There are signs that things are cautiously easing in the direction of a more normal life. This glimmer at the end of the tunnel is a ray of hope that we are turning a corner. Last Thursday, Gov. Kate Brown, at a news conference, made several important announcements concerning our path forward.

Our governor began by congratulating citizens of the Beaver State. “Today, thanks to millions of Oregonians following the strict physical distancing orders I put in place, I am happy to say these sacrifices have prevented as many as 70,000 COVID-19 infections, and 1,500 hospitalizations in Oregon.”  

She announced changes in gathering restrictions and allowed for the reopening of certain businesses May 15 under what is known as Phase I. To be eligible, counties have to meet specific health conditions. Gov. Brown also cautioned that if there is an uptick in cases then health authorities will be empowered to take whatever steps, including ordering renewed stay-in-place orders, to ensure public safety.

The good news is that Lane County meets the requirements for Phase I. This allows for restaurants and bars to offer sit-down service, personal care and service businesses including barbers and salons, and in-person gatherings of up to 25 people. The reopening still asks for people to use face masks, maintain a physical distance of six feet as much as possible and to follow good hygiene and disinfection protocols.  

If we can keep the infection rates down for 21 days we can move into Phase II.

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There were already a few moves in opening things in Cottage Grove.

The city-owned Middlefield Golf Course opened on May Day with safety guidelines in place. Maybe the proletariat has nothing to lose but his clubs, but May 1 turned into a big day for the course.

The city reported that a good crowd was eager to hit the fairways and that tee times were booking up fast. Increased signage directing golfers on how to maintain physical distance, hand-washing and sanitizing stations, wipes for flag sticks, and carts sanitized after each use are several measures to keep the links safe. You can call for tee availability at 541-942-8730. Fore, but six feet apart please!

And on Thursday, May 7, the South Valley reopened its street market. There were a number of changes in place to ensure public safety, some that certainly will be difficult to remember for some like, “Sorry friends, no Hugs!” Other changes also seem to fly in the face of the organic crowd, but understandable for safety, no onsite food consumption, linger not grab and go, pets at home, no touching the wares – allow yourself to be served.

Hand-washing stations are in place as are masks available and encouraged (wear your own if possible). Online pre-orders are in the works and coming soon. The South Valley Market features locally grown organic produce, meats, dairy, baked goods, and crafts. Located at Main & 7th Street next to Opal Whiteley Park, vendors are set up from 4-7 p.m. each Thursday, rain or shine.

The market is existing without its soul sister, the long-running Grove tradition, “Bread Club.” The Thursday afternoon gathering to exchange goods and local news has been a fixture at Kalapuya Books and the Axe for years before covid reared its ugly spikes. Maybe with Phase I rolling out, ways can be found to allow this institution to rise from the disinfectant wipes.

The 22nd season of the Yard of the Month kicks off Friday. The prize patrol is still figuring out its exact procedure to safely judge yards and award the prize. The award was conceived to instill community beautification by recognizing Cottage Grovers who go the extra mile in taking pride in their yards and make their little corner of the Grove a bright spot in the whole. Besides the bragging rights, and a yard sign declaring the winner the “Yard of the Month,” past winners have received a free month’s water and a gift certificate good at a local business through the Chamber of Commerce. You can call City Hall or email [email protected] to suggest yards worthy of consideration. The program runs through September. If you are stuck at home you can take it out on your yard and perhaps emerge a winner!

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The exterior restoration work on the south side of the Armory is nearly done and the windows will be getting a coat of paint as the last stroke. While the sprucing up of the outside is wrapping up, the work inside is just getting going. Work started last week to remove the ceiling tiles and prepare for lead paint and asbestos removal in the Company Room and the entranceway do-over that will feature electrical and plumbing work, sheet rock, new doors, paint, and floor refinishing. Having done a few events there, this is great news as we had managed to blow all the circuit breakers and had a heck of time with our potluck, not to mention the appearance of the space which had sure seen better days.

It will be a fresh and functioning facility that will greet renters of the hall when it’s possible to open the doors again. Work is due to be completed by the end of this June.

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Sign of the times, perfect for the current conditions. The City’s utility crew is making progress installing automated water meters.

More than 30% of the old manual-read style have been replaced, and the hope is that by August the whole town will be fully automated.

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I was happy to see that the little libraries that are scattered around town are getting a good workout. After reorganizing we had books, magazines, and an old view master that we thought others could enjoy, so took them to the closest “branch.” Being a bit of a bibliophile myself, I couldn’t help but take a look at the other offerings. While quite tempted by a couple of titles, it wouldn’t look good to come home with more books. An errand took me by the same little library a few days later and I wanted to see if “East of Eden” was still there. Not only was it not but I was surprised and pleased to see an entirely new selection of materials had taken the place of the inventory I had just seen lately. 

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Well, it is official. The Oregon Country Fair joins the many other cherished summer traditions that will be taking a year off this year. Executive Director Wally Bomgaars issued a statement on May 7, stating what we all figured was coming. “We’re sorry to say that our traditional gathering on the fair site in July will not be taking place. It’s important that you do not plan on it happening,” Bomgaars said. 

The fair will still need to work with Lane County officials to secure the right for future gatherings in the face of their legacy nonconforming use permit, a relic of the days when the county commissioners were trying hard to shut down them dang hippies. But since the state is not allowing any event, that gives the legal argument needed to keep the door open for next year. Don’t despair fairies, this creates a chance for the land to have a well-deserved rest. There are plans already afoot to have a virtual event the second weekend of July so you can see your favorite performers and possibly an online shopping application to allow connecting with traditional fair crafters. Stay tuned and save your glitter and fairy dust for next year or maybe a very localized application.

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Keep safe and don’t rush things. Patience is still needed. Let’s not spoil all our good work by throwing caution to the wind as things possibly are loosening up. Wash yer hands, keep the distance, and wear your mask!

Contact Dana at [email protected]