Vernonia Local News

A Summer With Northwest Youth Corp

Bridger Stewart and Brad Ely, both graduates of Vernonia High School, spent time this past summer as part of the Northwest Youth Corp program.  The following is their account of what they experienced.


When I was in my freshman year of high school, a friend of mine had just returned from a session at Northwest Youth Corps. He told me all about the program, what they did, where they did it, and all of the amazing people who ran the crews. It sounded so cool!

The following Summer I was able to become a Corp member and had a blast. When you go out for a session, you are placed on a 12 person crew of likeminded individuals who have the passion and drive for conservation work, such as invasive species removal, trail restoration, and some fencing projects as well. It’s eight to ten hour days, sunshine or snow, swinging a tool to help shape a new section of trail that people will get to enjoy, all because of you and your crew.

After my first session I was immediately hooked, the lifestyle of a trail dog was the life for me. Granted we only got a shower once a week, didn’t have any electronic devices, and had no cell phones. I know that all sounds very scary for some people out there, however, as soon as you give up these luxuries for a measly five weeks, you become more in tune with the things around you, like the awesome people you’ll meet, the beautiful things mother nature created, and you become more of a grounded person in my opinion.

NotyhwestYouthCorpBridger-webThis summer I was given the opportunity to work for them again as a BLP member. BLP stands for Backcountry Leadership Program, which is made up of the people who stand out on the front country crews and who are chosen to become part of BLP the following year. My crew was a very interesting bunch, a lot of people you would never have guessed would have gotten along so well.

For five weeks we built trail reinforcements and did general trail maintenance at 9700 feet in the Sawtooth Mountain Range in Idaho. It was truly a breathtaking moment when we would wake up an hour before daylight, hike to the tallest ridge next to our camp to go to work and watch the sun rise. I’ve never seen something as beautiful as I did on those days.

For anyone that truly enjoys the outdoors, doesn’t mind doing something hard, but extremely rewarding, and has a drive to become a better person, I highly recommend this program. Oh and you get paid for it too, with an Americorp scholarship to go along with it.

So if you want to get out into the woods, swing a tool, meet some awesome people, and get paid to do it, go to

~Bridger Steward


My experience at Northwest Youth Corps (NYC) this summer was a very interesting one. For those who don’t know, NYC is an opportunity for youth between 15 and 18 to get outdoors and learn about nature, create/maintain trails and remove invasive plants, while earning an educational stipend. You can apply for different sessions, determining when and where you will work. I was put into South 4, the session taking place in southern Oregon the latter half of the summer and got paired up with 9 other kids in Red Crew who came from as far away as New York. I didn’t think that I would come to enjoy their company as much as I did. On weekends we rejoined the yellow, green and blue crews to camp and take recreational trips to nearby points of interest like Crater Lake.

We started our first week on an island close to Eugene brushing out an old dirt trail. It felt slow because of all the new experiences I was having (like getting up every day at 4:30 am), and it was also our most difficult week overall, with nine wasp nests and 104 degree temperatures. The second week, we pulled a ton of knapweed and sweet clover on logging roads. We also had an incident where our cooler was briefly stolen, prompting us to change campsites. The third and fourth week we built a trail to Opal Lake, a nice little lake a few hours away from Eugene. We also found a throwing axe in the woods, which was really cool. The fifth and final week was spent pulling English ivy off of a hillside.  NorthwestYouthCorpGroup-web

At the end of my trip, I realized that I had connected to all of these people on a very personal level. We worked, laughed, and lived together, and it drew us very close together. I may have liked some more than others, but I will miss them and the experiences that we shared.  I learned valuable life skills and that I can push through difficult situations while working to keep a positive mental attitude.  I really benefited from the structure of the program emphasizing personal responsibility and individual growth.  I definitely learned to appreciate many of the things that I take for granted at home, like time to relax and a hot shower each day.  I also learned that mayonnaise does not actually NEED refrigeration.

