Hope from the Holiday Farm Fire

February 5, 2021

We, at Seneca, love our neighbors who live and work up the McKenzie River corridor and we have a special appreciation for all of the restaurant owners along the McKenzie River corridor.  The restaurants up the McKenzie are more than a place to gather and eat, they are often the main economic engine in their area. They give travelers a reason to stop and spend time and money on their way to and from Central Oregon. The restaurant owners know the ripple effect their businesses have on the surrounding communities, and although it would be easier for so many to throw in the towel at this moment, not one of them will. We have spoken to every single restaurant owner between Walterville and Black Butte. They carry the weight of their own families as well as the weight of their community on their shoulders. They understand what is at stake. They have shown a mixture of grit, determination, and grace that can only be admired.  We are honored to support them, and we are thankful for all others who are supporting those communities in every way possible.

Below is a piece that ran in the Register Guard that outlines some of our efforts as well as the efforts of some other amazing organizations to support the folks up the McKenzie River corridor:

Hope from the Holiday Farm Fire

Jan 16, 2021

Last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol Building was a travesty. The extent to which we have forgotten our humanity and dehumanized our neighbors by treating them as ideas rather than fellow humans is horrific. It is amazing how such division and tragedy overshadows the strength and community that has actually been found over the past year.

In Lane County, efforts to restore the McKenzie River Corridor are ongoing. Groups, individuals and businesses are doing what they can to restore our lands, peoples, businesses and overall hope after one of the hardest years our community has ever had to face.

The McKenzie Community Development Corporation (McKenzie CDC) has worked tirelessly to accurately account for, care for and support those affected by the Holiday Farm Fire.

Not only has McKenzie CDC helped set up relief centers and put together a new website with reliable information, it also put together 400 gift boxes around the holidays. Alice Bonasio is the director of communications and a Blue River local who was displaced in the fire.

“We did it as a gesture to say we know winter is here,” she said. “It is long and it is difficult, but you have a community around you supporting you and we will come back stronger!”

McKenzie CDC worked with Seneca to add restaurant vouchers to the gift boxes that served a dual purpose.

“It was an effort to give the local economy and small businesses a cash infusion to help them get back on their feet while also giving the community members who are still displaced some relief and joy around the holiday season,” said Casey Roscoe, Seneca’s senior vice president of public relations.

A total of $18,000 was spent on gift certificates, resulting in $2,000 to nine local businesses: McKenzie Station Pub, Obsidian Grill, Takoda’s, Serendipity Coffee Cart, The Vida Café, Ike’s Pizza, Vinnie’s Smokin’ Barbecue, River Stop Café and Patsy’s McKenzie Stage Stop.

Roscoe wanted to make sure that the restaurants already hard-hit by COVID-19 restrictions were able to feel hope in the air because without these gems, the McKenzie River community just wouldn’t be the same.

The McKenzie River is also where the greater Eugene-Springfield area gets its drinking water. The greatest immediate concern is erosion and hazardous material flowing into the river so, the Pure Water Partners took the lead on the watershed restoration efforts within the community. This group of eight organizations works with landowners to provide free post-fire assessments and engages landowners in restoration activities.

Brandi Crawford Ferguson is the associate director of philanthropy for the McKenzie River Trust, one of the Partners.

“The highest priority for watershed recovery is the riparian area,” she said. “About 25 miles of the river were impacted by the fire, so being able to come together and bring our collective knowledge and resources to support landowners moving forward is going to be critical to the long-term health of this river.”

She notes: “Over 180 people have taken advantage of the free assessment program.”

Finally, what resonates most with Bonasio is that, “There is this sense of community and if literally anything is going to save us going forward it’s remembering that what unites us is greater than what divides us.”

 

Amanda Astor is a monthly columnist for The Register-Guard and forest policy manager for Associated Oregon Loggers. She can be reached at aastor@oregonloggers.org.