*Earth Peoples Park, a 4-acre parcel of land at the corner of Rockydale Road and Redwood Highway that at one point housed dozens of rent-free tenants, was served with a receivership lawsuit late last year. “We’re receiving basically daily complaints from neighbors… Burning garbage, dumping sewage into the river, dumping trash into the river, and multiple trailers on the property,” said Thomas Peterson, solid waste specialist for Josephine County Public Health. A shooting at an Earth Peoples Park concert about a year earlier left one man dead. The property’s owners, brothers Steven Shirley and Michael Orentlicher, were connected to 16 Josephine County properties in total, all of which were in danger of being seized for illegal marijuana grows.
*COVID-19 reached the peak of its devastation in Josephine County and across the country as cases, hospitalizations and deaths peaked. Seven deaths between Nov. 26, 2021 and Jan. 6, 2022 brought the county’s total COVID-related deaths to 277, which has since risen to nearly 400. Since the beginning of the pandemic, over 20,223 cases have been reported.
*While January was a particularly dry month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center anticipated increased precipitation later in the winter due to trends of past La Niña years. Using numbers provided by Gordon Lyford, a scientist living in O’Brien who’s been monitoring weather data for decades, 9.42 inches of rain fell in October; 8.13 inches in November; 17.92 in December; and 5.46 inches in January thus far. That’s about 41 inches, which is pretty average for this time of the water year.
*The 200-year-old oak tree in the parking lot of the I.V. Senior Center Thrift Store building in downtown Cave Junction, formerly owned by the county, had to be cut down Thursday, Jan. 20 when it started to lean and became an insurance liability. The wood was donated to local seniors in need, and the stump that was left behind is being fashioned into an oak to art sculpture by Joey Wallace.
*Utilizing three rafts, eight intrepid volunteers hauled over 600 pounds of garbage and debris from the riverbanks of the Illinois River between the Green Bridge on Eight Dollar Mountain Rd. and Ring Beach, just above McCaleb Ranch. These volunteers, among them Paul Norton, Carrie Catterall, Nicole Smedegaard and Sean Bowen, planned future voyages to remove more litter. Objects used in illegal cannabis grows composed much of the trash that was removed.
*The Three Rivers School District Board of Directors did not allow the general public to attend its Jan. 19 meeting, due to a high number of individuals not abiding by its mask policy. TRSD Superintendent Dave Valenzuela pointed out that January is School Board Appreciation Month, and read a proclamation from Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s office. Valenzuela also unveiled the district’s plan to retrofit restrooms to be single occupancy so students can’t get up to trouble in the unsupervised restrooms anymore.
*ODOT held an online open house Tuesday, Feb. 1 from 5-6 p.m. to relay information about safety improvement projects on Hwy 199, as well as collect feedback from the public on the topic. According to the presenters, over 50 viewers watched the virtual forum. Thomas Guevara Jr., senior transportation planner for ODOT and agency project manager for the U.S. 199 corridor plan, told viewers that a primary reason for increased deaths and accidents on 199 is towns springing up along it, which the road was not built to accommodate. Solutions will focus on slowing traffic down in communities like Selma and O’Brien.
*The hand-over of the Kerby Belt Building to the Boys & Girls Club was made official Monday, Feb. 7, as community members gathered under sunny skies for a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Kerby Belt Building was RCC’s only campus in the Illinois Valley, but the college will still hold classes there, even though the Boys & Girls Club now owns it.
*Nearly three-quarters of RCC students who responded to a 2019 survey indicated they had experienced food or housing insecurity within the previous year. RCC recently added a new staff position dedicated to helping students connect with basic resources such as food, housing, transportation and childcare. Resource Coordinator Susan Bame was hired Dec. 1 with funds approved by the Oregon Legislature via House Bill 2835. A new Advocacy and Resource Center (ARC) program is also in development to serve RCC students at all campuses.
*Southern Oregon Guild President Joyce Abrams announced she and fellow board member Donna Parrish would not seek reelection in 2023 term of the position she’d held since its inception in 2003. Caitlin Deane, was brought into the fold, who has served as events coordinator for the Spiral Living Center and who has a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art. “What I personally saw in Caitlin is a combination of excitement and vision about the specific possibilities for the Guild, the development of a larger community of artists, and the Guild’s relationship to the community going forward,” said Abrams.
*Move Oregon’s Border founder Mike McCarter gave a presentation to the JoCo Board of Commissioners over Zoom Tuesday, Feb. 8. McCarter made the case for why voters should be polled on whether they want to secede from blue state Oregon and join red state Idaho. His testimony compelled the board to put an advisory question on the May ballot, which narrowly failed with 51.9% of voters opposed.
*The JoCo Commissioners heard from both ends of the COVID-19 information spectrum at their Feb. 9 WBS. Anti-vaxxers accused medical providers and coroners of falsifying data on coronavirus deaths for “monetary incentive.” Mark Seligman, who was running for Commissioner Darin Fowler’s seat on the commission, slammed the commissioners for opposition to COVID-19 preventative measures, saying they showed “utter disregard for the citizens and health of Josephine County.”
*The Illinois Valley High School boys basketball team won three back-to-back games to win the Southern Cascade League Championship. After beating Glide 60 – 57 at home Feb. 17, the boys bested Lakeview 64 – 56 Feb. 18, and then Bonanza 56 – 50 Feb. 19. Cougars head coach Tony Hess praised top-scoring players Sam Hess, Starz Saavedra and Daniel Polk while discussing his team, which was ranked fourth in the state to end the season.
*Beginning in late February, phone companies that previously used 3G service began upgrading to 5G. Those 3G services became defunct, and devices that previously ran off of 3G technology were rendered useless. This maneuver is similar to one made in 2009, when 2G was phased out in order to make way for 4G/LTE technology. It is important to make sure that all of your technology, whether it’s a cellphone, a home security device, or a medical necessity, is up to date and no longer operating on 3G service.
*”It’s a Burl” gallery in Kerby was the scene of a major structure fire, Feb. 27 at 7:55 p.m. It was reported that one building was fully involved when the first unit arrived on the scene. As large as the fire was, it was quickly brought under control. There were no injuries reported. One workshop was completely destroyed by the fire.