I would recommend NYC to anyone who is willing to put in the physical labor and long days in exchange for a unique experience where you can find new friends, see new places, and discover parts of yourself.

~Brad Ely

Keturah Coffee Roasters: Artisan Coffee Crafted in Vernonia

Vernonians now have a new option for a really great cup of coffee right here in town.

Sam and Kari Hough are now roasting small batches of artisan coffee in their home and are making it available for purchase.

KeturahCoffeeRoastingBeans-webSmall batch artisan coffee is a newer movement built on the idea that consumers are interested in knowing about the product farm-to-cup.  The coffee generally uses high quality beans that are lightly and medium roasted to retain the flavors from the region where they are grown and can be personally roasted to fit the taste of the consumer.

“We’re happy to be introducing people to the world of good, fresh coffee, said Sam Hough during a recent visit to see their coffee roasting operation.

What started as a hobby and a desire to drink the best coffee they could brew, the Houghs have expanded their passion into a small, home based business.

“I’ve been roasting my own coffee for quite a long time,” said Sam. “I started out doing it in a frying pan, and learned how to roast it really well that way, and then moved into using a popcorn popper. Back then we were doing it for ourselves and giving it to friends as gifts, and people really liked our coffee.”

KeturahCoffeeFamily-webSam is the pastor at the Vernonia Christian Church and Kari does pet grooming and pet care in the community.  They homeschool their children, and have created a small urban farm on their property on OA Hill, with rabbits, chickens, bees, a small orchard and they make their own kambucha and keiffer.  A home based coffee roasting business was a perfect fit, something they could fit in around their somewhat flexible schedules and other responsibilities.

Sam says his goal is to build up some small and medium wholesale accounts; he’s already secured several through connections in Vernonia.  A local Bed and Breakfast is using their coffees as well as several local realtors in gift baskets for new clients.  They have also established a good retail following of locals who stop by to pick up their roasted coffee beans or have them delivered by Sam or Kari.  They’ve also started a website ( where customers can order coffee for mail shipment or delivery if they live in Vernonia.  The website also features high quality coffee grinders, drip coffee makers and espresso machines that can be purchased through Keturah Coffee Roasters.   Read More

Council Hires Mitchell for City Administrator

The City of Vernonia has hired Josette Mitchell to be the new City Administrator.

Mitchell was offered the City Administrators position following the September 8, 2015 City Council meeting.

“We’re pleased to have Josette Mitchell as our new City Administrator,” said Mayor Randy Parrow. “We look forward to having someone in this position who is familiar with our community and has a solid working knowledge of the City’s current goals and projects.”

Mitchell was elected as Mayor three times in 2010, 2012, and 2014 before stepping down to take the position of City Recorder/Assistant to the City Administrator this past March.  Mitchell has previously served as Interim City Administrator on two separate occasions.  She replaces former City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone who was relieved of his duties on August 12.

There had been some speculation that Mitchell would again be named Interim City Administrator  following Mammone’s dismissal.  But instead the City Council chose to offer her the full position and forego any further search or interview any additional candidates.

“Josette has shown her commitment to the City of Vernonia over the last several years,” said Mayor Parrow.  “She has earned this opportunity and we look forward to working with her and helping her succeed in moving the City forward.”

Terms of Mitchell’s contract were not made public.

Heavy Rains Friday and Saturday Could Mean Problems Traveling in NW Oregon

Road surfaces get slick and traveling gets tricky when rain first falls after a long dry spell

With the weekend forecast predicting heavy rains in Northwest Oregon, travelers need to be prepared for difficult conditions. Oil and grease don’t wash away during the dry season; they come to the surface when the next rain comes, which can make roads unexpectedly slick and treacherous.

