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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Welcome to the Jungle

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Welcome to the Jungle

The public is invited to help clean up the Boys Jungle Saturday. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
The public is invited to help clean up the Boys Jungle Saturday. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).

By CHRIS COLLINS

Of the Baker City Herald

"We need lots of people; lots of trucks; and a couple of chain saws."

That's Dean Barnes' plea to the community as he prepares for Saturday's Boys Jungle Restoration Project. He is the Baker County Juvenile Department's youth accountability officer.

Volunteers are being asked to bring work gloves and a sense of community spirit to join the work effort begun this summer.

Saturday's event begins at 8 a.m. when community volunteers are being asked to gather at the corner of D and Walnut streets in east Baker City. They will be divided into groups to load piles of broken limbs, brush and other debris gathered by Barnes' court-involved juvenile community service workers.

Spence Industrial Supply will be donating any equipment needed to support Saturday's project, Barnes added.

Firewood from the site will be given to Community Connections and the Northeast Oregon Compassion Center for distribution to needy residents for use as winter fuel.

The event is co-sponsored by the juvenile department and the Baker County Prevention & Education Center. Barnes and Tammy Bloomer, the prevention program's mobilization coordinator, received a $250 grant from SOLV (Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism) to help pay expenses for the community project.

The Boys Jungle, which is situated along the Powder River between Main and Walnut streets in east Baker City, has attracted neighborhood children for as long as many longtime residents can remember.

Gary Dielman recalls that it was well known when he moved to town with his family as a child in 1943. He believes the stand of trees in the area probably dates back to the 1860s when a surveyor noted the course of the river "was lined with willows."

The juvenile department's efforts to clean up the area were first motivated by trying to eliminate hiding places for delinquent children and others intent on criminal activity, Barnes said. The project has since expanded to include plans to develop a park in the area.

"The negative activities, I think, are reduced," Barnes said. "That's been one of our goals."

And on the positive side, Barnes has noticed increased use of the area by adults who bring their young children to the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway to play.

The summer's first work crew included only teens required to perform community service work who owed restitution to their victims. Barnes presently supervises about 25 young people.

The summer cleanup was funded by a $6,000 Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant, according to Chris Black, juvenile department director. The grant required the workers to direct all of their $6.50-per-hour earnings to repaying their victims.

The effort attracted several young people who simply wanted to volunteer their time, Barnes said. And some of the court-involved youth have continued the work even after their obligations were fulfilled.

"It's been neat to see, as the process goes on, how these kids are getting involved," he added.

The county owns the property west from Walnut Street to the Leo Adler Memorial Parkway. The parkway travels near the Boys Jungle where Saturday's work will be done. Property to the west of the parkway is owned by Ben Dean.

Barnes said the goal is to continue to open up the area to provide residents a safer environment. Eventually, the juvenile department, with the county's support, hopes to level the ground, plant grass and add benches and lighting.

In addition to enhancing the parkway, the improvements also would benefit proposed development of D Street west from Walnut to Main Street, Black said.

When Saturday's cleanup ends at noon, participants will be served free hot dogs and soda courtesy of the prevention center, Bloomer said.

Volunteers are asked to sign up by calling 524-2135 to allow organizers to plan ahead.

"We hope to get the community involved in knowing what the juvenile department has been doing and to get adults and young people together," Bloomer said.

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