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RHS seniors visit their elementary schools

Cheers and applause erupted as soon as Roseburg High School seniors walked into the Fir Grove Elementary School cafeteria wearing their caps and gowns Friday.

Nearly 30 seniors, mostly Fir Grove alumni, walked through the school giving high-fives to students and hugging some of the teachers.

“I forgot what it was like, the hallways and things, but as soon as I stepped off the bus the memories came flooding back,” RHS senior Hunter Agsten said. “It looks smaller, but familiar.”

Fir Grove Principal Lisa Dickover didn’t work at the school when the high school seniors attended, but she loved seeing the responses the elementary students had.

“The little kids were so excited,” Dickover said. “Having the seniors wear the cap and gowns adds to the excitement and the seriousness of the event.”

Gourav Kaushal, who pre-teaches at Fir Grove, also decided to come to the school to say goodbye to the students he taught.

“The kids love him and he’s supportive of our teachers,” Dickover said. “He just had a positive attitude and it was great to have him come.”

Students were able to give Kaushal a bouquet of balloons as he walked through the corridor.

“I’m definitely excited about graduation, but part of me is super sad. I came here every day for two years,” he said, adding that he will miss “the everyday interactions of getting to know the kids.”

Roseburg High School seniors had a dress rehearsal for graduation Friday morning and were given the opportunity to ride the bus to their elementary school to walk the halls.

Graduation walks are common in smaller schools, and RHS started the tradition last year.

This year there were buses to take the graduating seniors to one of the eight elementary schools in the district.

After the high school seniors had walked through the halls at Fir Grove they enjoyed root beer floats in the library.

Following the official goodbyes, the seniors made final visits to re-enact second grade photos on the swings, had favorite teachers sign yearbooks and reminisced about their times in elementary school.

Winston Police Department unveils three new police cars

The Winston Police Department unveiled its three new police vehicles Friday.

The new 2019 Dodge Durangos were on display in front of City Hall along with a 2018 Dodge Charger that was recently converted to a K-9 unit vehicle.

The sleek new SUVs are painted black with a new graphics package featuring grey stars and a prominent, blue stripe above “City of Winston.”

The city implemented a $3 public safety fee in order to pay for the vehicles, two of which were purchased using a loan from the sewer plant fund. The fee and funds transfer generated controversy as some residents told Winston City Council they already pay too much on their water and sewer bills.

Winston City Manager Mark Bauer said the cars needed to be purchased because the city’s three 2010 Dodge Chargers were beyond their lifespan. He said they were spending too much time in the shop and creating a safety risk to the city’s police force.

“We had to haul two of our line cars to the shop in the last two weeks,” Bauer said Tuesday. “We just couldn’t go any longer.”

He said there’s no painless process when cities need to purchase something while managing depleted funds, adding the fee will create a long-term funding mechanism for replacing police vehicles.

“This was the best way to go about doing this,” Bauer said.

OSU fields community input on potential Elliot State Forest purchase at session in Roseburg

Faculty from the Oregon State University College of Forestry held a listening session about the future of the Elliot State Forest at the Douglas County Extension Office in Roseburg on Thursday night.

It was the third of three sessions aimed at collecting comments from people about how the forest should be used if the university gains ownership of it. The previous two sessions were in North Bend and Reedsport.

The university signed a memorandum of understanding with the State Land Board in December to spend the year exploring how the 93,000-acre forest, located in Douglas and Coos counties, could be turned into a research forest.

After endangered species court rulings limited logging and the state stopped generating money from the forest, as required for the Common School Fund, the Land Board voted to sell it to the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians in partnership with Lone Rock Timber Management Company for $221 million in 2016.

In 2017, facing backlash from environmentalists, the Land Board backed out of its plan.

Although the university doesn’t currently have the funds to purchase the forest, OSU officials have said the forest would provide a unique opportunity to study how to best to manage such lands with increasing concerns about climate change in mind.

The forest contains both young- and old-growth timber stands, as well as threatened species such as the spotted owl and the marbled murrelet. It would be the largest research forest in the country.

The university will send a report to the Land Board later this year discussing its plans for the forest. At the listening session, university officials said including the public in the planning process is crucial.

“We understand how important it is for community members to come voice their opinions on a place that matters so much to them,” said Research Forest Project Coordinator Jennah Stillman.

After a presentation about the College of Forestry and its interest in the forest by Associate Dean for Research Katy Kavanagh, about 30 people at the session split into groups to discuss four topics: timber and local economy, research and education, conservation and recreation. University officials recorded people’s comments, categorizing them as opportunities or concerns.

People at the timber and local economy table raised concerns about the college’s ability to turn a profit on the forest — its rugged terrain may limit logging operations. They added if the university was able to overcome environmental barriers, logging profits could provide much needed revenue to local economies that have been depressed for years with the decline of the timber industry.

Matt Hill, executive director of Douglas Timber Operators, an timber industry advocacy group, said he was concerned with turning the Elliot into a research forest when “millions of acres” of Oregon forestland are already available for research by multiple agencies and academic institutions.

“Why does OSU need the Elliot to carry out its other research functions, or does the Elliot have any particular value?” Hill asked. “Why is the Elliot different and what does OSU expect to get?”

Dan Pennington, who is part of Coast Range Forest Watch, an environmental organization based in Coos Bay, said the forest is ecologically-unique because half the forest was not logged after a fire burned it in the late 19th century.

“When you look at carbon storage potential in the coast range forests in Oregon, it’s the highest carbon storage potential of any forest on earth, about twice as much as the Amazon,” Pennington said. “So I think it’s an incredible opportunity for research. And I think the half that has already been logged is a perfect opportunity to continue to manage it in a way that’s responsible.”

He added he has seen coast range watersheds harmed by the effects of clearcutting and would like to see the university research selective thinning practices.

Elkton Mayor Daniel Burke said the Elliot is a perfect opportunity to manage a forest in a way that benefits both the environment and local economies.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in Douglas County and live my whole life in the Elkton area,” Burke said. “And I’ve watched what happened over the years when the timber industry took a dive, and I’ve watched the Elliot as it has really not been managed.”

He said communities such as Scottsburg and Wells Creek have suffered from the decline of the timber industry.

“It’s such a unique opportunity to start doing something with it and benefiting these rural communities,” Burke said. “I want to have the same opportunities for kids that I had.”

Senior Association Dean of the College of Forestry Jim Johnson said people at all three sessions have been grateful to be included in the planning process. He said while people have raised helpful concerns about how the college will manage the forest for its potential economic, research, environmental and recreational benefits, much of the feedback has been positive.

“People want OSU to be there and have a presence in the community, not just come down, spend a day mucking around in the woods and run back to Corvallis,” Johnson said. “They want to see a long-term commitment and investment.”