“Hazards created by snow and ice are obvious but the travel hazards that come with the first rain after a long dry spell can catch you by surprise,” said Rian Windsheimer, ODOT Region Manager for the Portland area. “Roads will be slick, especially in the first few hours. Drivers and bicyclists, please slow down, give yourself extra stopping distance and please be aware of the possibly slick conditions.”

Be aware of conditions

Rain can create dangerous travel conditions with reduced visibility, reduced traction between tires and the road and less predictable handling for cars, motorcycles and bicycles. When it’s raining, be cautious and give yourself more time to get where you’re going. Also remember to:

  • Slow down. Driving through water at high speed can cause you to lose control. Lowering your speed helps you avoid sudden stops caused by disabled cars, debris and other hazards.
  • Expect road surfaces to be slick. The first few hours of rain can be the most dangerous.
  • Turn on your headlights to improve visibility. Disengage your cruise control.
  • Keep your distance. A car needs two to three times more stopping distance on wet roads.
  • Motorists and bicyclists must watch for each other: Cars won’t stop as quickly and bicycles may be harder to see. Give riders room!

Maintain your vehicle

The most common vehicle problems in wet weather involve wipers, brakes, tires and defrosters.

  • Check your wipers. Replace wiper blades regularly.
  • Make sure your defroster is functioning properly, especially if you haven’t used it in a while.
  • Check your brakes. After driving through a puddle, check that brakes are working properly by tapping them gently a few times.
  • Check your tires. Make sure tires are in good condition and are at the recommended inflation level. Tires should have at least 1/32 of an inch tread depth at any two adjacent grooves, the minimum allowable by law. Driving on over-inflated or under-inflated tires is dangerous on wet pavement.

Watch for hydroplaning conditions

Hydroplaning occurs when your front tires surf on a film of water. It can occur at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour, especially if tires are worn. If you hydroplane, ease off the gas, gently apply the brakes and steer straight ahead.

Know before you go

For updated information on highway work and current travel information throughout Oregon, visit or call the Oregon road report at 511 or 1-800-977-6368.

Apiary Road Closure

Columbia County Road Department will be closing Apiary Road at MP 17.7 from August 31st to September 16th.

Closure will be for construction crews to replace a double culvert with a new concrete arch culvert. Alternate routes will be Hwy 47 into Clatskanie or Scappoose-Vernonia Hwy to Hwy 30.

For details and questions about the project please contact road department office for project details.

To stay up to date on all Road Department activities and project details please follow us on Facebook. Link is on Center of page

City of Vernonia, USDA Break Ground on Wastewater System Improvement Project

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Join the City of Vernonia, USDA Rural Development, elected officials, and residents to celebrate the groundbreaking for a wastewater system improvement project nearly 20 years in the making. Funded by Rural Development, this project will improve water quality for the local community and native fish species while also upgrading the town’s infrastructure and safeguarding it against flooding.

Who:         The groundbreaking ceremony will be attended by City of Vernonia Mayor Randall J. Parrow; USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker; representatives from the Offices of Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici; staff from both the City of Vernonia and USDA; and representatives from the construction company Tetra Tech. Also invited are representatives from the State of Oregon, local officials, and the public.

What:        A groundbreaking ceremony for the City of Vernonia’s wastewater treatment system improvement project.

When:       Tuesday, August 25, 2015,  11:00 AM  Read More

James “Jim” Thomas Johns- Obituary

James Thomas Johns “Jim” was born on January 13, 1927 in a small logging town.  Vernonia was his birthplace and life-long home.  He was the first born of George “Scotty” and Katherine (Fulton) Johns.  Jim passed away quietly at the family home on August 18, 2015.

Jim was raised and received his education in the Vernonia community.  The first school he attended was Pleasant Hill, attending Washington Grade School in his 8th grade year, completing his education in the Vernonia High School Class of 1945.

Jim enlisted in the Navy in January of 1945 and proudly served is country in WWII.  He attended Pacific University and received a degree in business.  This was the only time he lived outside the Vernonia community.

