All posts by Bill Langmaid

The Real Estate Market is Booming

VMRSpring2015RealEstateweb            2014 was a very good year for real estate sales in Vernonia. According to local agents 2015 looks like it will be even better.

“The real estate market in Vernonia has changed dramatically since 2013” says Sharon Bernal, a local broker with John L. Scott Realtors. Bernal handles numerous Vernonia properties each year as well as other properties around the tri-county area.

In 2014 a total of seventy-seven real estate transactions took place in Vernonia and Bernal says she had her best year ever, closing sixty-six transactions; thirty-four of those were in Vernonia.

Bernal says she expects that trend to continue. “I think Vernonia is going to have a fabulous year in 2015.”

According to Bernal, the region’s real estate market reached it’s peak in 2006 and then hit bottom in January of 2013 during the recession. During that time Bernal says homeowners lost forty percent of their property values. “We never thought it would go down as far as it did,” says Bernal.

The market has been slowly recovering through 2013 and then really turned around in 2014.   In general, prices in Vernonia are usually lower than the rest of the tri-county region, a trend which tends to drive buyers to the Vernonia area when prices start to rise.

“One of the problems we have today is there are not a lot of sellers with equity,” says Bernal. She explains that sellers with equity everywhere, not just in Vernonia, jumped in and sold when the market rebounded in 2014. “That’s part of the reason we had such a good year.”

Bernal said the average price of properties she sold in Vernonia in 2014 was $160,000.

According to Bernal this year there are emerging a few sellers in western Washington County and the rest of the region that have equity in their properties. Quality homes that go on the market at a reasonable price are receiving multiple offers. Bernal says buyers are getting tired of finding the right home and deciding to make an offer, only to end up being outbid. “I just had a client out here last weekend that said, ‘We don’t want to play that game anymore.’”

Vernonia is close enough to Hillsboro and the jobs in high tech and other industries, making the thirty-five minute commute with almost no traffic very appealing. “Our problem in Vernonia now is having enough listings,” says Bernal.

It’s not just the short commute to work that makes Vernonia a desirable location for buyers. Most lots in Vernonia are fifty by 100 feet or larger, which is much more space than buyers will find elsewhere. “I’m seeing a movement of people wanting to go back to a simpler lifestyle,” explains Bernal. “People are loving Vernonia because even if they buy in a subdivision or a city lot, they are getting a whole lot more space to garden or have animals.”

Bernal says another draw is the local school. She says families are tired of their children being just a number in the large districts and find the personalized attention and involvement of staff in the smaller district setting as “a difference of night and day.” The new LEED platinum, energy efficient campus is also a selling point to younger families.

Easy access to outdoor recreational activities makes Vernonia a great choice for families and young adults as well, with rivers, streams, timberland, parks and trails practically in the backyard. “They can get on their bikes or motorcycles and go,” says Bernal.

Although Bernal says young families make up the majority of her buyers, the new health clinic facility and twenty-four hour ambulance service also makes Vernonia appealing to retirees.

Property taxes are much lower in Columbia County, which is an additional bonus. “There is no comparison to the tri-counties,” says Bernal.

The close knit community is also a surprise to some new residents. “Everybody talks about that,” says Bernal. “They come out of these subdivisions in Portland and Beaverton and they don’t even know who their neighbors were. They say, ‘Vernonia is so friendly,’ and it is.” She says the attractive downtown corridor draws potential buyers at first, but the level of community engagement seals the deal. “We have so many committees and opportunities to get involved and make a difference.”

Purchasing and living on acreage is also a motivation for some buyers. According to Bernal bank lending on bare land has loosened up and is currently more readily available. Bernal noted that she had some recent clients in their fifties who were both raised on a dairy farm. They were looking at an early retirement and considering starting a farm in Vernonia. Bernal said she asked them, “Why Vernonia?” “They said the prices were still reasonable and the weather was perfect for a dairy farm,” said Bernal. She added that the most desirable properties – one and two acre lots – are hard to come by, but five and ten acres parcels are starting to make their way back onto the market.

