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NeighborWorks Umpqua breaks ground on Deer Creek Village

NeighborWorks Umpqua broke ground on the Deer Creek Village housing development at a ceremony Thursday morning in front of a crowd of city employees, NeighborWorks Umpqua officials, architects and construction workers.

The Deer Creek Village project is one of the first affordable, multi-family housing units developed in Roseburg since the Eagle Landing development in 2013, CEO of NeighborWorks Umpqua Merten Bangemann-Johnson said.

“This is an exciting day for the community. I think everybody really recognizes that affordable housing — housing that is affordable to folks across all spectrums of our community, all demographics — is a critical need in Roseburg and Douglas County,” Bangemann-Johnson said.

The project is geared toward low-income households with a preference for veterans and will feature 68 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units.

The three-story, U-shaped structure will feature a bike room, laundry room and communal spaces to encourage community formation, said Principal Architect Jim Walker.

After a short program, Bangemann-Johnson invited Roseburg City Councilor Alison Eggers, Community Development Director Stuart Cowie, NeighborWorks Umpqua executive committee member Randy Mason and Real Estate Development Director with NeighborWorks Umpqua Brian Shelton-Kelley to ring in the project with the symbolic, first shovel-full of dirt. He said each of these people played a vital role in the project.

“We really set out to create a project that is not only addressing the affordable housing needs of our community but is really designed to serve the broad range of people that live here in Roseburg,” Shelton-Kelley said.

The design of Deer Creek Village was intended to foster a sense of community while taking advantage of the natural environment and the wetlands that will serve as the village’s backyard, Walker said.

“The other really important part is to be able to create a sense of community here. Community is at the very core of these types of projects,” Walker said. “Today, we get great units built, we get communities built, we get honorable places put together.”

NeighborWorks Umpqua received $17 million in grants and tax credits to develop Deer Creek in 2018, Shelton-Kelley said. Oregon Housing and Community Services awarded funding for Deer Creek, and the land the development sits on was donated by Rose and Robert Rothstein in 2015.

The project is employing Coos Bay-based Harmon Construction and Portland-based architecture firm Studio C.

Construction is anticipated to end sometime in 2021, Shelton-Kelley said.

NeighborWorks Umpqua has developed and acquired more than 500 housing units since its inception 25 years ago, Bangemann-Johnson said. The organization revamped its strategic plan in 2016 and challenged itself to develop 500 affordable housing units in five years.

“Rather than waiting another 25 years to build another 500 units of affordable housing, we decided that it was time to accelerate that,” Bangemann-Johnson said.

NeighborWorks Umpqua will start taking applications for living in the development when construction is closer to completion, Shelton-Kelley said.

“It is my hope that this will be the beginning of many opportunities for additional housing chances for specifically affordable housing,” Cowie said.

Idaho artifacts suggest Pacific entry for first Americans

NEW YORK — Scientists say they’ve found artifacts in Idaho that indicate people were living there around 16,000 years ago, providing new evidence that the first Americans entered their new home by following the Pacific Coast.

The discovery also points to Japan as a possible origin or influence for the migration, said study leader Loren Davis of Oregon State University.

Other experts were split on what the findings mean and how old they are, not an unusual reaction in the contentious topic of early humans in the New World.

Davis and colleagues reported Thursday in the journal Science on their excavation of the Cooper’s Ferry site in western Idaho.

In the oldest part of the site, they found 43 flakes that had evidently been chipped off of stones in the process of making tools like those found in younger areas of the site. They also found four such flakes that had been modified to be used for a task like cutting or scraping, and pieces of bone that indicate discarded food, Davis said.

The site is between 15,280 and 16,560 years old, for an approximate age of 16,000 years, analysis indicated. It was occupied repeatedly over time, researchers said.

What does it all mean? For one thing, the researchers said, the calculated age argues for one side of a debate about just how the first Americans arrived.

The traditional narrative is that the peopling of the Americas began after a migration crossed a now-submerged land bridge called Beringia that used to extend from Siberia to Alaska. The migration’s progress south from there was blocked for a while by massive ice sheets in Canada, but eventually a gap in the ice opened and people moved through this so-called “ice-free corridor.”

