Shore Acres State Park Holiday Lights
The Oregon coast is a many splendored place boasting unique sights and sounds that will amaze you anytime of the year.In this week’s “Grant’s Getaways,” Grant McOmie takes us to Shore Acres State Park along the southern Oregon coast for a unique holiday light extravaganza.
The park’s “Holiday Lights” offers the very best in community service and a wonderful holiday gift for you to enjoy. It’s safe to say that most holiday lights don’t hold a candle to the ones the Friends of Shore Acres State Park put up each year.
The folks who show up each weekend beginning before Halloween and go the extra mile to light Oregon’s only botanical garden state park. If you’re quick enough to keep up with the woman who started it all, Shirley Bridgham can tell you how it all began – more than two decades ago:
“We started with 6,000 lights – just 6,000 lights and one Christmas tree. And then we doubled that each year until we got up to 150,000 lights,” said Bridgham. With a chuckle, she added, “Then we started going up by fifty thousand lights at a time.”
Back in those days, Shirley and her husband David Bridgham enlisted a dozen or so of their friends to help out. But now, with more than five miles of electric cord and 275,000 lights, the job requires organization and direction.
Shirley’s figured that out too – with a three-ring notebook that is crammed with pages and maps and photos of the park.
“Well, this book shows me what we start with: that is, all the kinds and styles of lights to use and then every single shrub gets a tag. The text that I’ve developed tells me how many lights, what color to use on the bush and so forth.”
She’s not kidding – every shrub, bush and many of the trees get a tag and eventually one or more string of lights.
Shirley boasts that one time she logged more than eight miles of walking across Shore Acres sprawling seven acre garden – directing, advising and motivating her volunteer troops.
Like holiday elves, fifteen hundred volunteers now follow the Bridgham’s lead –while a small, dedicated group of twenty-five or so will spend all of their free time on weekends, putting up the park lights and displays in time for opening night on Thanksgiving Day.
They will stretch 3400 strings of lights and it is hard, painstaking work to get them to look and to work just right. Many say it is also the sort of work that makes them feel good and puts a smile on their face.
David Barnhart (he travels all the way from Seaside on the northern Oregon coast each weekend,) said: “I just enjoy the people and the camaraderie. There’s quite a group of people out here; usually the same ones every year and it’s a lot of work so we couldn’t get the job done without them.”
Del Willis said that he lives in an apartment in Coos Bay and so putting up the holiday lights in the park is something that he looks forward to each year: “This is for the community, a great thing for Oregon and for the world. Let’s face it - it just makes you feel good to do this for others to enjoy.”
Preson Philips, the state park manager in charge of Shore Acres, agreed that people feel good lending a hand to get the park ready. In fact, he said that all the work, all of the expenses – even the electric bill – are all paid by the “Friends of Shore Acres:”
“I don’t know if I can explain it,” noted Phillips. “ I believe there is something about this site, this garden, this community where pure volunteerism from the community comes out each weekend to make this happen – maybe it’s just pride in the park.”
“Pride” resonates across the seven acre park, despite uncertain times, tough economic times in a county with one of the state’s highest unemployment rates, note David Bridgham.
He said that the worst of times seems to bring out the best in people who want to brighten their park, support their community and show visitors that they care about the place they call home.
Bridgham believes that by giving so much of their time and energy to make the “Holiday Lights” come to life each year, local folks get even more back in return.“This event is a touchstone! This place is where the community comes together and it’s a tradition. People know it’s going to be here every year and they can be a part of it.”
Shirley Bridgham agreed and added “It’s magic – for 36 nights each year – it is magic come true. Especially if you are here are the sun drops out of sight across the ocean out there – the magic that begins at dusk is amazing.”
David added, “What thrills me is that there are so many adults who don’t know the Christmas or the holidays without coming out here to see the Holiday Lights and that’s s touching, even rewarding. It puts me in the Christmas spirit.”
The Holiday Lights – a magical gift for you from the good friends of Coos County who keep the lights burning in a special place by the sea called Shore Acres.
The Holiday Lights continue through New Year’s Eve, the park is open daily and closes each night at 10pm. There is no entry fee, but there is a three-dollar state park parking permit required.