There are several small, new developments being constructed in Vernonia right now which are attractive to some potential buyers. “New construction seems to be moving pretty good,” says Bernal. As an example she mentioned a new home in the Knickerson Ridge development, a custom four bedroom home on a 7,500 square foot lot with plenty of parking and an oversized two car garage, listed at $229,000. “That house in Hillsboro would be listed at $289,000,” says Bernal. “People are driven to come out and look at that property.” Other small subdivisions with new homes are located on Fourth Avenue and in Roseview Court.

Bernal says there are some attractive commercial properties available in Vernonia which have been drawing recent attention, including several in the previously mentioned downtown corridor. “People are interested and they are looking,” said Bernal.

Bernal’s enthusiasm remains constant whether she’s discussing homes, bare land or commercial spaces. “I think it’s going to be a great year for real estate in Vernonia.”

Stub Stewart State Park: Come Play!

If you haven’t visited L. L. Stub Stewart State Park in the last few years, you should make plans to do so soon.

Since its grand opening in 2007 Stub Stewart State Park has seen many changes and the addition of many services and recreational attractions. Located just ten miles south of Vernonia on Highway 47, the park is a great place to go spend a few hours, a day, a weekend or longer and is great to use as a base camp for local day trips; there is plenty to do in this corner of Oregon.

Volunteers assist a family in identify native birds habitating around the Stub Stewart State Park.
Volunteers assist a family in identify native birds inhabiting Stub Stewart State Park.

The park features interpretive programs during the summer months, with ranger led hikes, programs for children and more. Visit the Discovery Depot to find out more about interpretive programs, learn about the history of the region, and pick up park information.

Here are just some of the things to do in this jewell of a park:


Camping: The camping loops at Stub Stewart sure look different from when they first opened in 2007. Two camping loops offer over 75 spacious RV sites with full hook-ups and 12 walk-in tent sites; these loops have flush toilets and hot showers. A play structure has been installed in one loop. The sites are large and spacious and provide a great place for the whole family to relax, play and more.

Brooke Creek hike-in camp is just ¼ mile hike into a grove of large, tall trees for those who prefer a primitive camping experience; communal firepits, pit toilets and water are available at Brooke Creek Campground.

Hares Canyon Horse Camp has 15 full hook-up sites with horse corrals, flush toilets and hot showers.

Mountain Dale Cabin Village offers 15 single and double room cabins (starting mid-June 3 cabins will be pet friendly), flush toilets and hot showers are located within the cabin village. Cabin camping is a great alternative to RV or tent camping, and the cabin village has the best view in the park.

Firewood can be purchased in all camping loops and ice is available for purchase during summer months. Two meeting halls are available for rent for gatherings as well as the covered shelter at Hilltop Day Use Area. Reserve online today at!


A family rests at Beaver Pond before continuing on their bike tour through Stub Stewart Park.
A family rests at Beaver Pond before continuing on their bike tour through Stub Stewart Park.

Mountain Bike Trails: Stub Stewart features one of the best mountain bike specific areas in the region and is being developed by volunteers. The entrance to the area has a kiosk which explains the risk and skill levels on the trails. The easiest level is a cross country trail – a single track which is being built by the Northwest Trail Alliance (NWTA).

The highlight is the free ride area with beginner, intermediate and advanced trails. It is the first mountain bike free ride trail network sanctioned within an Oregon State Park and remains in development by the Westside Trail Federation with more trails and technical features added each season. Skills filters at the start of the trails allow riders to gauge their comfort level for the types of features they will encounter on the trail.

The mountain bike trails are built away from the day use areas. Trail Patrol volunteers provide trail etiquette and safety assistance for users.


Trails: Over 30 miles of mixed use trails, great for hikers, bikers, and equestrian recreation, wind their way throughout the park. There will be continued trail work this summer; bridges are being installed as well as trail re-routes.   Come explore the trails to experience the wildlife that calls Stub Stewart “home.” Hilltop Day Use area is the trailhead for all trails within Stub Stewart State Park, and provides a great view of the coast range! The Banks-Vernonia State Trail offers 21 miles of paved trail with access from trailheads in Banks, Vernonia, Manning, Buxton, Tophill, and Beaver Creek.

