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All aboard the ‘Suwee!’ express

Richard Weigel of the Island City Lions Club pilots the Pig Train in Haines during the town's Fourth of July Festivities. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
Around 11 a.m. on Sunday a casual onlooker may have taken note of the band playing the Johnny Cash song “Folsom Prison Blues” at the Haines Fourth of July Barbecue in the Park.

The same onlooker might also have noticed a train of a different sort rolling round the bend.

Though maybe not until the conductor, Dick Weigel, shouted his version of the typical “All aboard” call.

“Pig train ride. SUWEE!” he called to the eight children, and several parents, eager to jump in one of pigs.

The song went on with the lyrics, “I hear the train a comin.’ It’s rollin’ ’round the bend ... ”

As if on cue, Weigel announced, “Pig train ride is off and running like a herd of pigs,” as he began making loops in the center of Front Street. “SUWEE!”


Jubilee street dance revived

Molly Ragsdale has been dancing in the street for almost 30 years.

Except for last year.

Because of budget constraints the annual Miners Jubilee Street Dance did not happen in 2009.

This bothered Ragsdale, who owns the Chamealeon Cafe on Main Street in downtown Baker City.

“The one thing we remember from the Miners Jubilee is the street dance,” she said. “It’s been going on since I was 11 and probably before that,” she said.

She didn’t realize last year that there wasn’t going to be a dance.

Until there wasn’t one.


Parking a priority at Virtue Flat OHV area

BLM uses state grants to add parking area at popular riding site just east of Baker City

Bureau of Land Management employees begin one of the improvement projects Monday at the All Terrain Vehicle area east of Baker City. One large cattle guard and gate will replace two smaller guards. From left to right are Kate Vaughan, Mike Freeland, Bill Owens and Paul Barber in the Bobcat. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins)
The BLM has spent more than $25,000 in state grants over the past year to make improvements at the Virtue Flat Off-Highway Vehicle area about seven miles east of Baker City.

The money, from ATV permit fees, was part of the total of $34,624 that the BLM received from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department for the fiscal year that ended Wednesday.

BLM contributed $21,000 to leverage the state grants, said Kevin McCoy of the BLM’s Baker Field Area office in Baker City.

Although the Baker Field Area extends all the way north to Asotin County, Wash., McCoy said the BLM spent the bulk of its state grant allotment this past fiscal year at Virtue Flat due to the volume of people who ride motorcycles and four-wheelers there.

The 3,500-acre area, between Ruckles Creek Road and Highway 86, is also open to hikers, mountain bikers and full-size vehicles.

BLM employee Kevin Hoskins said Virtue Flat “is unique on the east side of the state in that it allows open riding and rock crawling for Class I, Class II and Class III ATVs.”

On Tuesday, BLM seasonal employees under Hoskins’ supervision used a grader to spread pit-run gravel on a new parking lot near the main staging area just north of Ruckles Creek Road.


School board appoints Bryan

Andrew Bryan, a Baker City businessman and former vice mayor who served on the Baker City Council for 3fi years before resigning on May 28, has been appointed to the Baker School Board.

Bryan, 45, who has worked as an educational consultant for the past 20 years, applied for the seat after the call for volunteers was extended.

The two other applicants are Michael Howe, communications and government affairs specialist for the Oregon Trail Electric Consumers Cooperative, and Will Benson, Baker County Parole and Probation supervisor for the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.

The school board interviewed all three men during a special noon board meeting Thursday.

After the interviews the board voted unanimously, 4-0, to appoint Bryan to the year-long seat vacated by Deon Strommer, who resigned in June.

Although director Lynne Burroughs cast her vote along with fellow board members, she expressed reluctance to support Bryan, who had been in the minority of a 4-3 split between councilors during part of his City Council term.


Wegener braces for 5J budget task

The setting has changed, but the challenges remain the same for Walt Wegener as he settles into his new home in Baker City and his new office as the Baker School District’s new superintendent.

“I stepped out of one pan and into another and the heat was still on,” he said in a Wednesday interview at the Baker City Herald office between moving chores.

