The Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce/Lane County Cultural Coalition banner hangs in Downtown Cottage Grove. Artwork by Heather Endicott. DANA MERRYDAY/PHOTO

The closing of the Village Green Resort was the impetus for taking a look back at the history and contributions of the Woodard family over these past weeks. While I learned a lot about Cottage Grove’s history in the process, I have neglected to keep Chronicle readers informed of happenings that are rippling through the Grove.

Starting with the Village Green, signs have appeared there announcing “Under New Management, Re-opening Soon.” 

Under new management at The Village Green. DANA MERRYDAY/PHOTO

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Bohemia Park by all appearances is the crown jewel of Cottage Grove’s park system, but doesn’t appear in the official list of city-owned parks. That is because the park has a unique relationship with the city. The Bohemia Foundation, whose “sole purpose is to build and maintain Bohemia Park,” grew out of a behest in the will of L.L. “Stub” Stewart. When he passed in 2005, this lifelong advocate for parks, wildlife, and forest conservation left money to help start the process of establishing a park on the former industrial area. The 14-acre site in the past has served as home for rail yards and a sawmill.

Even today its western border is defined by an active railroad line. When the Oregon Pacific & Eastern rail yard closed in 1991 it would sit vacant until the foundation established by Stewart’s gift began the long process of converting the vacant property into a park, beginning in 2008.  Plans from the beginning were to celebrate the region’s heritage of forestry, mining, and railroading in a museum. Bohemia Park has evolved with volunteer sweat equity, contributions from the Woodard Family Foundation, the Ford Family Foundation and others, grants, and contributions from organizations such as the South Valley Rotary Club. It is jointly managed and maintained through agreements with the Foundation and the City of Cottage Grove.

At the last City Council meeting, the Bohemia Foundation sought support for a $1 million grant through a Economic Development Administration Competitive Tourism Grant. That support was forthcoming with the council voting unanimously to back the proposal. If awarded, the aid will allow development of the northern entrance to the park. Included in the proposal is at least one feature that the public has long sought. The conceptual drawing provided by Dougherty Landscape Architects shows a replica of a water tower as well as interactive water features, a sculpture garden, and a rail track. Many Grovers have agitated through social media and word of mouth for a water park/splash pad for kids. In light of last summer’s heat dome this sounds like a good idea. Many of these plans have been on the drawing board for years. If the grant is not successful, the Bohemia Foundation, which has already committed $300,000 to the project, announced the development would still go forward, just at a slower pace.                               

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Another project that celebrates the railroad history of Cottage Grove and will be highly visible from Bohemia Park comes through the informal Cottage Grove Mural Committee. After successfully completing the restoration of the Buster Keaton “The General” mural, the committee has turned its sights on another icon of the rails, “The Blue Goose.” The late excursion train will ride again, painted on the wall of The American Market (formerly Scarpelli”s) at the corner of Main and Highway 99. Councilor Michael Roberts has secured the generous permission of the market’s owners to use their building to celebrate the beloved train in all its glory. Roberts has begun with site cleanup and prep. The committee plans to hold fundraisers and all donations are tax deductible, having partnered with the Cottage Grove Historical Society as the financial organ for the project.     

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Bohemia Park will be invaded by trick or treaters Friday, Oct. 29, 3-6 p.m. The only thing scarier than “Chucky” and goblins is the coronavirus, which is why the traditional downtown Halloween celebration was turned into a drive-thru event last year. Feedback gathered from that version, which due to the long lines of cars waiting to go through, left some cut short of the treats due to traffic regulations, causing organizers this year to move to Bohemia Park.

Shauna Neigh, CEO of the Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce – which is partnering with Downtown Cottage Grove and the City – spoke with me about the planned event.

“This is the community coming together through the pandemic to support the kids. We will be trying to bring back the magic while keeping the kids and their families safe.” There are already 52 businesses and organizations who have signed up with more calls coming in everyday. As a precaution we have the booths spread out and foot traffic will be one direction. Enter through the Franken Arch on the north side of the park. Please wear a mask (a medical one under your halloween mask), and stay in your family units. This “Halloween Hoo(Boo)tenanny” shows yet again that Grovers want to do the right thing to help kids have a normal but safe experience in these strange times.

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Downtown got some reminders of its history and its seasons as crews put up new colorful banners. Local watercolor and graphic artist Heather Endicott, who has designed many of the labels for the local Coast Fork Brewing varieties, captured three historic icons of the town: The  Armory, the octagonal, former Catholic Church (now CG Historical Museum), and Chambers Railroad Bridge. “Way back in 2020, pre-covid, Molly Murai (then downtown coordinator) floated the idea of making art for banners. There was no budget or promises, but I took some reference photos of the Armory in the nice low fall light. They had just finished restoring the south facade so it was really beautiful. I painted the first piece not knowing where it was really going. Then came the CG Chamber’s proposal and a grant from the Lane County Cultural Coalition and it was time to get things done. Since the Armory was done in the autumn colors, I took some photos of the Chambers Bridge when it was all surrounded by fresh spring green. There are other landmarks I want to paint like the Swinging Bridge and Dr. Snapp’s house. Eventually I want to make all of Cottage Grove’s sights and now have prints of the art that are on the banners for sale.”

And one banner subject, the Cottage Grove Armory, will hold its first real public event since the pandemic shutdown. The Willamette Cascade Model Railroad Club will be returning with its great show starting this Friday and running through Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free, and masks are required.  Besides the sights and sounds of the model railroad world created by these enthusiasts and craftsmen, you can check out all the restoration work that has taken place in the Armory during the forced covid hiatus. Give ’em both a look!

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The current Catholic Church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, is having an All Season’s Bazaar this Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. to benefit the Altar Society. There will be handmade crafts, jams, jellies, books, and a raffle for a custom made quilt. Due to covid their famous homemade soups and baked goods will be offered only to go. The Mission Church of St. Philip Benizi of Creswell will also benefit from this fundraiser.

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And local CGHS graduate Hayley Evans is serving as the newest South Lane Fire and Rescue intern. She started with the department in August and is taking her paramedic courses at LCC.  Hayley will be working toward a career as a firefighter paramedic and will be with SLFR through September of next year and then will see where her path takes her. Wouldn’t it be nice if firefighter Evans ends up right here in the Grove? 

Stay safe everyone and enjoy the beautiful fall colors and events that are happening now.

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