DANA MERRYDAY/ THE CHRONICLE Former Councilor Bob Ehler was remembered at the site of the bike repair station named in his honor.

The Equinox, rains, and generally cooling temperatures have brought some relief from smoke in the form of cleaner air and the feel of fall. Leaves are turning and starting to drop, especially with the wind that has chosen to blow in at times.

As a sign of the times, the last of this year’s “Yard of the Week” winners was declared by the recognition sign being placed in a neat green swath of 103 Village Drive. 

If you didn’t get your gardening/yard maintenance efforts recognized this year, you can look forward to next year’s season, which begins the first full week of May, 2021. Congratulations to all of this year’s yardmasters!

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A group of friends and family of Bob Ehler joined Cottage Grove officials down by the City Corporate Yard for remembrance and to unveil the bicycle repair station named in his honor. Ehler, who was serving as City Councilor for Ward 2, passed away May 10 this year after a battle with cancer. In addition to his many civic contributions, he was especially proud of wearing the star of the Bohemia City Marshall. As Mayor Jeff Gowing was speaking he mentioned Ehler was a natural for the marshall’s role because, “For him he didn’t have to dress up because that’s kinda the way he was every day.” 

DANA MERRYDAY/THE CHRONICLE The Swinging Bridge in Cottage Grove celebrated its reopening in November 2019. It earned an award for Best Public Project on Monday, Sept. 22.

The reason that the existing bike repair station was chosen to honor Ehler was acknowledgement of his other passion: building, repairing, and donating bicycles to members of the community. He rehabilitated bicycles in his backyard shop and got them to worthy riders. The station, located on the Row River Bicycle Trail, had been augmented by a new, beautiful wooden shelter over the pump, bike stand, and attached tools. On the new structure is a dedication plaque that reads:

 “In Memory of Alvin Lee “Bob” Ehler, “Bob the bike builder” 1952 to 2020 for his many years of service to the Cottage Grove Community. He repaired and donated over 1,355 bicycles to the community. In his spare time he was a member of the Jaycees, served on the City of Cottage Grove and South Lane Fire District Budget Committees, City Planning Commission, City Council, and was the Bohemia Mining Days Bohemia City Marshall.”

Mayor Gowing, after his remarks, called on Ehler’s daughters and grandchildren to help pull the covering off the plaque and complete the dedication. Ironically it was the day after Bob’s birthday. Happy belated birthday Bob and I couldn’t think of a better way to honor your memory than by providing an active memorial to help the many bicyclists utilizing the trail to fix their own bikes. Roll on Bob!

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Councilor Ehler’s seat on the Council had been left vacant since the term was up for re-election this November. The City Council had decided to not fill his seat as a way to honor Ehler and also not to influence the election contest of candidates considering stepping up to fill the seat. Jon Stinnet filed his candidacy early and initially had competition for the Ward 2 seat. When his competitor left the race, the Council decided to consider appointing Stinnet to fill the remainder of Ehler’s term. He still has to face election for the new term in this November’s election, and by his own admission could theoretically not be chosen. However, having become very familiar with both the workings of the City of Cottage Grove and to the members of the community through his years of serving as the editor of the Cottage Grove Sentinel, that seems highly unlikely.

At last Monday’s City Council meeting the vote was unanimous to appoint Stinnet to complete Ehler’s term. In this way he gets to have a chance to learn on the job and ease into his Councilorship. When asked to comment on his appointment Councilor Stinnet said, “The support that has been shown to my candidacy thus far has been inspiring, uplifting and humbling. Thank you to all who have given of their time, talents and resources on my behalf. It’s not often in life that we receive a literal vote of confidence from our peers. Thank you to the Cottage Grove City Council for appointing me to fill the remaining term in Ward 2, and I look forward to working with the Council and the broader community to address future challenges and build on our successes.”

Congratulations and welcome to the other side of the press table, Councilor Stinnet.