*The Illinois Valley Soil and Water Conservation District commissioned a report titled, “Cannabis Industry Impacts to the Environmental Health of the Illinois River Basin and Community Well-Being,” authored by Christopher Hall, the district’s former community organizer. This report delved into the ecological implications of a tremendous increase in cannabis cultivation last year, which was mostly of the illegal variety, as well as how everyday life in the Valley was affected. The period of study was June – October 2021.
*Josephine County Commissioner Darin Fowler, whose first term ends this year, announced at the board’s March 3 Zoom administration workshop that he would not run for reelection, changing his mind from an initial decision to pursue a second term. Fowler called his announcement “time-sensitive” because the filing deadline to run for his position was Tuesday, March 8, five days from the administration workshop. “I just have to choose to refocus on my contracting business and a new business I’m starting with my daughter and my wife,” Fowler said.
*Lorna Byrne Middle School drama and special education teacher David Gerten announced the rollout of a new drama program. “We’ve wanted to try and build a drama program here for years, but especially since our students have been through all of the COVID challenges it seemed much more urgent to put special opportunities in place here to help students reconnect socially and break out of the confines they’ve been stuck in.”
*On March 6 the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office received a report that a person witnessed a murder in the 3400 block of Lakeshore Drive in Selma, Oregon. Deputies located two deceased persons in a driveway. An armed person then confronted responders. Deputies fired their weapons despite efforts to deescalate the situation. Medical aid was provided to the armed person who was then transported to an area hospital in stable condition. No deputies were injured during the incident.
*Plans were drawn to repair the “swinging bridge” at McCaleb Ranch on the Illinois River, which was closed by the Forest Service the previous summer due to structural damage. The most obvious damage was a large hole in one of the planks on the deck of the bridge. The deck is a structural component of the bridge, and it needed to be replaced.
*Hall vs. City Hall: A feud between former mayoral candidate Christopher Hall and the Cave Junction government concerning bulk water sales was reignited after Hall published a report on illegal cannabis grows in the Valley.
He claimed citizens saw the city’s decision to continue selling water despite most of the sales being used on illegal grows as a symbol of “indifference” to the detriment illegal growers had on the community. In rebuttal, Mayor Meadow Martell wrote that Hall’s efforts to “demonize” the city “only further divides and alienates our community.”
*Eight candidates were in the running for JoCo Commissioner #1 after the Tuesday, March 8 filing deadline passed: Brian DeLaGrange – Grants Pass city councilor; Gary Richardson – software engineer; James Ward III – Vietnam War veteran; John West – self-employed forester; Jordan DeHarty – massage therapist; Mark Jones – retired fireman; Mark Seligman – political activist; and Neigel Von Hruska – glassblower. Sheriff Dave Daniel was set to face Jonathan Knapp and James O’Grady, but the latter dropped out soon after. JoCo legal counsel ran unopposed.
*On March 11 at 9:10 p.m., the Illinois Valley Fire District, AMR, Rural Metro Fire – Josephine County, Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, Oregon Department of Transportation and Pacific Power responded to a commercial structure fire at Hwy. 199 and West River Street (green flea market building). Arriving units found a heavy fire evolving from the single-story structure. Fire was under control within 30 minutes, with extensive mop-up.
*Oregon Health Authority rules requiring masks in indoor public places and schools were lifted March 12, but public health officials urged residents to stay aware of their personal health risks and act accordingly. “The pandemic isn’t over, but the emphasis now is on personal responsibility,” said Dr. Barbra Villona, Josephine County Public Health deputy health officer. “Each individual will have to decide for themselves what level of risk they are willing to take.”
*Main Street Cave Junction, a new downtown association, held one of their first downtown beautification events Saturday, March 19, when the group cleaned up flower pots and beds along 199. All in all, 21 flower planters and beds were tackled by the group. Other projects undertaken by Main Street CJ included installing a new Cave Junction welcome sign, adopting a paint color palette for local businesses, and creating a sculpture out of the oak stump behind the I.V. Senior Center.
*Concerned residents gathered at Wild River Brewing Friday, March 18 to discuss the proliferation of clear-cut logging on private land in the Illinois Valley and brainstorm potential solutions. Jo-el and Cindy Palacios, who live in Holland, Ore., organized the meeting. About 50 people were in attendance. Locally, Jo-el and Cindy Palacios have set up a website for their grassroots organization: sasquatchwoodspeople.org. They encourage anyone who is passionate about making a fundamental change to get involved.
*Josephine County partnered with ZoneHaven, a software hub for real time evacuation information, to support planning and preparedness for future emergencies. JoCo Emergency Manager Emily Ring explained that the county’s partnership with ZoneHaven is to be funded by the American Rescue Plan Act, and Ring secured $55,000 to implement the company’s services for one year, during which time ZoneHaven will aid the county in upgrading emergency procedures and setting up evacuation zones.
*Nonperishable food boxes for COVID-19 relief arrived in a big way from FEMA to the Illinois Valley. Right in line with its mission of helping those in need, 220 food boxes were delivered to the Illinois Valley Family Coalition ready to be distributed to Valley residents that have been affected by COVID-19. The cardboard boxes consisted of about 35 pounds of dried and canned foods, such as beans, rice, cereals, potatoes, fruit, vegetables, chili and more.
*A new program aimed at slowing the spread of wildfires is now available for Josephine County residents. Josephine County Emergency Management, Northwest Youth Corps and the Oregon Department of Forestry Firewise program have partnered to help Josephine County residents create defensible space around their homes to make them more resilient to future wildfires. Residents can learn more about creating wildfire-defensible areas around their homes at https://www.nfpa.org/Public-Education/Fire-causes-and-risks/Wildfire/Preparing-homes-for-wildfire.
*The group of Valley residents working to make the Kalmiopsis Community Arts High School a reality met an important milestone in the process of establishing the charter school Wednesday, April 6. The Three Rivers School District board of directors scheduled a public work session that day at Illinois Valley High School. to gather community feedback on KCA as the board considered the school’s charter application.
