Year in Review - Part II
The only booth in town
If you live in the Molalla area and you're looking for fireworks, chances are you'll run into the friendly Shannon Backstrom and perhaps a dog she's borrowed for the moment.
Backstrom runs the only booth in town, now located in the corner of the Safeway parking lot.
Backstrom's family, of Silverton, has been in the fireworks business, and in fact the holiday business, since she can remember. They also do pumpkins for Halloween and planning for other events.
Athletic department sees big changes
Todd Moore announced on Friday, June 28 that he will step away from his position as Molalla River School District athletic director and transfer to another position in the district.
Moore discussed the transfer with Superintendent Tony Mann and Molalla High School Principal Brad Berzinski last week and informed MHS staff and coaches on Thursday, June 27, according to Moore.
In a letter to The Pioneer, Moore listed three factors that went into his decision: his family, his health and his career.
Molalla High gains national attention
Largely thanks to the charitable fundraiser Share the Love, Molalla High School has garnered national attention. The school has been selected to represent Oregon as a finalist in the Reader's Digest "Nicest Places in America 2019" contest.
Share the Love founder and MHS teacher Joe Zenisek encourages folks to do just that.
"Share the Love is more than an inspirational annual fundraising event through which the community reaches out to support neighbors in need," Zenisek said.
Kids have a 'blast' at spacecraft building event
Three, two, one…blast off!
As one of its summer events, the Molalla Public Library held a design-your-own-spaceship project for youth ages 10-18 on Wednesday, July 10.
Nearly a dozen youth showed up to utilize the provided supplies and make something unique.
Likewise, all of the library's summer events have been well attended, said Beka Murcray, Molalla's children's librarian.
"From adults to preschoolers, we have had high numbers at all of our programs," Murcray said.
Molalla residents involved in beach plane crash
Two Molalla residents were passengers in a plane crash on the beach in Newport last Monday. Both survived, but suffered injuries.
The incident occurred on Monday, July 8 at 5:10 p.m. on the beach, north of the Jetty in Newport, according to Oregon State Police.
The preliminary investigation, per police, determined the current mayor of Newport, Dean Sawyer, 66, piloted the four-seater plane, a Cessna 172 Skyhawk II. Sawyer had two passengers: Deborah Reasoner, 61, and a seven-year-old juvenile, both of Molalla.
MHS student joins city government
Molalla City Council's newest member is Student Liaison Natalee Litchfield, a rising senior and soon-to-be Associated Student Body President at Molalla High School.
The council first met Litchfield when she and a classmate made a presentation to the council in favor of banning plastic bags in Molalla, according to Leota Childress, a city councilor.
Childress was impressed with her well thought-out presentation, follow-through and leadership skills, so Childress told Litchfield about the liaison position.
Litchfield applied and the council approved her application unanimously.
Molalla operations division finding city-related solutions
Last April, Molalla's Operations Division conducted a series of focused meetings to identify problems and solutions for the city's municipal parks. They used a book titled "Theory of Constraints" by Eliyahu Goldratt as a framework to guide the discussions. The results have proven positive.
As of late July, the 15 undesirable effects that were identified in the initial analysis in April are gone. The tactical details were placed in a new administrative policy signed by City Manager Dan Huff.
Vandalism, drug-use prompt restroom closures
City Manager Dan Huff wrote and posted a letter to Molalla residents and park users on the city's website regarding the restroom lockdowns in response to observations, problems and complaints about their closures.
The "Restroom lockdowns you are experiencing are part of a coordinated effort between all the departments of the city to hopefully address chronic issues [in the restrooms] you have described.
Molalla apple orchard largest of its kind in U.S.
A little-known treasure lies on the outer edge of Molalla. Almaty Farm is home to the Temperate Orchard Conservancy, a nonprofit that saves and preserves heirloom apple varieties.
Joanie Cooper owns Almaty Farm and is the president of the conservancy. She and two others, Franki Baccellieri and Shaun Shepherd, founded the conservancy in 2012.
Cooper's love for apple-growing sprouted many years ago when she bought a farm outside of Amity that contained the remnants of an old orchard.
Friends encouraged her to identify the apples, so she took them to the Home Orchard Society's identification people.
"Each sack that I brought out, they got more excited," Cooper said. "They were so pleased because it's fun to find an old orchard. It's not that these were unusually rare, but they were heirloom varieties. It was planted before 1900."
