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  • Stewardship proposals begin to take shape
  • Riverbend project offers broad public possibilities
  • Riverbend looks to community for advice

    Stewards should start with farming, education

    JUNE 14, 2013 -- By The News-Register Editorial Board

    It has been more than 19 months since the News-Register first reported Waste Management, Inc.'s intent to donate the use of land surrounding its Riverbend Landfill. Last week, some flesh was put on the bones of the plan as a first round of proposals were presented to the 32-member Riverbend Stewardship Committee.

    A running theme of the proposals was to focus on farm-centric enterprises, a natural step given that the land is zoned exclusive-farm-use. Agriculture and education should be emphasized.

    Winemaker Ken Wright proposed creation of a statewide home facility for the Future Farmers of America Foundation. Former Farmer's Market manager Barbara Boyer suggested a vision she calls a Community Farm Collaboration. Another proposal simply recommended using the land for more commercial farming - some of it already is leased for that purpose.

    Any one of those proposals would fit a need. With 450 acres to work with, the stewardship committee does not have to choose just one project, or just one type of use. Focusing on meeting community needs, we especially like the education aspect included in proposals by Wright and Boyer.

    As we discussed on these pages last week, Yamhill County has many successful public-private partnerships connecting public education and vocations. The list includes vineyards planted and tended by students at Yamhill-Carlton High School, and another program in the Eola Hills created for Chemeketa Community College's viticulture program.

    An agricultural education hub of some kind could serve students from every part of the county - and the state, for that matter. It would continue the tradition of successful public-private partnership, but expand on the idea by involving myriad institutions. Every local school, including Linfield College and Chemeketa, along with the Oregon State University Extension Service, could find year-round uses for such a compound in the middle of the county. As Wright's proposal suggests, a facility also would have statewide implications, drawing traffic here.

    There is some irony in the vision of an educational farming facility on land adjacent to a landfill that has caused the ire of area farmers and their supporters. Riverbend was smart to reach out to some of its critics to participate in the process, helping to separate efforts of the stewardship committee from the continuing controversy related to proposed expansion of the landfill. One way or another, this land will be around long after the waste stops coming.

    Other proposals presented last week included park options, such as equestrian trails or a disc golf course, and sport uses such as presented by Tim Harris of the See Ya Later Foundation. These options would require zoning actions but are worthy to keep on the table for future phases of development.

    When Paul Burns of Waste Management presented conceptual ideas to the county board of commissioners in 2011, he described a similar process at a New Hampshire facility as creating a "living document" that encompassed multiple uses as the program progressed. We see farming and education as the heart of such a document for Riverbend's Stewardship Committee.

    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."

    Riverbend project offers broad public possibilities

    News Register - Editorial Board
    July 28, 2012

    Riverbend Landfill has launched a major project that seems remarkably free of the controversy that has plagued the company in its efforts to expand the footprint of the landfill. In our minds, it's a promising venture that warrants broad discussion in McMinnville and other local communities.

    The company wants to open approximately 450 acres for community use on the land it owns adjacent to the existing landfill. It's an intriguing proposal in nascent stages that feasibly could cover a land area somewhere between the total incorporated areas of Amity and Dayton.

    Riverbend's plan, in great part, will be crafted with advice from a handpicked stewardship committee consisting of landfill neighbors, and geographically diverse representatives from the fields of agriculture, business, education, recreation, the wine industry, cultural organizations and governmental agencies.

    Additionally, the company will hold a series of public meetings throughout the year to draw further citizen input. Once the framework for discussion has been developed and a concept approved, more concrete development could begin as early as 2013 and continue through 2014, with stewardship committee participation. At that time, Riverbend could continue enhancements to the project over the next 10 to 20 years, depending on funding.

    So just what types of projects could be undertaken on 450 acres of land? Some initial feedback from stakeholders included a broad array of possibilities.

    It could be preserved for farm use or exist as an agricultural land lab. Conservation easements could be developed, and wildlife habitats might be created. Wetland restoration, of course, goes hand-in-hand with conservation usage. The land could serve as an environmental education gold mine, with wetland tours and an interpretive center of sorts.

    There are numerous recreational possibilities including biking and walking paths, camping, picnicking, sports fields, even a nine-hole golf course, as was suggested by one committee participant.