*Moderna and Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to authorize a second COVID-19 booster dose for adults. Scientists say that immunity to COVID-19, whether gained by vaccinations or infection (or both), weakens over time. Scientists also found that being vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 is the best way to protect people from severe COVID-19 illness or hospitalization.
*The Board of County Commissioners hosted a town hall regarding local law enforcement at the Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
*Josephine Community Libraries announced a slate of in-person children’s programs, their first on offer since the start of the pandemic, at all four branches in Grants Pass, Illinois Valley, Williams, and Wolf Creek.. Programs included K9 Reading Buddies, Game On!, Bilingual Storytime, Sprout a Reader and Kindergarten Toolbox.
*After more than 20 years as a primary care provider in Selma and one of the Valley’s few doctors, Dr. Kathy Mechling retired at the end of the month. Mechling, 62, moved to Cave Junction in 1995. Before building the Clear Creek Family Practice offices in Selma, she practiced at Siskiyou Community Health Center.
*Commissioner Herman Baertschiger and Sheriff Dave Daniel led a community forum on the future of law enforcement funding in Josephine County Wednesday, March 30 at the Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass. Some of the potential solutions to the funding problem discussed during the forum included designating assets owned by the county to the sheriff’s department to generate revenue, forming a sheriff’s taxing district that would be separate from the county, a new levy and a countywide sales tax.
*The Board of Directors selected Lindsey B. Jones for executive director of the Illinois Valley Community Development Organization. Jones very ably led the organization the previous seven months as interim ED and the board and staff were thoroughly pleased she would continue on as executive director.
*Creative and colorful art covered the walls and interior of Healthy U in Cave Junction April 10. The outdoor preschool, Art and Science Kids, presented some of its students’ artistic creations to the public in a special exhibit. The exhibit displayed a wide range of art in many different mediums, showcasing the variety of things that students have learned throughout their time at the school.
*Construction began on a $700,000 project to build a new pedestrian/bicycle bridge across Holton Creek in Kerby. Several people have been severely injured or killed while walking along this segment of Redwood Highway and the bridge is one piece in the safety puzzle for the corridor.
*The stunning increase in fees for a post office box in the Illinois Valley has been on the minds of many residents. The fees doubled in price! The new Illinois Valley Postmaster Joseph Warren commented on the price increases: “The post office regularly raises its rates, but this time around there were two increases. The first increase was a normal annual type of increase, and then a couple weeks later we had a change in the office to make us competitive, and this caused a second increase in a short period of time.
*At their April 13 meeting, the JoCo commissioners addressed the Flying Lark entertainment center at Grants Pass Downs being denied the right to operate, after it was found its business center too closely resembles that of a casino. Commissioner DeYoung said it was “absolutely embarrassing” that the community did not rally around Dutch Bros CEO Travis Boersma as he endeavored to bring the Flying Lark to life.
*A steel bison sculpture by late Valley sculptor Dan Beal was donated to the Illinois Valley Library by Michael and Kathy Beal, Dan Beal’s brother and sister-in-law. The sculpture was previously located in front of Trillium Bakery and will be a guest at “It’s a Burl” while the library is renovated.
*The JoCo Commissioners held public hearings to transfer ownership of Sportsman Park, site of a popular firing range, to the Josephine County Sportsman Association, a nonprofit formed in 1968 to manage the property. The decision was made to transfer the property after the county’s insurance company discovered the county owned a gun range, which would have caused rates to increase.
*At the April 20 meeting of the JoCo Commissioners, homeowners residing in the area around Dogwood Lane, which is off of Caves Hwy. just outside Cave Junction city limits, testified in opposition of a proposed homeless shelter. AllCare Community Foundation received $630,000 from House Bill 5006 to form the I.V. Shelter and Resource Center. As project manager, Laura Mancuso purchased property on Dogwood Lane to house the center, feeling it was a “good fit.” The shelter was later scrapped due to septic issues on the property.
*Things began returning to normal in the Illinois Valley as Madrone Adventist Elementary once again offered a limited enrollment Pre-K and Kindergarten for the 2022/2023 school year. They offered 10 spaces for the Pre-K and Kindergarten students and 20 spots for grades 1-8. This small but well-known school was established in 1980 with a faith-based (Christian) curriculum, although a child does not need to be Christian to attend.
*The Illinois Valley High School baseball team hit it hard and ranked second place in the league at 7-2. Head coach Jesse Dugas recounted some of the team’s biggest league achievements, including winning both games against Lost River April 23 scoring 4-1 and 10-9; walking off to beat Prospect 14-13 April 21 with Zack Dugas hitting a two-run double in the bottom of the seventh; and winning both matchups against Rogue River 2-4 March 29 and most recently 14-2 April 27 when Luke Arnold and Kaiden Green combined to throw a no-hitter.
*Josephine County Emergency Management sought public feedback on its updated Natural Hazard Mitigation Plan, which informs decisions and actions for area leaders, partner agencies and stakeholders, to reduce impacts prior to, or during the recovery from, a natural disaster. The NHMP was being updated in cooperation with the University of Oregon’s Community Service Center — Oregon Partnership for Disaster Resilience and the Office of Emergency Management using funds obtained from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
*A town hall meeting regarding the proposed facility for the unhoused took place April 28 in the auditorium of Illinois Valley High School, and many community members attended to voice their support or concern surrounding the location and general idea. Before the project was scrapped due to septic issues at the property on the corner of Caves Hwy and Dogwood Ln, the facility was being modeled after places like Foundry Village in Grants Pass, and Opportunity Village in Eugene, but on a smaller scale. A different location for the facility is being explored.
*Law enforcement and the old Radio Shack building were discussed at the Cave Junction City Council meeting held April 25 via Zoom. Sheriff Daniel touched upon several positive developments during his update to the council, as well as the need for fresh revenue streams for his department. Council members as a whole were much happier with the presentation of the applicants seeking to turn the old Radio Shack building into a gas station this time around, and when the hearing ended and the time came to vote, the motion to approve the application passed 5-0.