Salmon For All
Each fall, big salmon overcome huge barriers to continue their cycle of life in Oregon’s coastal rivers, including the dramatic leaping for life at Nehalem Falls on the S Fork of the Nehalem River.
But at nearby Waterhouse Falls on the N Fork of the Nehelam River, the salmon’s upriver journey is briefly interrupted.
It happens inside a concrete fish ladder – built into the side of a cliff adjacent to the powerful surging falls – the ladder offers salmon an easier route for passage and it is a good spot to set a trap and where an ODFW crew intercepts the fish each Fall.
The big and brawny wild chinook are caught in the trap; the fish are tagged, measured and then released to swim to upriver spawning grounds.
But according to state fishery biologist, Derek Wiley, it’s a different story for the hatchery-born coho salmon.
“We kill them! It’s that simple. We don’t want their genetics mixing with the wild fish, so all hatchery fish that we catch are killed and they go into ice filled totes and then they are taken to the local food bank.”
The project owes thanks to the Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife who provides surplus hatchery coho salmon to Tillamook County volunteers to make sure that local children and others will have a meal.
Volunteer organizer for the project, Mike Ehlen, says ODFW makes it possible hundreds of local school kids: “It is all local fish and the best possible protein you can get. Plus, it’s our own salmon and that helps all the way across the community.”
The fish are transported by volunteers to Tillamook Bay Boat House in Garibaldi, Oregon where they are processed and canned. Owner, Darus Peake provides the labor force that cleans, cuts and cooks the raw salmon. He said that canning the fresh salmon is preferred because it gives the product a longer shelf life and that’s important.
“We have so many children in Oregon who need food year round,” said Peake. “We have the ability and the opportunity to provide something lasting for our kids. That’s why we’re here!”
The kids who live in Tillamook County also lend a hand. Each of the 20 student’s enrolled in Steve Albrechtsen’s Basic Photography class at Neah-Kah-Nie High School in Tillamook County design a can label for the project. The students then select the winner from all the entries. The students also glue the labels onto the cans – all 8,000 of the cans.
It’s not just salmon either. The project also includes sport caught tuna fish that’s been donated by local sport fishermen.
In rural Tillamook County, up to 70 percent of school enrollment are on free and reduced lunches – living at or below the poverty line – so the students know that their efforts help make a difference to people: “We know that people living in our community do have problems, said junior Julia Baker. “Like buying their weekly groceries and providing for the family so it’s good for us to help them.”
Cade Hasenrhoe agreed with his classmate and said the program had really opened his eyes to the problem of hunger in his own town.
“It didn’t even occur to me or it was something that I looked over. But now, I see it it’s real and I feel better knowing how this is going to help so many people.”
Albrechtsen agreed that hunger is not a topic that many kids talk about, so the project is a good introduction to the real problems their communities face each day: “I think they’re all a bit shocked of how needy our community is and some of the students are quiet about it because many know their families are recipients. But they also learn that it’s their duty to step up and help other if they can.”
Local project coordinator, Bill Campbell added, “The students help provide hundreds of cases of canned fish that aren’t for sale, but are given away to schools and local food banks. It’s something they will remember the rest of their lives.”
The canned salmon and tuna provide critical protein for people who don’t have enough to eat and the project reflects a unique Oregon spirit that finds neighbors helping neighbors through tough times.
Wild in the City
If you have an appetite for outdoor adventure, consider a getaway that
satisfies your hunger for the great Oregon outdoors and teaches you more about your community too. Discover the new “Intertwine” where it’s easy to connect with nearby nature.
Time in the outdoors can refresh the eye and lift the spirit and the beauty of Oregon is that you won’t travel far to find it! “Wild in the City” is a new book co-published by the Portland Audubon Society and Oregon State University Press.
Mike Houck, MJ Cody and Bob Sallinger co-edited and wrote essays for the impressive collection of writings and practical nature-finding “ramblings.”
“The book is really educational for people who enjoy our parks,” noted Cody. “But if they lack a sense for the northwest – that life-long depth – that’s what we also provide in the book.”
More than 100 writers contributed to finding the ‘Wild in the City;’ authors who wrote the text, prepared the maps, sketched wildlife drawings and really provided the ‘nuts and bolts’ of locating the Portland area’s parks, trails and refuges.