Dollar General approved for Cascade Center
Molalla's Planning Commission met recently for a public hearing to discuss a pending land use action for a Dollar General store proposed for the Cascade Center development.
Staff requested minor changes to the store's development, and all were passed, said Alice Cannon, the city's planning director and Rae Lynn Botsford, chair of the Planning Commission.
In fact, it looks like IE Construction has already moved a trailer onto the land, has mowed the grass and is working hard to get started. The 9,100-square-foot retail general store will be at the southeast corner of Leroy and Oregon Highway 211.
Molalla FBLA explores Texas at national event
Eighteen Molalla FBLA members competed at the National Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas last month. While they didn't come home with any trophies, they did come away with new business tools and tons of memories.
This is the third year in a row that Molalla FBLA has won big at state and advanced to the national level, according to Chapter President Kiel Martin.
He took an optimistic stance on how the national competition went for Molalla members.
"Sadly, Molalla FBLA didn't place on anything, but the most important part is that they worked hard on their competitions and had much more understanding of the business world," Martin said.
The 'little library' that could
Barbara Sandgren educated elementary students in Molalla for many years. She passed away in May at the age of 90, but her passion for literacy will live on as her family members have set up a Little Free Library at Molalla Elementary School in her honor.
The idea came from Barbara's granddaughter Anna Sandgren, and many other family members have come alongside to make the project happen with the support of Molalla Elementary Principal Linda Brecht-Kwirant.
"So much is lost when someone passes," Anna said. "My grandmother was a light for learning and we want to continue that light. She traveled, learned and grew through reading."
Raise the Roof to fix the roof
The summer fun isn't over just yet. With the help of area churches, businesses and organizations, Grace Church Molalla is hosting the first-ever, completely free "Raise the Roof Fest" on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 12-6 p.m.
The purpose of the event is to gather people together in praise and to raise funds for Grace Church's failing roofs. Grace Church Pastor Lee Throne is hopeful this will become an annual event, which will raise funds for the needs of other local ministries in future years.
Molalla to overhaul athletic department
Under the leadership of new Athletic Director Kristen Rott, Molalla River School District will overhaul its athletics department over the next 3-5 years.
"I believe to my core I was brought here by Tony Mann, MRSD Superintendent, and the Molalla River School District to help lead an effort to develop a transformational sports culture in Molalla, [Oregon]," Rott said in a letter to the community. "Transformational meaning that our student athletes should be given the type of athletic experience that leaves them changed by it.
Molalla log home gets new home
Soon the public will have a chance to discover and explore what could be the oldest pioneer house built in Oregon history at Hopkins Demonstration Forest, located just south of Oregon City.
Molalla Log House may predate the start of Lewis and Clark's 1804 expedition. With the blessing of the family who owns the property about 4 miles outside of Molalla, Gregg Olson, an architectural historian and preservation contractor, is reassembling the house at Hopkins Demonstration Forest with a combination of the original and restored hand-hewn logs.
The building was found south of Molalla in 1984, attracting the attention of historians who discovered it had been dismantled and moved from its original location in 1892. Historians currently believe that Molalla Log House was originally built in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains and in the Pudding and Willamette River watersheds, where fur-animal habitat was extensive in the 1790s.
Cougar likely responsible for attack on horse
At least one horse survived an attack in the Colton area last week, and an examination of the horse revealed that a cougar is likely responsible.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife received report of the attack, according to Rick Swart, ODFW's public information officer, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services went out to examine the horse.
"They do believe that the injuries are consistent with a cougar attack," Swart said. "So that's likely what happened."
Roll tape! Action!
Molalla-based filmmaker Andrew Brown will soon debut his latest work, a faith-based action movie at a free event on Nov. 16 at 6 p.m. at the Molalla Foothills campus.
Brown, a screenwriter for the past 12 years, has won some awards which gave him the confidence to produce the movie "Confound."
He wrote the script and filmed the movie about a 12-year-old girl who finds herself waking up in the forest with amnesia. She doesn't know who she is or where she came from. But she knows how to fight based on mixed martial arts and she knows survival skills. She also knows the Bible.
Molalla High: 'Nicest Place in Oregon'
Molalla High School has been chosen as the Reader's Digest Nicest Place in Oregon.
The magazine's nationwide search received more than 1,000 submissions of stories of places across America where people are kind and civility is winning, according to a Reader's Digest press release. From the submissions, Reader's Digest editors and a panel of judges selected the 50 Nicest Places in America – one for each state.