*The Board of Josephine County Commissioners, at its May 4 weekly business session at the Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass, approved an economic development request of $3,000 for the first annual Rogue Caveman Barbeque Competition, set to be held Sept. 17-18 at the Josephine County Fairgrounds. According to a statement released by Rogue Caveman Barbeque organizer Gale Shoemaker, “This is a Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) sanctioned competition and will draw teams and judges from all over Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho and beyond. We are looking at 2000-5000 in public attendance throughout the two-day event for this first year.”
*The JoCo Commissioners sounded the alarm on the rising tide of homelessness at their April 27 meeting, with Commissioner Fowler recounting the “shock” reaction of seeing the extent of homelessness in larger cities and predicting the problem is “coming our way.” Also at the meeting, the board considered three provider contracts for addiction treatment services with the following organizations: OnTrack Rogue Valley, Options for Southern Oregon, Inc. and ADAPT.
*On May 11, the Board of Josephine County Commissioners issued a proclamation in support of National Police Week. “It is important that all citizens know and understand the duties, responsibilities, hazards, and sacrifices of their law enforcement agencies, and that members of our law enforcement agencies recognize their duty to serve the people by safeguarding life and property, by protecting them against violence and disorder, and by protecting the innocent against deception and the weak against oppression,” the statement read in part.
*On Saturday, May 21, from 9 a.m. – noon, a special event was held to celebrate Oregon State Parks Centennial event, 100 Volunteer Projects for 100 Years! The Illinois Valley Forks State Park, named because it’s the place where both forks of the Illinois River come together, is a great place to swim, picnic, and hold family events. The park has a lot to offer after community improvements and renovations were made in recent years.
*Illinois Valley High School varsity baseball qualified for state May 10 beating Prospect 11-1. The win put them at 8-2 in the league. Dylan Beals scored on an in the park home run, and Zack Dugas went 3 for 4 with 4 RBIs and 4 stolen bases. “Boys are playing good baseball, working hard and executing our game plan; understanding who we are as a program,” said head coach Jesse Dugas.
*The Four Way Community Foundation awarded 35 nonprofit organizations grants totaling $253,000 and issued over $122,000 in targeted endowment distributions. Also, the Foundation administered the allocation of another $175,000 in pass-through grants from regional funding partners recognizing Four Way’s expertise in nonprofits meeting the needs of Josephine and western Jackson County residents. “This is the highest dollar-giving cycle in the Foundation’s 47-year history,” said Board President Greg Fishwick. “The visionary generosity of community members, past and present, is supporting our nonprofit community’s vital contributions to local quality of life in this time of great need.”
*Field of eight trimmed to two: Brian DeLaGrange and John West advanced to the November election after May primary results came in; the latter would go on to win. Other primary results: Greater Idaho petition failed; code enforcement changes repealed; Tina Kotek (D) and Christine Drazan (R) scored their parties’ nominations for governor; and incumbents Rep. Cliff Bentz (R), Sen. Ron Wyden (D) and JoCo legal counsel Wally Hicks advanced.
*The proposed facility for the unhoused at 770 Caves Hwy. was canceled. According to AllCare Community Foundation project leader Laura Mancuso, the steering committee for the nonprofit Illinois Valley Living Solutions decided to cancel the escrow on the property at a committee meeting held May 12 because there were limitations to having successful transitional housing there due to the septic system and shared well with a neighbor.
“I was very disappointed to find out the septic system could not be expanded. We would have only been able to serve five to eight residents by the time staff and volunteers were factored in,” explained Mancuso.
*Recently released near the mouth of the Klamath River, three critically endangered California condors now fly the skies of the Pacific Northwest – after an absence of 100 years! In the mid ‘80’s extinction seemed inevitable; until a group of conservationists captured these survivors in Southern California and started a breeding program.
*The Board of JoCo Commissioners began its May 25 meeting with a moment of silence for the victims of the previous Tuesday’s massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 students and two teachers were killed by a gunman. Also at the meeting, a Goal 3 exception was granted for significant renovations at Whitehorse Park, JoCo’s oldest county park.
*Cultural & Ecological Enhancement Network scheduled a helicopter survey for yellowtuft alyssum for June 16. The helicopter concentrated on the fields where alyssum was planted including the Illinois Valley Airport, and escapee populations, especially along Rough & Ready Creek and the Illinois River. Alyssum was planted in the Illinois Valley in a failed phytomining experiment by Viridian LLC of Texas in an attempt to extract nickel out of serpentine soils. Yellowtuft alyssum is a hyperaccumulator of metal, its leaves becoming toxic to livestock and wildlife.
*The Ziply Fiber franchise agreement that was tabled from the previous meeting of the Cave Junction City Council was readdressed at the May 23 session. The council members made it abundantly clear that they had made the Ziply Fiber representatives aware of the fact that local residents are extremely unhappy with the phone and internet service that they have been receiving from the company. Due to the concerns that council members still had, the decision was made to table the agreement a second time, until the next meeting June 6.
*Pat Jenkins, MSN, wrote an article for Illinois Valley Wellness Resources about the dangers of smoke inhalation as wildfire season approached. Among the tips she listed to protect against smoke were staying indoors, using an air filter, avoiding candles and fireplaces to limit indoor air pollution and not relying on dust masks to protect from smoke.
*The Oregon Water Resources Department opened grant applications for the first phase of its landmark Water Well Abandonment, Repair and Replacement Fund. Created by the Oregon Legislature, the first phase of the fund provides financial assistance for low-to-moderate income households to abandon, repair or replace affected water wells used for household purposes in areas recently impacted by drought or wildfire.
*Steering committee members of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Illinois Valley Living Solutions toured Rogue Retreat properties, a housing project aimed at reducing homelessness throughout Southern Oregon. I.V. Living Solutions is in the process of developing a facility for the unhoused modeled after Foundry Village in Grants Pass. The search for an acceptable property continues. “This month I.V. Living Solutions is doing a Strategic Plan with IVCDO to fine tune our plans for a Phase I facility for when we find a property to buy. I am working with a realtor and actively pursuing locations for a facility that will model Rogue Retreat properties. Rogue Retreat staff is currently working with I.V. Living Solutions to form a ‘Scope of Work Proposal’,” said I.V. Living Solutions President Laura Mancuso.
