Waste Management

Stewardship proposals begin to take shape

JUNE 7, 2013 -- McMinnville News Register By Nathalie Hardy

For Chehalem Parks and Recreation Superintendent Don Clements, it's not a matter of if, but when, Riverbend Landfill closes. "At some point, it will close. And, at that point, it will become part of our history whether we like it or not," he said at a Wednesday meeting where proposals were exchanged on uses of 450 acres of adjacent buffer lands being made available to the community by Waste Management Inc., Riverbend's Texas-based parent company.

The important question for Clements is what legacy people want associated with the landfill.

Personally, he said he took the opportunity to serve on the Stewardship Committee, tasked with determining how to best use the land, in order to have a positive influence. "I hope that one day, we can all point to it and say, 'I had something do with that,'" he said. What exactly "that" will be is yet to be determined, but Friday marked the deadline for initial proposals.

Many were presented, in various stages of readiness. But one that caught much attention came from Ken Wright, a Carlton winemaker, wine industry leader and civic leader.

Wright proposed creation of a statewide FFA facility to meet an immediate need for a worthy organization. He explained it this way: The state's Future Farmers of America Foundation needs to find a new home, as the state Department of Education dropped its funding in the summer of 2011. He envisions creating an Oregon FFA Leadership Center on Waste Management acreage lying north and south of Highway 18, on both sides of the South Yamhill River.

Divided into several parcels, the acreage encompasses farmland, flood plain and an RV park. It wraps around not only the existing 85-acre landfill, but a proposed 60-acre expansion and the old Whiteson Landfill.

Wright said the youth organization is looking for a minimum of 100 acres, as it needs a land laboratory for its rural, agriculturally oriented clientele. He said a location here would benefit students from throughout the state, but local students would enjoy the easiest access. He said the FFA is prepared to cover much of the cost itself, and already has some significant donors lined up. "This is real, this is ready; they're just trying to decide where it should be," he said.

Another proposal was presented by Barbara Boyer, co-founder of the McMinnville Farmers Market. She said she's been looking for a new adventure, after handing the market responsibilities to Courtney Harris.

Boyer said it's been a dream of hers for the last 10 years to create what she's calling a Community Farm Collaboration. "I don't know if it's going to happen here, but it's going to happen somewhere," she said.

When she had her first glimpse as the property Waste Management was making available, she knew right away it would be perfect for what she had in mind. That, she said, is a place capable of connecting education, children and farming.

She wants it to include a commercial kitchen to give people a place where they can create value-added food products. She also wants it to include a test garden allowing people to incubate ideas before fully committing, along with a drying shed and processing facilities. "It's all about agriculture, and it's all about my passion," said Boyer, who farms herself.

Tim Harris of the See Ya Later Foundation proposed a See Ya Later Champions Center to sponsor outdoor activities for youth and create economic opportunity by bringing people to the area for youth sporting events. He's envisioning a facility featuring two football fields, two baseball fields and an outdoor amphitheater, along with a two-story building housing an event hall, family center, meeting rooms and a prayer chapel.

Other proposals included commercial farming, a disc-golf course, river access for water recreation, equestrian trails and a multi-use trail system.

Waste Management spokeswoman Jackie Lang said the stewardship committee will screen proposals from June through August, then report to the community in September. She hopes at least one project can be launched by November.

"They will review the proposals received to date and continue the collaboration process, adding new proposals as needed," Lang said of members of the Stewardship Committee. "Now the evaluation process begins in earnest."

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