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A major mail milestone

Baker City Herald

Another building in Baker City hits the century mark on Wednesday — the first day of business at the old post office building was Oct. 20, 1910.

Construction began in the summer of 1909, and was scheduled to be compete by July 10, 1910. The three-month delay was due, in part, to the Post Office Administration’s hesitation to approve the terrazo flooring, which consisted of a mixture of concrete and marble chips.

The problem was resolved, and the building opened in October.

City Council mulls gravestone rules

Baker City Herald

A gravesite that straddles a boundary at Baker City’s Mount Hope Cemetery has prompted city officials to delve into the history of where upright headstones should be allowed.

In 1978, the City Council passed an ordinance that requires flat headstones.

Joyce Bornstedt, who works for the city and manages operations at the cemetery, said that ordinance does allow upright headstones in the Veterans section.

It also authorizes the city manager to approve upright headstones in the Masonic section.

However, in the 32 years since the ordinance took effect the city has rarely enforced it.

On the home front, everyone can help

Baker City Herald

Deb Gargalis wanted to show support for the hundreds of military veterans, both old and young, who live in Baker, Union and Wallowa counties.

Some fought in World War II, others in Vietnam, Korean, Iraq, Afghanistan.

There also are peacetime veterans — those who weren’t deployed to a war zone but volunteered their time to ensure the security of the nation and were ready to head out if the need arose.

And there are families who are at this moment separated, waiting for their loved ones to return from Iraq or Afghanistan.

None of these veterans, Gargalis said, should be ignored.

Digging up dinner

Baker City Herald

The slices of Bosc pear drew smiles.

The cubes of steamed pumpkin didn’t get quite the same reaction — some youngsters swallowed it whole, while others cringed at one tiny taste.

But all the elementary students at Powder Valley School at least tried these items, a goal of Farm to School, which connects schools with local farms to improve school lunches while supporting local agriculture.

“It’s been fun to see the kids learn new foods, and learn that you can cook a pumpkin,” said Wendy Bingham, committee chair for Farm to School.

Powder’s pilot program is part of the three-year Union County Farm to School program, which was funded in December 2009 with a grant from Meyer Memorial Trust, and in partnership with Union County Fit Kids and Oregon Rural Action.

Vigil for domestic violence victims

Tears, and triumphs

It was an evening of tears for many of the domestic violence survivors and advocates who gathered in Geiser-Pollman Park Tuesday night.

They remembered those who died before they could escape the cycle of abuse.

And they celebrated those who are working toward a better life for themselves and their families.

MayDay, Baker County’s advocacy center for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse, sponsored the event as part of its recognition of October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Michele Woods, MayDay executive director, and her staff offered support and encouragement to the crowd of about 90 people, including mothers and their children from Recovery Village, an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program in Baker City operated by New Directions Northwest.

Woods fought back tears as she read a poem written by a woman whose friend was murdered by her husband in an act of domestic violence.

 The longtime domestic violence advocate said after the vigil that this has been a particularly difficult year for the MayDay staff due in part to the August murder of Christina “Christy” Blankenship.

Local streams added to bull trout habitat list

Forest Service official expects little effect, because agency already managing streams to protect the fish

The federal government on Tuesday added sections of about 30 streams in Baker County to the list of critical habitat for the bull trout, a threatened species.

Among the newly designated critical habitat are reaches of several creeks in the Elkhorn Mountains west of Baker City, and about 25 streams in the southern Wallowa Mountains near Halfway and Richland.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first proposed the Baker County waterways, which total about 325 miles, as critical habitat in January of this year.

Although the federal Endangered Species Act requires agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service to protect critical habitat, Tuesday’s decision probably won’t have a major effect locally on how the agency manages public land.

The reason, said Paul Boehne, fish biologist for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, is that the forest, since the bull trout was listed as a threatened species in 1998, has managed streams that could harbor the fish as though they did have bull trout population.

The agency did so because streams can be designated as critical habitat even if biologists haven’t found, or even looked for, bull trout in them.

BLM warns of possible mine hazards

Agency mailed letters to mining claim holders, but BLM can actually deal with just a small percentage of the problems each year

The Bureau of Land Management has mailed letters to about 4,000 miners, including 155 in Oregon, alerting them to possible abandoned shafts or other hazards on their mining claims on BLM land.

The letters are part of a BLM campaign to reduce or eliminate dangers associated with old mines.

“We’re taking a proactive approach to warning active mining claimants whose mining claims include hazardous sites,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said in a press release.

The letters, which were mailed within the past week, went only to miners with claims on BLM land.

In the Baker-Grant county region, the most productive gold-mining area in Oregon late in the 19th century and early in the 20th, the majority of the current active mining claims are on public land managed by the Forest Service rather than the BLM.

Budding farmers bring in the harvest

Who knew that carrot stems could be used to swat away flies — and pesky boys?

That was just one of the discoveries Wednesday when 80 youngsters from Powder Valley School invaded the gardens of Valerie and Rod Tachenko of Medical Springs.

The field trip was part of Powder’s Farm-to-School program, which is sponsored by Oregon Rural Action.

Last May, Val Tachenko went to the school and helped the students plant pumpkin seeds, which they tended for a month.

On June 1, the kids took their pumpkins out to the farm for planting. Each plant was marked with a wooden stick that had the child’s name on one side and the pumpkin’s name on the other.

Those pumpkins grew all summer, and Wednesday was harvest day.

Anthony Lakes Highway rebuild nearly done

The rebuilding of a nearly 10-mile section of the Anthony Lakes Highway is almost finished.

The project’s contractors were “tickled about the warm weather so they could finish the work,” said Judy Wing, public information officer for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

High Desert Aggregate and Paving Inc. of Redmond started work in June.

The 9.5-mile job starts at the Wallowa-Whitman boundary and continues up into the Elkhorn Mountains to a sno-park just beyond Ski Anthony Lakes resort.

Two local veterans honored with trip to Washington, D.C.

Milt Prowell spent a little more than two years in the U.S. Army during the final phase of World War II, serving in France, Germany and Belgium.

Marie Colombari served just 28 days shy of  two years in the WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service), working in the main post office at the Naval Training Center in San Diego.

Prowell was drafted into the U.S. Army from his Beaver Creek farm just south of Baker City in 1944, two years after he graduated from Baker High School. After the service he returned to the farm where he worked for several years before establishing P&E Distributing in 1967 with his nephew, Ed Elms. Prowell retired in 1981.

Colombari, a 1941 graduate of Pine Valley High School at Halfway, first worked in the Portland shipyards before enlisting in the WAVES in 1944. She also returned to Baker County after she was discharged in May 1946. She married Bari Colombari and settled in Baker City where they raised three children.

And now, more than half a century later, both Prowell and Colombari are being honored for their dedication to their country during war as part of the Eastern Oregon Honor Flight, which leaves Portland Thursday en route for Washington, D.C.

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