From Washington County’s “Fernhill Wetlands” (located near Forest Grove) where flocks of geese fill the sky to the region’s eastern edge at Oxbow Park on the Sandy River that seems more wilderness than campground.
There are also well known wildlife areas – like Sauvie Island - that continue to fill us with “wonder and surprise,” noted the Audubon Society’s Bob Sallinger – a dedicated naturalist who enjoyed one particular essay.
“A piece called ‘Raptor Road Trip” is all about the different places you can visit on the island – whether you hike, bike or drive or paddle - around the island. It’s simply phenomenal wildlife viewing and winter is really a spectacular time of year to get out and see wildlife.”
Whether you are a long time resident, a newcomer or just passing thru Portland, you will fall in love with ‘Wild in the City.’
But it’s far more than a guide book for the text also presents a call to action and a new way to look at the expanding network of connections between the wild places that we prize: a network that is called the Intertwine.
“The Intertwine is a name for the region’s network of trails, parks and natural areas,” noted Metro’s Dan Moeller. Dan is Metro’s Natural Area Land Manager; the agency that manages much of the 14,000-plus acres of parks, trails and natural areas acquired thru two voter approved bond measures.
“You can find everything from beautiful wetlands to oak woodlands to prairies and upland forests,” added Moeller. “You can find a little bit of everything and it’s really magnificent land.” The Intertwine is growing all of the time too.
In fact, recent additions include: Cooper Mountain Nature Park near Beaverton, Graham Oaks Nature Park near Wilsonville and Mount Talbert Nature Park in Clackamas County. Each site is distinct, each offers special features and each is connected as natural space and outdoor environmental classrooms.”
“That’s exactly what the Intertwine is,” said Moeller. “It goes beyond bureaucracies and boundaries and it works among varied agencies, communities and cities to bring all of these parks and natural spaces together. Citizens can go out and enjoy them as seamlessly and easily as possible.”
Mike Wetter is Director of the Intertwine Alliance, a group of more than 50 public and non-profit agencies plus many private businesses.
The Alliance has created a new Intertwine website that provides maps, directions and tips so you can explore the wild places.“You don’t have to drive an hour to get to nature,” said Wetter. “It’s right here where we live and we can enjoy it as a part of our everyday lives.”
Jennie Martin-Logsdon’s “IFish”
Some believe that Oregon’s coastal rivers are filled with more than water as they flow to the sea. Oregon pianist and music composer, Jennie Logsdon Martin, believes that if you listen closely, you will hear “river songs.”
Jennie Logsdon Martin is an Oregon native and classically trained concert pianist who has played in palaces and in front of presidents. She was born with perfect pitch and a gift for performance and she loves to write original pieces of music like her “Kilchis River Song.”
She called it a “romantic melody” that pays homage to the river in her own backyard and to her home state: “It’s true! Sometimes it’s hectic, sometimes peaceful and sometimes it’s rapid, just before the calm that also matches long tail outs. Each phase of the river plays out like a song.”
She is an Oregon artist who also learned long ago to prize the practical. During a recent visit at her Kilchis River home, she said with a chuckle: “I paid for my groceries many times by playing the piano at places like Salty’s on the Willamette River, Portland-area golf clubs and even taverns. But no matter the setting, it was always fun.”
Jennie’s fingers have danced across the ivory keys for more than three decades and that may have prepped her well for the computer keys when she created the popular website IFish in 1997.
She admitted that she was driven toward technology by curiosity plus a lifelong passion for fishing. At the time she wondered: how might the two mix?
“I have enjoyed the outdoors – always – and it’s remarkable how it has touched or affected my life. So, I wanted to find a way to encourage others – who might be too caught up in daily life – to make time to smell the roses and fish the fish that Oregon offers.”
Jennie called her initial adventure in web design a “business experiment” that resonated and then rocketed into the cyber-stratosphere with hundreds of anglers.
Powered by an eager and dedicated angling crowd, the website soon became the region’s most popular site to center on outdoor recreation. IFish now has 60,000 registered members according to its creator.