He was drafted into being a “fill-in” teacher by the principal of Washington Grade School.  After a short time he realized he had found his calling and began taking classes and earned a teaching degree.  He met and married his sweetheart Ginger while both were teaching at Washington Grade School.  They both spent their entire career at WGS.

After 34 years of teaching Jim retired so he could spend more time doing what he loved….being in the outdoors.  He  thoroughly enjoyed hunting and fishing and  many pack trips spent with friends.  Jim’s most cherished moments were spending time with his son Tim.

After retiring he and Ginger enjoyed travelling around the country with friends.  They spent time in Mexico, Alaska and all over the Northwest.  He especially enjoyed spending time with Tim, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ask anyone who has gone to school in Vernonia and they will have a Mr. Johns story to tell.  He was loved and respected by all who knew him.  His legacy will live long in Vernonia and beyond.

To send the family condolences visit

Council Eases Water Restrictions for Food Gardens

The Vernonia City Council voted to ease water curtailment restrictions by removing language that included vegetable and fruit gardens from an established Ordinance.  

Council adopted Ordinance 907 at their August 17 meeting, which amends Section 4 of  Ordinance 796, and prohibits the nonessential use of water.  Ordinance 796, signed in 2003, sets in place water curtailment provisions and declares a water shortage emergency of drought water levels in Rock Creek. The newly adopted language removes wording that placed restrictions on “gardens, vegetables”  and adds the language “Direct hand watering of food producing plants (herbs, fruit, and vegetables) shall be permitted,” during Third Level of Concern in a water shortage situation.

Vernonia Water Curtailment Measures include four Levels of Concern based on flow levels of Rock Creek where the City water system intake is located,  and establishes progressively more strict water use reduction steps.

The City is currently in the Third Level of Concern based on flows in Rock Creek decreasing to 10 cubic feet per second (cfs).

Ordinance 907 retains the original ordinance language that restricts watering of shrubbery, trees lawns, grass, ground covers, plants, vines, flowers or other vegetation.

Any citizen who does not comply with water restrictions can have their service disconnected by the City after one warning and be subject to fees to reconnect the service. Read More

Vernonia Council Fires City Administrator

The Vernonia City Council voted unanimously late on Tuesday,  August 11, 2015 to terminate the contract  of City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone without cause.

The vote followed an Executive Session scheduled by the Council to perform an annual job performance review for Mammone.

Terms of the contract separation were not immediately available.

Mammone was hired as the City Administrator in August 2014.

Council has not named a successor, but will discuss the situation at their August 17, 2015 meeting.

Former VHS Student Composes, Conducts Vernonia Overture

A former Vernonia High School student has composed a piece of orchestral music, dedicated to the community of Vernonia and his classmates at VHS.

VernoniaOverture-webNate McCroskey-Izzett, a senior at Mazama High School in Klamath Falls, Oregon, directed the world premiere performance of Vernonia Overture, which he composed, at the Klamath Falls Community Band concert on April 12, 2015.  The composition was inspired by the devastation and recovery that the community experienced during and following the December 3, 2007 flood.

McCroskey-Izzett is the son of former Vernonia Band Instructor Rob Izzett, who now teaches at Mazama High School.  Izzett led the Vernonia Band when they won the State Championship in 2012.

McCroskey-Izzett began composing the musical piece while he was a sophomore at Vernonia High School.  He and his family moved to Klaamth Falls in 2013, and McCroskey-Izzett completed the seven minute composition as his Senior Project. He worked with noted American composer Robert Sheldon as his mentor for the project.  McCroskey-Izzett and Sheldon became acquainted following the flood when Sheldon, the head of instrumental music for Alfred Publishing, donated sixty music titles to the Vernonia School when he heard about the devastation and the loss of Rob Izzett’s music library in the flood.  Sheldon provided guidance and instruction to McCroskey-Izzett via email during the composition of the piece.  Read More