He spent four hours at the district office Tuesday and another hour there Wednesday. Thursday, July 1, was his first official full day on duty.

The board chose Wegener from three finalists who traveled to Baker City for interviews this spring in their bid to replace Don Ulrey, who served the district as superintendent for nearly eight years before retiring in April.


Business worried that road closure misunderstanding is driving away customers

Reader board at Baker City lists the right road, but fears remain that travelers might be misled by the mileage

Misconceptions over which road in eastern Baker County is closed due to flood damage has caused problems for at least one business in that area.

In early June, flood-swollen North Pine Creek destroyed a 500-foot section of the Wallowa Mountain Loop Road north of Highway 86.

The Loop Road, also known as Forest Road 39, connects Highway 86 with Wallowa County.

A reader board at the Interstate 84 and Highway 86 junction in north Baker City reads “Forest Road 39 Closed 60 Miles Ahead.”

The dilemma, said Debi Bainter of the Baker Chamber of Commerce, is the possibility that some travelers, on seeing the reader board, assume that Highway 86, which leads to Oxbow and Hells Canyon Dam, is closed.


City looks again to eBay to dump old stuff

So your faithful half-ton pickup truck has lately seemed, well, a trifle wimpy.

You could upgrade to a heavy duty one-ton model.

But why not dispense with such half-hearted measures altogether and just get yourself a dump truck.

A real dump truck.

One that can haul five cubic yards of whatever it is you need to haul.

Which is enough to pretty much bury your garden-variety pickup.

Or, speaking of gardens, enough topsoil to start a plot of sufficient size to keep your whole neighborhood in vegetables all summer.

Baker City has the truck.


Farmers Market plants roots on Wednesdays

Only one vendor was interested in setting up on Saturdays, too

Due to a lack of vendor interest, the Baker City Farmers Market will not be happening on Saturdays this summer.

But you can still find fresh vegetables, fruit, art, handmade soaps and more at the Wednesday markets, held from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Geiser-Pollman Park.

Rather than spread a few vendors over two markets, the board decided to consolidate all into one market.

They tried to keep Saturdays.

“We advertised for five weeks for vendors,” said Ellie Feeley, market manager.

But no one responded.

Their plan is to make the Wednesday market an event, with lots of vendors, live music and special events throughout the summer, including the annual watermelon giveaway, a salsa festival, a pie contest and a harvest festival to end the season.


Europe tour spurs forester’s interest in biomass

Bob Parker of the OSU Extension Service says tactics used in Austria, Slovenia could be applied in Baker County forests

Bob Parker had to travel quite a distance from his Baker City office to attend a conference of foresters last month.

To Slovenia, to be specific.

Parker, who is the Oregon State University Extension Service forester in Baker County, participated in the weeklong conference of the International Union of Forest Research at Bled, Slovenia.

But that was only part of his journey.

Before the conference Parker also toured forests in Austria and Hungary.

He returned with ideas on how the Europeans are working to become more energy independent and tips on safety.

And one experience that left him stunned.

Parker said that in the first part of the 20th century the Slovenes heavily logged their forests, leaving areas looking more like deserts.

Then, about 100 years ago, a group of Slovenes set out to fix this problem. They walked through the forest, dug holes and planted millions of trees.


Bogart to resign Sept. 23

Baker City Manager Steve Bogart will resign Sept. 23, less than 10 months after the City Council hired him.

Bogart said his decision came about because the city’s budget committee and the City Council largely ignored his proposed budget and made changes that ultimately resulted in four employees losing their jobs or employment contracts.

The new budget takes effect with the start of the fiscal year on Thursday.

“I am not comfortable with the adopted budget and don’t feel that I can do the job that you feel needs done,” Bogart wrote in a letter of resignation he submitted to the City Council on Friday.

“Though I recognize the real financial challenges that confront the City of Baker City, I am not as anxious about the city’s financial future as its functional one,” Bogart wrote.

Bogart said he made his resignation effective Sept. 23 to give the city time to find his replacement.

Mayor Dennis Dorrah said Bogart’s resignation didn’t come as a surprise, because Bogart informed the Council of his intention to quit a couple weeks ago, during the budgeting process.

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