Thousands more “visitors” drop in regularly to learn something new about angling, exchange ideas with others and even meet fishing experts from a varied menu of topics that include salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and trout fishing. Plus, salt water fishing, warm water fishing and the latest developments in tackle, even hunting and more. The site is uniquely Oregon and highly successful.
More importantly, IFish reflects the founder’s comfy, home-spun attitude and her love for the outdoors that she admitted was born of fishing trips with her Dad.
“He took me fishing on the Sandy River. I would sit on his shoulders as he crossed the river and then scramble to play on the big rocks that were strewn along the shoreline. I’d also go with him on the Willamette River where we would sit in the hog lines and fish for spring salmon. I can still hear the rush of the river and I think that’s where this passion was born in me; my fishing time with my Dad.”
These days it’s time spent with her longtime partner, Bill Hedlund – plus, their new kid in the block; a springer spaniel pup named ‘Willie’- he was named for their longtime friend and northwest angling and boat building legend, Willie Illingsworth.
Hedlund, a longtime fishing guide, confirmed what many people may suspect, Jennie’s sixteen years as the IFish inventor and leader was the real deal: “Oh, she’s very intense and frankly she’s caught as many or more fish than me in the past three years. She really puts in her time.” Hedlund paused – and then added, “When she has time.”
Fishing time has been harder to come by in recent years. Jennie struggles with a muscular disorder called Marfan’s Syndrome that has meant major heart surgery, followed by multiple eye surgeries. If that wasn’t tough enough, she had breast cancer surgery a year and a half ago. The surgery was followed by treatments that took a toll on both her body and her soul.
“The chemo was tough and I lost all my hair,” admitted Martin - who quickly smiled broadly then added: “But – I have it all back now and through it all I made many new friends – interesting and awesome people who fight this terrible and awful disease every day. Their strength made a big difference to me.”
She will often share her health issues with her readers too – not only on her daily IFish blog, but the new and career-capping accomplishment, the IFish Magazine.
The magazine is available to read online or you can print it and enjoy the varied articles at your leisure. “Unlike IIfish articles,” she said, “the magazine furthers a specialty with more depth. I like the fact that you can sit down with it, hold it in your hands and learn from longer articles that are often written by professionals.”
When it comes to angling, whether professional or amateur matter little to Jennie – she relishes in all of the stories that people submit to the site and to the magazine.
Even though she recently handed over the ownership reins of IFish, she has held on to her role as editor in chief and continues to be a regular columnist. She said that both positions are critical to her as she embraces Oregon’s angling community.
“I think it is a community…a lot of like-minded people and I think we’re kind to each other or at least I want us to be – I really want them to be.”
During a recent gathering of those like-minded regulars – many of the so-called “moderators” who volunteer to assist Jen in keeping the peace and maintaining her family friendly standards - offered good reasons that IFish has endured.
“She has opened up the sport of fishing to a wide group of people who can now get involved in this sport and actually connect with each other and go fishing together,” noted longtime friend George Buckingham.
Longtime “moderator” and good friend, Pete Morris, offered, “It was Jennie’s baby from the start and she paid attention to it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. She made certain that it became her living room – a place where fishermen could come and talk about fishing… so Jen’s passion turned into something that was many other people’s passion - it’s a remarkable thing.”
“If you want information, that’s the place to go,” said local fisherman Gordon Southwick. Len Clarke quickly added, “And you can do that from a million miles away! Few of us talk to Jen every day, but we know she loves our rivers – it’s just been a wonderful thing for the fishing community.”
“She is sort of the Mom of IFish,” added Buckingham with a broad smile.
That may be true – but for Jennie Logsdon Martin, the most wonderful and soul satisfying place to be is outdoors, alongside an Oregon stream, perhaps the one that flows through her backyard - casting her fly line to the rhythm of the river’s song.
Jennie Logsdon Martin’s contributions to the fishing community have been nothing short of remarkable – she has worked tirelessly on behalf of the angling community and she has created a site where everyone – no matter their depth or breadth of knowledge or level of experience – feels right at home.
“Such a beautiful place to be, a beautiful place to spend time and that’s why I do IFish,” noted Martin. “It is about bringing more people out here to enjoy life, see what I see, know what I know by being out here – just gives me goose bumps to think about it.”