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Between Madison Ave. and South River Rd., the J. Polk Currin Swinging Bridge stands ready for walkers, their dogs, bicyclists, and the occasional plucky squirrel. This version is at least the fourth structure to allow Grovers to cross the Coast Fork at that location since 1917. This latest bridge, dedicated Nov. 30, 2019, was the result of a collaboration of the City of Cottage Grove, Gowing and the city council, citizens, engineers, and construction professionals.

On Monday, Sept. 22, the American Society of Civil Engineers recognized the Ausland Group, the engineering firm who led the design/build team, for their work on the bridge by awarding them the “Best Public Project 2020 (Oregon Division)” award. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the presentation had to take place virtually and not many of the local participants in the project were able to tune in and bask in the glory.  

Ausland Design project manager Greg Ausland said, “This really was a feel-good community project and it is great to be associated with it. Ausland’s bridge designer Tony LaMorticella and I have worked on a lot of bridges together throughout the state and this one is special because of how unique it is and the level of community support it has.”

That community support included nearly three years of rounding up water bills, buying cards and T-shirts, and supporting the effort in many other ways. One of the most crucial was the writing of more than a hundred letters of support that led to a $200,000 Parks and Recreation grant for the project.

In announcing the award, these words from the City of Cottage Grove website perhaps say it best, “The project, completed on-time and budget, is a testament to how the entire design and construction team, along with key stakeholders, listened to citizens’ concerns that the bridge closely adhere to the rich logging, rail and mining history of Cottage Grove, while also emphasizing safety and cost-effective longevity. Oh, and we understood that the suspension bridge “had better swing” too. Cheers to everyone that worked so hard on the project. The Swinging Bridge project will always remain a wonderful example of ‘team.’”

A framed copy of the award will be presented to the City when it is safe to do so, but meanwhile you can take a victory lap over the Swinging Bridge to celebrate your part in that prize-winning success story.

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The Grinch, or rather virus, which has robbed students of the chance of a normal school year and other rites of passage also took out the popular “Halloween Howl” event of Trick or Treating on Main St. As many were ruefully considering what could be done, a 12-year-old Cottage Grove boy decided to address the issue and thinking outside of the box wrote a letter addressed to the mayor on the subject. In his written proposal he wondered since we couldn’t have the Main St. event as normal, couldn’t the Halloween event become mobile and move through the neighborhoods distributing treats much like the teachers from South Lane did when they took to their vehicles to say goodbye to the students when the school year was cut short due to the Coronavirus.

Instead of dismissing the idea, it was passed on by city manager Richard Meyers, who shared it with Shauna Neigh, Chamber of Commerce CEO, who in turn invited the teen to a planning meeting to consider the event. After consideration by Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, and city officials, it was decided that it was not really feasible to drive through the neighborhoods but the idea of a mobile celebration was a sound one. The consensus emerged that it might be possible to have a hybrid event if it was in a contained area. Thus the idea of “Trick or Treat Cruise” was born.

The idea is that cars with the kids would line up on River Road and cruise along Main Street and receive bags of treats pre-prepared to CDC safety standards. Participants would be encouraged to decorate vehicles, have kids in costume, and pets as well. It sounds like a great solution but it is still up in the air due to the continued risk of the virus. It may be that restrictions will not allow it to happen. That will become apparent as the Halloween time comes nearer. Come what may, but could there be a better way to show a young Grover that, yes your opinion does matter, and you can have an impact on your community? Let’s hold our breath and hope this innovative solution will be allowed to happen.

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The rumor mill is alive and well in Cottage Grove. It was reported on Facebook that the roof of the Armory had collapsed during the early rains. Without confirmation the response was typically “told you so.” According to the Friday Update of Sept. 25 on the city’s website, there was in fact a leak into a small room next to the foyer of the building and into the shower room below. A water damage firm was contracted to mitigate the damage. … It was further reported that the overall progress in restoring the Washington St. side rooms and entryway was proceeding well and hoped to be wrapped up by the end of the year. Final touches include refinishing the maple floors and new entry doors. Don’t believe everything you read on the internet! 

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