NORTH POWDER — North Powder Community Partners, a small group of local activists, figures that what a tourist sees from the freeway will influence the decision to stop or keep going.
PROUD OF HER TOWN: North Powder community activist Carolyn Flynn hopes that a spruced-up freeway exit will help attract visitors. Flynn is a member of North Powder Community Partners, a group of local activists planning a landscaping project at the exit. - Observer photos/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
A wind-blown, weed-choked freeway exit doesn’t do a thing for a little city hoping to attract a bigger share of the visitor trade.
So now, the North Powder ramps are in for some improvement in a project that might be launched next spring.
“Our purpose is to not only beautify the area, but to make it more welcoming for tourists,” said group member Carolyn Flynn. “Who wants to get off at a place where the exit is all overgrown?”
North Powder Community Partners was formed initially to raise money for construction of a new community center. Boasting about 10 members, it is a federally designated, 501C3 non-profit organization.
Last winter, the group put on a series of monthly dinners at the Wolf Creek Grange. Proceeds are earmarked for the community center project, which is still in the planning stages.
Flynn said the meals garnered about $800. The money has been set aside, and the group plans more meals this fall to add to the fund.
“The dinners were very successful, in part because we offered free delivery for people who didn’t want to eat out. Now, everybody’s asking us when we’re going to start up again,” Flynn said.
Casting about recently for another good cause, Flynn heard about ODOT’s Adopt-a-Landscape program, an offshoot of the long-running, highly successful Adopt-A-Highway program. She came to believe it could be a good thing for her city.
The Adopt-a-Highway program is designed to reduce litter along state and federal highways. Groups and individuals taking part agree to keep a designated stretch of highway clean. In return, ODOT installs a sign at the roadside displaying the group or individual’s name.
Tom Strandberg, a public relations specialist for ODOT’s Region 5, said Adopt-a-Landscape takes the program a step further.
in for a facelift: Drab scenery marks North Powder’s Interstate 84 on-off ramps. Local activists plan to landscape the area this spring, eliminating the weeds and spreading gravel. - Observer photos/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
“Some language was added to the program for those who want to do landscaping projects like this one in North Powder,” he said. Besides technical assistance, the main benefit of the program is the memorial sign, he said.
The community has long wanted to improve the appearance of its Interstate 84 on-off ramps. Flynn’s group decided taking part in the state program would be worthwhile.
“North Powder really does have a lot to offer visitors,” Flynn said. “We’re the jumping off place for Anthony Lakes, the elk feeding station, Wolf Creek Reservoir. We have all kinds of things people would be interested in, if they knew they were there.”
Flynn added that the project will do much to improve overall livability, attracting small businesses and more full-time residents.
By now, project plans are pretty well finalized. First, volunteers will mow down weeds, except for a native species of sagebrush which will be left to stand.
Then, the ground will be covered with a fabric that retards weed growth. Finally, some 625 cubic yards of gravel will be laid over the fabric.
Estimated cost of the project is $25,000. Flynn said North Powder Community Partners is applying for a Union County discretionary fund grant, though that by no means will pay the whole tab.
“Whatever is left, we’re going to have to raise,” she said.
native plant: Carolyn Flynn displays the native species of sagebrush that will be left standing once the landscaping project is complete. - The Observer/BILL RAUTENSTRAUCH
Another hurdle is a requirement that volunteers working on the project have insurance coverage.
For help with that, North Powder Community Partners has turned to the Baker City chapter of Lions International, which sometimes provides insurance for people working on community service projects.
The plan is to form a North Powder charter branch attached to the Baker City chapter.
“Hopefully, the Lions will help provide the insurance,” Flynn said.
Flynn said there is a high degree of public interest in the landscaping project, with many people expressing support.
“I just want everybody to know how appreciative we are. We couldn’t do this by ourselves as a small group,” she said. “There’s not a person in town who doesn’t want to help.”
People wishing to donate money or labor to the project should call Flynn at 541-519-4017, or North Powder City Hall, 898-2185.