*Cave Junction’s very first Soapbox Derby was scheduled for July 2 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Schumacher Street hill, adding a little more excitement to alumni weekend. This event was the result of a combined effort between Dan Mancuso of the Illinois Valley News and Katie Houston and Marjie Millard of Trillium Bakery. The two bakers approached Mancuso with the idea after being inspired by other soapbox derbies that are held nationwide every year.
*Cannabis report author Christopher Hall took to the sky again May 26 and captured 500 high resolution photos of this year’s large cannabis grows in the southern half of the Illinois Valley. “So far, based on initial/early estimates, it appears that the cannabis industry in the Illinois Valley may have shrunk by 40% in 2022 over 2021; however, this is still a 270% increase over the size in 2016,” wrote Hall in an email to the Illinois Valley News. This year Hall collected data in his role as full-time executive director for a new nonprofit: Water League. Water League filed for 501(c)3 status and in the future may create a 501(c)4 if they want to be more directly involved in politics.
*At their July 13 meeting, the JoCo Commissioners were petitioned to provide funding to the Concerts in the Park series at Jubilee Park and renew an agreement for Cave Junction’s contract deputy. The I.V. Chamber of Commerce sought $3,000 from the county, nearly half of the $6,800 budget for Concerts in the Park. Other sponsors included Southern Oregon Sanitation, which chipped in $100, as well as Friends of the Oregon Caves & Chateau, Wild River Pizza & Brewery and Grocery Outlet, which each provided $400. The Chamber also wrote a grant requesting $2,500 from the Miller Foundation Fast Track Arts Grant Program.
*Each Fourth of July weekend Illinois Valley High School Alumni & Friends raises scholarship money by providing ReunionMania, but due to lack of helping hands the nonprofit had to scale back its activities. As a result of these challenges, the IVHS Alumni & Friends Board has made the decision to scale back the association’s social activities and focus on continuing to raise funds for and award scholarships to IVHS graduating students.
*The county signed a contract with WS Environmental, LLC for the decommissioning and removal of the Jet-A aircraft fuel system at Grants Pass Airport. According to a report filled out by JoCo Airports Director Jason Davis, the project would cost $96,823 and be covered by American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
*Energy Trust offered no-cost LED lighting upgrades to small businesses and industry in the Illinois Valley (which is almost all businesses in the Valley). Energy Trust partnered with the city of Cave Junction, Illinois Valley Community Development Organization and the I.V. Chamber of Commerce to bring this program to the Illinois Valley.
*The Oregon Department of Transportation collaborated with JoCo for the civil engineering and installation of the WAVE inductive charging system for electric buses in the county’s transit fleet. JoCo Transit Program Supervisor Scott Chancey’s report stated that the combined total cost of these undertakings will be $834,636, including a local match of $166,927.
*If you are looking for a place to entertain and enrich your little ones this summer, the Rusk Ranch Nature Center should be on your activity list. In light of the fact that scientists from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the migrating monarch to its “red list” of threatened organisms, it is the perfect time to go see the monarch butterfly available at the center.
*The CJ Council voted 3-1 to extend the lease with the I.V. Country Club for two years at their July 25 meeting. While their initial plan had been to extend the lease for one year with several stipulations, Councilor Lane felt as though perhaps extending the lease for two to three years would be beneficial, as it would give those managing the establishment a bit more time to meet their goals and get back on their feet.
*The council also unanimously referred a vote on whether to prohibit psilocybin within city limits to the November ballot. At the previous meeting, council members agreed that they were not in favor of psilocybin manufacturing in the area, but were willing to bring the idea of treatment centers to the voters. Thus, Resolution 956 had been amended to omit the manufacturing side of things.
*The Illinois Valley Chamber of Commerce Thursday Concerts in the Park rocked Jubilee Park. The band CJ5 that includes Rosie Wittman on guitar and vocals, Adam Catscratch on keyboards, George Powell on drums and Glenn Gammel on bass, played for the well-attended event Aug. 4 despite the warm weather. “The attendance has been good this year,” said I.V. Chamber President Monique Allen. “The venue is a relaxing, fun, family event.” Allen noted that the 50/50 raffle winners had increased winnings of late.
*After a total of six public hearings resulting in hours of public feedback and heated discussion, three ordinances concerning psilocybin manufacturing, psilocybin service centers and a seasonal sales tax to support law enforcement, respectively, were adopted by Josephine County and formally referred to the voters by way of ballot measures Wednesday, Aug. 17.
*A government agency agreement between the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office and Flock Group, Inc. for situational awareness solution for automatic license plates, video and audio detection was approved. JoCo Commissioner DeYoung said the funds to buy these automatic license plate readers were provided by the most recent Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant. A total of $58,850 was spent to cover a two-year period of Flock’s services.
*A proposed law enforcement taxing district was not moved forward by the JoCo Commissioners at their Aug. 3 meeting. Instead they chose to advance the Law Enforcement Retail Activities Tax, feeling it had a better chance of being approved by voters in November. LERAT was overwhelming voted against last month.
*Proponents of psilocybin for clinical use showed up to testify before the county Aug. 11, including a wounded vet who claimed magic mushrooms saved his life by alleviating PTSD symptoms, chronic pain and suicidal urges. He went on to say, “This medicine that we are talking about changes lives… I don’t have a dog in this fight, other than I want other people to heal. I want access in my own county and I want to be able to invite other people to come here.” While psilocybin will be banned in rural Josephine County, the city of Grants Pass will allow service centers.
*Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke handed down a judgment ordering the owner of the former Junction Inn building -Lojerky Inc., a California corporation – to pay the fines that had been accumulated by the property’s dereliction or surrender the property to the city. The Junction Inn, located at 406 S Redwood Hwy, was declared a nuisance by the city Feb. 25, 2020. Given 10 days to resolve the nuisance, the property owners began to be fined $500 per day starting March 6 of that year because Junction Inn was not returned to compliance.