StubDiscGolf3webDisc Golf: A challenging 18-hole, forested course is one of the top rated in the state of Oregon!   The course travels through large, tall trees and features both professional and amateur baskets. It is recommended to walk the course prior to playing to determine the basket placement. Disc Golf course maps are available at the Discovery Depot. A 3-hole mini course located between the camping loops acts as a casual starter course for all ages.


Make sure to make a visit to Stub Stewart State Park part of your camping plans this year. You just might be surprised by what you find.


L.L. Stub Stewart State Park is located at 30380 Hwy 47 in Buxton, OR 97109

Park information: 1-800-551-6949 Reservations: 1-800-452-5687

Vernonia’s Schools: A New Model of Sustainability

IMGP8662The center of any tight-knit rural community is its schools. This holds true in Vernonia, where the new K-12 school campus is quite unlike any other in Oregon or the nation.

A major flood damaged much of the town in 2007, and left the schools in dire need of repair. But residents banded together to turn this natural disaster into a powerful opportunity.

Residents rallied behind a vision for education in Vernonia that would tie to the area’s rich natural resource-based history and heritage and connect to a sustainable future. In 2009, district residents overwhelmingly passed a bond measure to provide the down payment toward rebuilding the entire K-12 school district in a safe, central spot on higher ground.

The community’s vision included designing an integrated building that would serve as a model for rural sustainability and also become a “living laboratory,” connecting students to the surrounding ecosystem. The new campus opened in August 2012 with a community event that brought leaders from across the state to Vernonia to help celebrate the momentous occasion.

LEED-2014-PLATINUMAfter three years of operation, the school district announced at a May 2015 event that the campus had received a remarkable recognition. Vernonia has become the first LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design™) Platinum certified integrated K-12 campus in the nation.

globesAt the same time, the district announced that the school had also received a dual certification from the Green Building Initiative’s Green Globes program, with three out of four globes. Green Globes is an emerging alternative to LEED that has recently been approved by the U.S. General Services Administration for federal ratings.

Points were earned for utilizing renewable energy resources, reusing and recycling building materials, improving the efficiency and performance of the building to reduce environmental impact, improving sustainable practices within the building, and many other efforts.

The new Vernonia K–12 Schools were designed and built to meet today’s classroom needs. There is the capacity to expand the school to serve up to 1,000 students—enough room to accommodate 30 years of population growth. The design includes integrated Kindergarten through 12th grade facilities, with a highly compact layout that minimizes cross-traffic among the youngest and oldest students and maximizes energy efficiency.

IMGP3254The building has been sited to provide for optimal solar orientation and natural ventilation, allowing for significant day lighting and reduced energy use. The site has been engineered with constructed wetlands and bioswales which treat, store and send all storm water for release into the nearby Nehalem River.

Some of the sustainability features in the building include radiant in-floor heating and cooling; heating from local biomass fuel; local materials and labor; and wetland education features. Building energy use is monitored as part of a new curriculum focused on natural resources. Overall, annual energy efficiencies will result in long-term operational savings for the school district.

The learning environment is critical to the success of students. And inside and outside of the school’s walls, Vernonia is forging innovative partnerships with higher education institutions and local businesses to conduct research and develop sustainable programs and learning opportunities for students.

As the home of the Oregon Solutions program, Portland State University has been an integral part of the Vernonia story. Oregon Solutions helped the district throughout the siting and new school development process, coordinated a PSU intern-led community vision effort and has helped develop the concept and programs involved with the Vernonia Rural Sustainability Center (VRSC).

PSU professors attended a collaborative campus tour, and used the work being done in Vernonia as part of their students’ research projects. Oregon Solutions continues to play a major role in the resource development efforts tied to the new K-12 school and supporting the recovery efforts in Vernonia.

Oregon State University faculty have been involved in the Oregon Solutions process since the beginning. They have performed professor tours and completed a baseline “Vernonia Vitality” study to determine the impacts and successes of how a rural town rises from the effects of two natural disasters. Vernonia collaborated with the OSU Extension Service, Knappa High School, Philomath High School and several others to develop the curriculum for its forestry program.

