve the Senate well. I look forward to helping him make a smooth transition into the coming session.”

Wagner will join current Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, and House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, who won re-election to their respective caucus leadership teams last week. House Republicans won’t elect their caucus leaders until Dec. 6. 

In a statement, Wagner said he would ensure the Oregon Senate will be a “force for positive change into every corner of the state.” 

“I look forward to working with my colleagues to build on our culture of inclusion and openness – across the aisle and across the state – to make sure that Oregonians across the state feel represented and supported by the work we do,” he continued.

He won’t formally become Senate president until the Senate convenes in January and votes publicly on its next leader. All 17 Democrats have sworn to support him, making that vote a formality. 

That’s a necessity, as Knopp and Senate Republicans objected to Wagner’s selection. Knopp noted in a statement that Democrats narrowly eked out a majority in the state Senate, winning  fewer than 3,000 combined votes in the Ashland-based 3rd Senate District and Gladstone-based 20th Senate District. Knopp said that proves voters wanted bipartisan collaboration. 

“Senator Wagner has shown he is untrustworthy, deeply partisan and doesn’t have the necessary skills to run the Senate in a bipartisan fashion,” Knopp said. “There are no votes in the Senate Republican caucus for Senator Wagner. If Democrats are intent on uniting Oregon to fix our problems, Republicans are all in. If Democrats want to run a progressive agenda to pay back their supporters, they can expect total opposition.”

Beginning in January, Democrats will hold 17 of 30 seats in the Senate and 35 of 60 in the House – slightly down from the 18 and 37 they now occupy. They slipped below the three-fifths supermajority needed to pass any bills raising taxes. 

Enjoy the darker hours at the Museum with the December return of Winter Nights

BEND, OR — The High Desert Museum is bringing back Winter Nights every Thursday in December. For those looking for a unique evening out, the Museum will remain open until 7:30 pm with seasonal themes, a chance to see new exhibitions, activities for families and students and reduced admission rates.

In Winter Nights, the Museum offers people a break from the busy work week with a festive night out when they normally may not be able to visit. In addition, the Museum presently has one new exhibition and will open a second one on December 17. 

For this year’s Winter Nights:

December 1: Welcome to Winter – Rimrock Café will be open for folks to grab dinner or a treat and enjoy a wine tasting. The Museum store will also be open with discounts for all: Museum members will receive 20 percent off on most items and others 10 percent. Visitors will find kids activities, a free gift-wrapping station and a special tote-bag thank you for Museum members.

December 8: Sugar Cookie Shindig – Enjoy engaging activities for kids including High Desert-themed storytime, snowflake making and sugar cookie decorating. The Museum store, Silver Sage Trading, will also be open with discounts for all and a gift-wrapping station, and Rimrock Café will be ready for diners.

December 15: College Night – Students with college identification will receive free admission! Kids activities will still be happening, and the Museum store will also be open with discounts for all and a gift-wrapping station. Visitors can also enjoy a tasting of locally made hard ciders and try their hand at sugar cookie decoration.

December 22: Solstice Social – Explore the newest High Desert Museum exhibit Under the Snow. A meal, snack, beverage and beer tasting await in the Rimrock Café, and the Museum store will also be open with last-minute gift shopping, discounts for all, a gift-wrapping station and kids activities including story time and paper snowflake-making.

December 29: Après Snow – Get cozy after a day of snow play—explore temporary exhibits and get a tasty meal and beverage from the Rimrock Café. We will welcome Lava Terrace Cellars for wine tasting and families can still enjoy kids activities. The Museum store will also be open with discounts for all.

There is always something new to explore at the High Desert Museum with up to nine new exhibits every year. December is no exception: The newest exhibition opens Saturday, December 17, Under the Snow. The exhibit reveals the hidden world beneath the snow, called the subnivium. In this environment, animals create a matrix of tunnels to survive the winter’s frigid temperatures and hide from the predators that lurk above. Using interactive graphics, visitors will meet the species that depend on the snow, including a resilient mammal named Pika, an observant owl called Great Gray and a fruiting fungus known as Fuzzy Foot. Learn more at highdesertmuseum.org/under-the-snow.

Winter Nights visitors can also explore the original exhibit In the Arena: Photographs from America’s Only Touring Black Rodeo. Through the lens of San Francisco Bay area photographer Gabriela Hasbun, the exhibit documents the exhilarating atmosphere of the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo—the only touring Black rodeo in the country—and the showstopping style and skill of the Black cowboys and cowgirls who compete in it year after year. Learn more at highdesertmuseum.org/in-the-arena.

Admission for Winter Nights is $10 general admission and $6 for ages 12 and under. Museum members are always free. Visitors who arrive earlier in the day may stay for Winter Nights without paying additional admission. The outdoor exhibits are closed during Winter Nights. Regular winter hours are 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. Learn more at highdesertmuseum.org/winter-nights.

ABOUT THE MUSEUM — THE HIGH DESERT MUSEUM opened in Bend, Oregon in 1982. It brings together wildlife, cultures, art, history and the natural world to convey the wonder of North America’s High Desert. The Museum is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, is a Smithsonian Affiliate, was the 2019 recipient of the Western Museums Association’s Charles Redd Award for Exhibition Excellence and was a 2021 recipient of the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. To learn more, visit highdesertmuseum.org and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

Oregon State Parks offers $5 off annual parking permit purchases in December 

SALEM, Oregon— Give the gift of the outdoors and save this season with the Oregon State Parks 12-month parking permit sale through December.

The permit hangtag once again features whimsical designs from Portland artist El Tran. Holiday shoppers can buy the annual parking permits for only $25, which is a $5 savings starting Dec. 1 and running through Dec. 31. The pass is good for 12 months starting in the month of purchase.

Purchasing passes is easy. Buy them online at the Oregon State Parks store. Parking permits are also sold at some state park friends’ group stores and select local businesses throughout the state. For a complete list of vendors, visit stateparks.oregon.gov.

Parking costs $5 a day at 25 Oregon state parks unless you have a 12- or 24-month parking permit or a same-day camping receipt. The 24-month pass is $50 and is also available at store.oregonstateparks.org. The permits are transferable from vehicle to vehicle.

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