*The Illinois Valley Country Club had 49 children sign up for the Kids Golf program last summer. The program started June 16 and the students played every Thursday until the tournament July 21. Thirty-one students played in the tournament with ages ranging from four to 15 years old. The awards party was held July 28 and they celebrated with pizza and ice cream. The winners in Group 1: Silas Miller, first place; Aven Parenti, second place; and Declan Raymond got Most Improved. Group 2: Asher Harris won first place and Lucas Cababag won second place.
*The city of Cave Junction, in partnership with Josephine Community Library, issued a request for proposals for architecture and engineering services for the renovation of the Illinois Valley Library located at 209 W. Palmer Street in Cave Junction. The renovation will include 1,515-square-foot expansion for a new community meeting space with a teaching kitchen and an early learning center with a maker space. It will also include an outdoor learning area set up for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) programs. The renovation will also address safety and maintenance issues in the building.
*Oregon Department of Forestry and Bureau of Land Management officials announced the death of 25-year-old wildland firefighter Logan Taylor of Talent, Oregon. On Thursday, Aug. 18, shortly after 4 p.m., dispatchers received information regarding a wildland firefighter that was critically injured after being struck by a tree on the Rum Creek Fire, located north of Galice. Taylor was transported to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford. Despite lifesaving efforts by firefighters and EMS personnel assigned to the fire and responding medical staff, Taylor succumbed to his injuries. He was the operator of Sasquatch Reforestation, an ODF-contracted firefighting company.
*A second open house for Oregon Department of Transportation’s U.S. 199 Corridor Plan was held Tuesday, July 26 from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the RCC Boys and Girls Club in Kerby. In ODOT’s analysis of the dangerous highway, 17 distinct segments of focus – starting with Riverbanks Rd just south of Grants Pass and ending at the Oregon-California border – were identified and specific actions were recommended for each one. Among the proposed solutions were intersection lighting, shoulder widening, speed feedback signs, community gateway signage, and the installation of guardrails, medians, curbs, gutters and bike lanes.
Less common and more expensive project proposals included roundabouts in select areas such as Selma and south of Cave Junction, adding additional turn lanes, or completely realigning the way certain roads intersect with the highway.
*Sheriff Dave Daniel spoke out about his adamant opposition to the prospect of psilocybin being legalized in Josephine County. “I wanted to weigh in on this and make it very, very clear to the public that I am absolutely, 100% against the manufacture and treatment within Josephine County of this experimental drug.” Daniel added that “we’ve been down this road before” with cannabis and “I don’t want to be a guinea pig again.”
*The Kalmiopsis Community Arts High School’s charter was approved by the Three Rivers School District Board of Directors at its Sept. 14 meeting. Four of KCA’s co-founders – Kaci Elder, Kimiko Maglio, Melissa DeNardo and Ryan Forsythe – plan to play a role in the charter school’s operations once its doors open, and will refer to themselves as “Teacher Leaders.”
*The Illinois Valley Historic Laurel Cemetery was hit hard with a burglary Saturday, Sept. 17. Thieves broke two windows to the chapel and stole the security cameras mounted on the outside of the building after allegedly driving around the locked cable entrance through a wooded area with a tombstone. Notable missing items were deeds – old and new – that proved ownership to platts, a window air conditioner unit, cement mixer, riding lawn mower, gas push mower, leaf blower, weed eater, vacuum cleaner, hand tools (shovels, rakes, etc.), small refrigerator, heavy duty commercial hose, roll of carpet, rolled platt maps and internet cables.
*Major renovations at JoCo’s oldest county park – Whitehorse Park – were cleared of another hurdle as a Statewide Planning Goal 3 exception was officially granted. Whitehorse has been mistakenly zoned as agricultural land since its inception, despite never being used for agricultural purposes, so it had to be proven that development would not impede agriculture before the project could begin.
*Local homeless advocates began closing in on the sale of an undeveloped property within Cave Junction city limits on which they plan to build a transitional housing project. According to project manager Laura Mancuso, I.V. HOPE Village will consist of 15 tiny housing units for unhoused people who are ready to make the transition to stable housing. The development will be modeled after other successful tiny housing projects like Foundry Village in Grants Pass and Hope Village in Medford.
*Josephine County’s official ballot boxes were returned to their respective locations throughout the county following scheduled maintenance with fresh paint and new branding. Crews reinstalled all boxes Sept. 16. Four of the five boxes were returned to their original locations, while the Merlin box was relocated to the parking lot of Ray’s Food Place, 3500 Merlin Road. This ballot box had been located on Monument Drive. In the May 2022 primary election, more than 60% of Josephine County voters returned their ballots using a county ballot box.
*Environmental groups, including local organization KS Wild, delivered more than 122,000 public comments urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect mature and old-growth forests and trees on federal public lands from logging as a cornerstone of U.S. climate policy. The public comment period was in response to President Biden’s order that celebrated public forests as “some of the most biodiverse parts of our planet and play(ing) an irreplaceable role in reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions.”
*September was Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and Sept. 10 was World Suicide Prevention Day. On Sept. 9, various organizations participated in the Josephine County Suicide Prevention Coalition’s “Signs of Hope” campaign, in both Grants Pass and Cave Junction. Illinois Valley High School and Oregon Caves Chevron welcomed and hosted the signs. In Oregon, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those 10-44 years of age.
*Optimistic, humble and kind are a few words that describe this year’s Lions Club Labor Day Parade Grand Marshal Chuck Taylor, the founder of Taylor’s Sausage in Cave Junction. When he was asked, “Why do you think you were selected as grand marshal?” He jokingly said, “I don’t know, they probably couldn’t find anyone better.”
*Bureau of Land Management employees found 150 illegal dumping sites on BLM lands in Jackson and Josephine counties in the last two years ending in August 2022. In the Illinois Valley, focus areas include Rough and Ready off Airport Drive and Kerby Mainline Road; and a major dump site in the Tartar Gulch area, where a lot of vehicles were recently cleaned up.
*The Fund for Oregon Rural Journalism, a nonprofit founded to support professional news publications in rural areas, partnered with students from University of Oregon’s Catalyst Journalism Project to provide a platform for voter voices in all regions of the state. Some Illinois Valley residents were asked to give their opinions on political hot button topics, Voters in this region reported being focused on a variety of issues such as homelessness, cost of living, water rights and the lack of infrastructure that the county receives from state politics.