But in recent years, as scientists have found earlier and earlier signs of humans living in the Americas, some have argued that people had shown up before that corridor appeared. So maybe they traveled the Pacific Coast instead, either on foot or by boat, or both.

Davis said his paper indicates people were living in Idaho long before the corridor opened, citing others’ research that says it was open by about 14,800 years ago. The best explanation, he said, is that “they came down the coast and took a left-hand turn south of the ice, and went up the Columbia River Basin.”

The site also revealed a style of stone projectile point that resembles artifacts of similar age on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. So that supports the idea that the migration that led to the first Americans may have begun in that area, when Hokkaido was part of a larger land mass, Davis said. Or it could have started somewhere else in northeast Asia, but still reflect a cultural contribution of the Hokkaido area, he said.

A migration from the Hokkaido area could have skirted the southern coast of Beringea before heading south along the Pacific Coast, he said.

Experts familiar with the work gave differing opinions on the site’s age, reflecting the difficulty of interpreting data for assigning ages to artifacts. A site in Texas has also been dated to about 16,000 years, but Davis said the technique used for Cooper’s Ferry is more precise.

Dennis Jenkins, senior research archaeologist at the University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, said the Idaho site appears to go back 16,000 years. He also said the paper provides “a major advance” by linking early Americans to Japan more firmly than before.

Michael Waters of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Texas A&M said he prefers an age of between 14,200 years and 15,000 years ago. That would put it in the time frame of several sites in Texas, Wisconsin and Oregon, he said. As for the Japan connection, “I think they’re on to something there.”

Waters called the site “a great discovery.”

Ben Potter of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks questioned the reported age of the artifacts. He said the most secure age estimates do not precede the opening of the ice-free corridor, so the new paper doesn’t rule out that possible entry point. He also said he was not convinced by the comparison with the Japanese artifacts.

Recent Elkton High School graduate takes over annual Fort Umpqua Days

When Grace Whitley began working at the Elkton Community Education Center four years ago, she never thought she would eventually take over planning Fort Umpqua Days, Elkton’s biggest event.

“It’s a big job, especially for a little town,” Whitley said. “It’s not just the ECEC, it’s not just the students at the high school, it is literally the entire town.”

Whitley was offered the position as event coordinator in January and officially started after graduating salutatorian from Elkton High School in June.

Grace Whitley

“When they first asked me if I wanted to do it, I was overwhelmed,” she said. “I was like, ‘Why? Why would you want me to do this?’”

She was intimidated by the idea of organizing such a large event, especially when the only experience she had to call on was planning a pep rally at her school. But once she thought it over, Whitley realized it wouldn’t be all on her.

“Knowing that I have so many people to back me up and help me with it, I know that it’s not just me taking charge or me doing it,” Whitley said. “I have so many people that are helping me and taking on those roles for me.”

While Whitley might have doubted herself, the center’s Executive Director Marjory Hamann never did.

“It was so obvious,” Hamann said. “Grace is a rock star, there is just no question about it.”

Hamann praised Whitley for being smart, kind and a natural leader, which are qualities that draw people in. Former event volunteers signed up again specifically because they were able to work with Whitley.

Help didn’t just come from volunteers, but from a binder from the past coordinator that Whitley calls the Fort Umpqua Days bible.

“Having the binder and having all the help is greatly appreciated and I don’t think I could do something like this without them,” Whitley said. “Especially since, even though I have worked here for so long, I never really got to experience Fort Umpqua Days, since I am always working it. So not only this year am I working on the whole event, but it is also my time to experience the event as well.”

Fort Umpqua Days is a two-day festival over Labor Day weekend featuring a parade, historic reenactments, live music, with craft vendors and activities for kids. This year also celebrates the Elkton Community Education Center’s 20th-anniversary birthday bash.

This year will see a few changes. The birthday party celebration will replace the event’s usual pageant, the bass tournament is taking a year off — but will be back next year — and some new historic interpreters have been added.

The weekend events will begin with a pancake breakfast from 7 to 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by a parade on River Road. Activities and vendors at the fort will open at 10 a.m. and continue throughout the day. Sunday will also start with a pancake breakfast, followed by vendors, activities and reenactments.

A full schedule of events can be found at the ECEC website.