    Then again, 450 acres is a lot of land. It seems to us that two or more compatible natural uses easily could be compatible on the property.

    Where would funding come from? Numerous grant possibilities exist through Connect Oregon, U.S. and Oregon Fish and Wildlife, other state and federal agencies, Spirit Mountain, Meyer Memorial Trust and other foundations.

    Skeptics may suggest that Riverbend is playing a public relations game with such ambitious development plans at a time of controversy over proposed landfill expansion. We see no evidence of that, and in fact, the potential for a public relations backlash hardly makes it a viable strategy. Our sense is that the company is sincere in its commitment to create this land asset for the public use.

    The expansion battle is - at least for now - is on hold as the company moves toward the possible construction of a berm to increase capacity without increasing the footprint or height of the existing landfill. It remains to be seen how all of that plays out.

    For now, we're appreciative of the resources Riverbend has committed toward this community stewardship project, whatever it turns out to be. We'll be following the process closely, bringing you updates when we can.

    It's worth watching.

    Riverbend looks to community for advice

    Yamhill Valley News Register - Nathalie Hardy
    July 28, 2012

    The concept is simple enough:

    A local business wants to give something back to its neighbors and the community. So it convenes a cross-section of those groups to shape that gift.

    It's a little more complicated, however, when that business is the Riverbend Landfill, which operates on a regional basis under national ownership, and is the focus of heated local controversy.

    The thing is, many of its neighbors would like nothing more than to put Riverbend out of business altogether. And they have allies in the larger community.

    But the "something" being offered in this case is 450 acres of potentially high-value land. That's equivalent to five parks the size of McMinnville's signature Joe Dancer.

    In addition, the company is taking a series of other community goodwill measures. It has launched a series of monthly community meetings, established a community comment hotline, reduced its operating hours to accommodate neighbor concerns.

    The land evaluation task is being charged to a 32-member Stewardship Committee. And the company intentionally reached out to its critics in determining its makeup.

    "The goal was for the nomination committee to form a group of county citizens representing a broad cross-section of the community, including people who had concerns about the company's operation at different times," said Jackie Lang, Oregon communications director for Riverbend's Houston-based parent company, Waste Managment Inc.

    Over the years, Lang said, Riverbend has acquired a significant amount of acreage to provide a buffer for its operations and to ensure adequate space for operational support. All told, it has amassed 705 acres.

    Only 85 are currently being devoted to waste storage, and only 60 more are being proposed for that purpose in the future.

    "We never planned to put landfill on most of the land," Lang said. "Now, as we look forward, we expect to only need a small portion of this land for future landfill operation."

    Riverbend recently released a map delineating the various tracts under its ownership. She said it is asking the committee to help it develop a clear picture of long-term needs, providing an opportunity for "the community to use the other acreage."

    Lang said the aim of the visioning process is to chart a course for how Waste Management land can be used in ways that are important to a broad cross-section of the community.

    Riverbend began by creating a three-member nominating committee, consisting of Jeb Bladine, publisher and president of the News-Register; Ed Gormley, a prominent businessman and six-term mayor; and Lee Vasquez, a former county sheriff and long-time civic leader. Eventually, they developed a list of 32, each invited to serve a three-year term.

    When the group was convened for the first time Thursday night, Vasquez said, "This meeting is not about the landfill. Waste Management is trying to be a partner with the community."

    Member Murry Paolo, who serves both the city and county as information technology director, said he was both surprised and pleased with the overall positive tone of the meeting. He said there was an undercurrent of concern in the room, but the communication was respectful and productive.

    "I thought it was a problem-solving environment," Paolo said. "You can get a lot of stuff done in that kind of environment. It's a pleasure to be a part of it."

    Member Susan Meredith, a landfill neighbor helping lead opposition to landfill expansion through the citizen group Waste Not, agreed with that assessment. "It was a really diverse group of people, there was good dialogue and a lot of listening," she said.

    But she also said, "Speaking for myself, my hope is by seeking to actively engage the community in this planning process, it's not going to serve to divert the community's attention and cause the community to lose sight of the core issue, which the community needs to address - and that is the current and continued dumping of millions of tons of garbage in the flood plain and on the banks of the South Yamhill river, creating an ever larger mountain of trash in the midst of our verdant valley. I'm going into this very open-minded, but everybody knows where I'm coming from."