*At the Sept. 26 Cave Junction City Council meeting, Public Works Director Alex Ponder updated the council on some of the progress his department had been making with the Watkins/199 project that had been in the works for quite awhile, reiterating that things were going very smoothly. He also mentioned that six U.S. Cellular “mini cell towers” would soon be erected around the city in six different locations. Also at the meeting, the contract for the library renovation project was signed, the property located at 310 S. Kerby Avenue was declared a nuisance due to a derelict fence and the site plan review for a proposed RV park was approved.
*The Sept. 14 JoCo Commissioners’ meeting saw the week of Sept. 17-23 was proclaimed U.S. Constitution Week. “Our U.S. Constitution means an opportunity for each, protection for all, justice for everyone, and liberty, both civil and religious, for the strong and weak, and for the rich and the poor,” the proclamation read in part. Also at the meeting, the Grants Pass Over-Niters RV Park was rezoned from residential to commercial. The decades-old property had been erroneously zoned when it began operating.
*On Friday, Oct. 9, around 3 a.m., Oregon State Police Troopers and emergency personnel responded to a single vehicle crash in the 2200 block of Laurel Road, approximately 2 miles east of Cave Junction. Preliminary investigation revealed a silver Ford Freestar van, operated by Jason Myers, 23, of Grants Pass, left the roadway and struck a tree. The cause of the vehicle leaving the roadway is unknown. Myers was transported to an area hospital where he was later pronounced deceased.
*JoCo Transit Program Supervisor Scott Chancey joined the Board of JoCo Commissioners to detail the donation of a surplus vehicle from his fleet. The vehicle in question is a Ford van with a broken lift, “and every single vehicle we have has to have a lift or mobility devices,” Chancey explained. The nonprofit Southern Oregon Aspire was the only applicant for the Ford van.
*JoCo Airports Director Jason Davis was granted power of attorney to pursue the replacement of the JoCo Animal Shelter’s septic system at the Sept. 27 county legal counsel update. The shelter property is owned by the Grants Pass Airport. Also at the session, the commissioners sent a letter in opposition to Oregon Senate Bill 762, believing the legislation unjustly limits property rights by imposing penalties on properties that do not take steps to limit fire risk.
*On Oct. 8, 2022, at 6:37 p.m., the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office was notified of a motorcycle crash at the intersection of Lakeshore Drive and Thompson Creek Road. Prior to law enforcement arrival, the rider, Jacob Irison McNeil, 54, was transported by American Medical Response to Three Rivers Medical Center where he was pronounced deceased as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.
*Sarah Kitting was appointed the new director of Healthy U. Kitting was excited to share her ideas for Healthy U, including the return and revitalization of historically successful groups like “Quest” and “Passages.” Former Executive Director Lindsey B. Jones gave Kitting a glowing endorsement, saying, “She is very passionate about our work and practices all sorts of tactics for the health of the mind, body and heart.”
*Madrone Adventist Elementary School hired a new teaching-principal and Pre-K/Kindergarten teacher. Lyana Wallace accepted the position of Pre-K/K teacher, while Michael James was appointed to teaching-principal.
*Josephine County is partnering with the Southern Oregon Education Services District to implement the Southern Oregon Public Health Illness Guidance, or SOPHI, a web-based platform that will streamline the process of collecting student and staff communicable disease symptom data. “All this is is a program that’s already been paid for,” said JoCo Public Health Director Michael Weber. “We’re just signing into an agreement with other counties in Southern Oregon. We’re going to offer it to schools, and it’s a system where they can more easily input the information. Essentially prior to this, every school handled it differently… This just kind of standardizes it.”
*A polished white oak tree from Millerville Farms was placed very carefully by the crew of All Construction Elements, LLC and other helpers, such as Matt Miller, into the newly constructed basement of Taylor’s Country Store Tuesday, Sept. 27. Thanks to co-owner Terry Taylor, the Illinois Valley News got a sneak peek into the basement and a brief update on the progress of the soon-to-be fine dining restaurant. Michael Garnier, local legend from Out-In-About Treesort, will be building a staircase around the pretty white oak in the future underground restaurant. The project was held up a bit this summer due to engineer inspection delays, but Taylor said they are hoping for an opening day of Jan. 1.
*On Saturday, Oct. 8 dedicated residents organized to clean up the trash dumped near Rough and Ready Botanical and another trash pile near the airport. The Illinois Valley can thank Michal Grady; Mark Gonzalez and his sons : Abel, LBMS eighth-grader and Marcus, IVHS freshman; Rudy Gonzalez; Ray and Bernie Pinard; and Shawn Campbell. Thank you for your community service!
*On Oct. 27, a hearing took place at the Josephine County Courthouse in Grants Pass regarding Selma resident Joseph LaRue and the plethora of animal and marijuana-related charges that were brought against him over the last month. Though this hearing was merely a formality that served to alter the conditions of his release until a trial date is decided upon, several members of the community were present with their four-legged friends in tow. Joseph LaRue’s next court appearance was scheduled for Dec. 7 at 9 a.m.
*The Board of JoCo Commissioners finalized the transfer of ownership of Sportsman Park, which houses a popular shooting range, at its Oct. 26 meeting. The deed for Sportsman Park was turned over to the nonprofit Josephine County Sportsman Association.
*The return of sale from a sheriff’s property auction was approved by the commissioners. All of the properties sold at this sheriff’s auction were located in the Burgundy Lane Master Planned Development in Cave Junction. The buyer was Oregon Limitless, Inc., which bid $1,000,100, with a down payment of $200,020 and the remaining $800,080 to be paid in 60 monthly installments with interest at a rate of 9% per annum. Proceeds of the sale will go toward the Jubilee Park splash pad and the JoCo Parks Department.