School board passes controversial proclamation
Molalla River School District board members held something of a debate over whether they should support a proclamation to name November as "Parents' Partnership in Education Month."
While there was some disagreement because of the political motivations of the group behind the proclamation and the rights of students versus parents, the board ultimately decided to pass the proclamation.
Molalla's Board Chair Linda Eskridge initially presented the proclamation to her fellow board members for consideration, acknowledging that it came from a group called "Parents' Right in Education."
MHS students push for open campus
Molalla High School student body president Natalee Litchfield and vice president Emilie Mendoza went before the school board this month to continue conversations about the possibility of open-campus lunch.
"I just think it's interesting because we have quite a bit of friends that attend other schools that surround our area," Mendoza said. "Some of them are bigger schools than Molalla, some are smaller schools than Molalla. But a lot of them already have open campus. And when we ask them the question of what that is or how their school goes about it, they're surprised that we don't have open campus."
Missing 2-year-old Molalla girl found
A 2-year-old child who was missing Thursday in the Molalla River Recreation Area has been found, and it is a helpful citizen on horseback who has earned hero status.
The remote recreation area, located about 10 miles south of Molalla, has very limited cellular reception, which made it difficult for police to obtain detailed information, per the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office.
Still, the Sheriff's Office received two initial calls on Thursday, Nov. 7 at approximately 11:19 a.m. One was from a passerby who was flagged down by a grandmother who said she had lost her grandchild. The other was from another passerby who was flagged down by a logger who said they were looking for a missing child.
Molalla couple heads to Nashville
A simple voicemail on Oct. 28 led to something fun and exciting for Jessica Church – once she gave it a full listen. Initially, she was a little worried that it might be one of her eight kids calling with something wrong. But it turned out it was radio station 98.7 The Bull calling. Since her phone didn't get good reception, the call cut off and she stopped worrying about her kids.
"I thought about it and decided to listen to it again because I wasn't sure why Tony, Jake and Jen were calling me," said Church, who will be joined on the trip by her husband Josh. "I had qualified for the CMA Awards trip to Nashville about three weeks before and then I forgot all about it. They were calling to tell me I'd won [the grand prize] with tickets to the awards show and a three-day, two-night stay in Nashville."
FBLA Molalla Middle School chapter kicks off
Students in Molalla no longer have to wait for high school to be a part of Future Business Leaders of America. Now, middle-schoolers can participate in the newly-formed FBLA Molalla Middle School Chapter.
The kids seem thrilled to have the opportunity.
"What excites me the most is that we get to hear how to run a business because when I'm done with college, I want to have my own bakery," said Olivia Ehleringer, middle FBLA president. "And also, there will be cool opportunities for us."
Singing Christmas Tree director eyes final show
Molalla's Singing Christmas Tree is always something special, but for a couple of reasons, this year's is expected to be especially special.
First of all, the Tree has hit its silver anniversary. Secondly, Tim Friesen, the Tree's longtime director and Molalla High School choir teacher, is saying farewell. He will retire from teaching in June.
"It's so awesome to have a job that I love to go to when I roll out of bed each morning," Friesen said, "and that's what teaching has been for me. But after 30 years, I'm looking forward to new adventures that have opened up for me with the travel company my brother owns. It's been a summer 'gig' for me since 2004, but now I'll have the opportunity to do it year-round and work side-by-side with him and my wife."
School board chair maintains role
While Molalla River School District board members had considered removing Linda Eskridge as chair amid controversy, a vote at the latest board meeting kept her in her seat.
Board member Calvin Nunn had presented the motion to depose Eskridge at the previous meeting, but everyone agreed to table it to the following meeting.
Then on Thursday, Dec. 12, again many from the public took the mic to make comments. This time, most spoke on behalf of Eskridge, advocating that she remain as chair.
Purrrfect ending: Lost kitten reunited with owners
A lost kitten in Molalla got a purrrfect ending to its story on Wednesday.
After responding to an unrelated call, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office Deputy Brian Lister heard a kitten crying and spotted it stuck up in a tree.
"At first, I kind of thought it might have been a wildcat, like a feral cat, because it was so afraid," Lister said.
This was on Eves Road, south of Molalla.
According to the Sheriff's Office, Lister immediately called the experts in kitten rescue: firefighters.
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