*The Josephine County Children’s Advocacy Center will soon have a new home where staff can provide care and services to
abused children all at one location. A groundbreaking ceremony took place at 2 p.m. Nov. 3 at the future site of the building, 202 NW A St. in Grants Pass. A reception followed at the Anne Basker Auditorium. Construction will begin shortly on the 4,300 square foot center with eight offices and rooms specially designed and outfitted for therapy, forensic interviews, medical exams and training.
*The head of the U.S. Forest Service denounced the arrest by an Oregon sheriff of a Forest Service employee after a planned burn in a national forest spread
onto private land. Burn Boss Rick Snodgrass told the local Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper that his arrest by McKinley disrupted the chain of command while the Forest Service crew was conducting the prescribed burn in the Malheur National Forest. Snodgrass was taken to the county jail in Canyon City, where he was conditionally released.
*An initial public hearing was held Nov. 9 for amendments to the JoCo Rural Land Development Code which would see deadlines for developers to complete housing divisions extended from two years with the option of extending to four to six years with the option of prolonging to ten. Other changes would involve remand hearings, definition of daycare facilities and height limits for front yard fences.
*Josephine County District Attorney Josh Eastman met with the commissioners to discuss Fund 12 resources for the DA’s office, and the conversation shifted to the shortage of prosecutors and public defenders facing Oregon counties. Eastman also warned he would have to be more selective about charging alleged criminals if law enforcement funding is not secured.
*Tyler Schaffer, a longtime resident of the Illinois Valley, was hired as the warehouse manager for Josephine County Food
Bank. The food bank held a food drive event in the Grants Pass Grocery Outlet parking lot Wednesday, Nov. 29, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Schaffer encourages any community members who were able to come by to donate what t*Election results: John West (56.47%) defeated Brian DeLaGrange (43.02%) – JoCo Commissioner #1; county seasonal sales tax failed (82.48% against); Sheriff Dave Daniel (68.68%) beat Jonathan Knapp (30.97%) – JoCo Sheriff; psilocybin service centers and manufacturing in JoCo failed (~75% against); Tina Kotek (46.98%) bested Christine Drazan (43.53%) and Betsy Johnson (8.64%) – Oregon Governor; Incumbents Sen. Wyden, Rep. Cliff Bentz and State Rep. Lily Morgan were reelected.
*All four state ballot measures were approved, but three out of four were rejected by Josephine County voters, illustrating the urban-rural divide in Oregon. Measure 111- Amend the state constitution to ensure affordable healthcare (OR: Passed 50.59%; JoCo: Failed 35.33%); Measure 112- Remove language allowing
slavery as punishment (OR: Passed 55.53%; JoCo: Failed 35.26%); Measure 113- Disqualify legislators with 10 unexcused absences from floor sessions from holding their next term of office (OR: Passed 68.25%; JoCo: Passed 55.93%); Measure 114 -Permit-to-purchase firearms and ban large capacity magazines (OR: Passed 50.85%; JoCo: Failed 31.17%).
*A rollover crash on Hayes Hill – Redwood Hwy near milepost 15 – caused minor traffic delays in the early morning Wednesday, Nov. 9 as rescue crews worked the scene. The driver was initially unconscious as they worked to stabilize the vehicle and create a plan for removal. An off-duty firefighter, utilizing a personal saw, removed the windshield in preparation of arriving rescue crews.
*The city of Cave Junction’s legal counsel advised against future authorization of the Tarzan Swing being offered at the Lions Club Labor Day Festival, worried about potential liability from injuries. The CJ Council voted 3-1 to give the Lions Club the opportunity to come back in December and plead their case.
*Code amendments that would see housing development deadlines extended from a maximum of four years to ten years failed after the commissioners took issue with a section of the ordinance that limits the height front yard fences can be. Although Deputy Community Development Director
James Black advised them it was a common rule, they did not feel comfortable approving it until further discussions could be held.
*The Illinois Valley High School Athletic Department came together to host an event Nov. 17 with the intention to bridge the gap between parents, winter sports players and coaches. Things proceeded smoothly over the course of the evening, and the parents of many winter sports participants were given an idea of what to expect over the course of the season.
*The Illinois Valley Community Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success at The Replay in Cave Junction Nov. 24. At the end of the event it was announced by event organizer Courtney Arts that 174 meals were served. Out of that total, 70 meals were delivered to residents by volunteers in need throughout the Valley.
*Questions swirled and tempers swirled as Oregonians anxiously awaited whether the courts would allow Measure 114 to be enacted Dec. 8, with several rural county sheriffs pledging not to enforce the sweeping gun control’s restriction on magazines with over 10 rounds. The commissioners called Measure 114 “disturbing,” while Sheriff Dave Daniel put out a statement that investigating Measure 114 violations would be against the JoCo Charter.
*The commissioners extended a local state of emergency in regards to illegal cannabis activity and moratorium on hemp licensing, in
anticipation of another growing season rife with crime.
*Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced the pardons of an estimated 45,000 people convicted of simple possession of marijuana, a month after President Joe Biden did the same under federal law. “No one deserves to be forever saddled with the impacts of a conviction for simple possession
of marijuana — a crime that is no longer on the books in Oregon,” said Brown, who also forgave more than $14 million in unpaid fines and fees.
*Fees for county services were increased across the board at the Dec. 7 commissioners’ meeting. Including: adoption fees for cats and older dogs increased by $10, and went up $25 for puppies; increased
partition plat and subdivision processing fees went from $50 to $70; fairgrounds facility rentals increased; inmate prescription fees of $5 were created; and a new onsite septic fee of $85 per hour was created.
*Christmas cheer came to the Illinois
Valley in the form of two separate Santa
events Saturday, Dec. 10. The Illinois Valley
Fire District and the I.V. Chamber of Commerce worked hard as Santa’s
elves to usher in the holiday spirit with
cookies, cocoa and gifts for many local youths.
*Tribal, state and federal officials cheered a plan for the largest dam removal in U.S. history along the Klamath River near the California-Oregon line as a major step toward restoring a once-thriving watershed that tribal communities have long relied on. U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland joined leaders of the Karuk and Yurok tribes as well as U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman and Govs. Gavin Newsom of California and Kate Brown of Oregon along the river to celebrate the significance of the November decision to remove four dams along the river.