This program also has a connection with the local timber industry. Hancock Timber Management and Weyerhaeuser both have partnered with the forestry program, supporting the students with real work experiences as they learn about forestry and timber management.

Vernonia High School offers a natural resources curriculum, working with the Oregon Natural Resources Education Program through OSU to enhance the classroom experience by utilizing these resources, providing students with an opportunity to earn this new certification.

University of Oregon has also been an integral part of the Oregon Solutions process by collaborating on, and conducting, a basic feasibility study to determine the Vernonia Rural Sustainability Center scope and audience.

Another critical partner in helping the school district move forward after the flood has been Portland Community College. They have provided technical support with grant writing, community survey development and implementation of natural resources projects. Students in PCC’s Landscape Technology course engineered a landscape plan for a portion of the new campus that includes a bioswale. This was the first area to be landscaped by students, and it serves as a model for students who will undertake their own native plant landscaping projects in the future.

Vernonia has achieved its vision for sustainable schools quite unlike any other, with national certification recognizing its leadership. This timber town’s school and community center is creating a new model for other rural towns across Oregon and the Northwest.

The LEED® certification trademark owned by the U.S. Green Building Council and is used with permission.

The Life of a Vernonia Commuter


In the old days Vernonians worked in the woods or the mill, cutting down trees and turning them into lumber.

The mill shut down over fifty years ago, and although some locals still work in the woods, things have certainly changed for workers who chose to live in Vernonia. Many work outside of town, commuting each morning to Hillsboro, Beaverton, Portland or other parts of the region. Others telecommute, working from a home office.

The commute from Vernonia is not too bad, depending on the time of day you are traveling. In fact some people enjoy the quiet and scenic drive. It’s just thirty-five minutes to Hillsboro; the first fifteen minutes is through a beautiful forest. It’s a little further to Portland, with a little more traffic, but locals don’t seem to mind the trip.

Jason Riddell works in Research and Development at the Nike campus in Beaverton, making prototypes for new equipment and shoes. He drives forty-two miles each way, five days a week and says it takes him about fifty minutes. Riddell has been making the commute for eleven years and says it doesn’t bother him. “You just get in the car and go on autopilot,” says Riddell. “I drive twice the distance that people I work with who live in Vancouver, but it takes me less time.”

Occasionally Riddell can work from home. “I know someone that lives in Vernonia and works in Accounting—she never comes into the campus. I have a lot of meetings and face time with customers that are required.”

Riddell says living in small town Vernonia makes the commute worthwhile. “I just like the community,” says Riddell. “I live a block away from Vernonia Lake and the Banks-Vernonia Trail system is right there. It’s quiet and you know people.”

Donna Webb is a full time medical transcriptionist for Providence Health and Services who telecommutes four days a week, ten hours a day. Webb says there are other Vernonians working for Providence who also work from home.

For Webb, working from home is not a new concept. “Our department started sending people home to work about twenty-five years ago,” explains Webb. “At first I worked part-time from home and as technology grew I was able to work full time from home.”

Webb says to do her job she just needs an internet connection. She can email or instant message co-workers as needed. Department meetings are held on line. If she has computer problems the IT department can take over her screen and usually fix the issue.

Webb says telecommuting has both pros and cons. The obvious pros are that she doesn’t spend time in the car or money on wear and tear and fuel. If she had to drive into the office on Portland’s east side, she would spend three hours in the car every day.

She says not having to deal with people—customers or co-workers has its advantages, although she does miss some of the human interaction.

She says telecommuting cuts down on employee sick days. She also said that occasionally she feels isolated or “out of the loop” when she works from home.   She also noted that working from home requires great discipline. “People say they couldn’t work from home because they would be distracted and want to do housework or other chores. It’s not for everybody.”

A huge benefit for Webb is that she has more time to spend with family and more time to volunteer and be involved in the community. She says people who commute to work often don’t have the time or the energy to volunteer.

Even though she says she loves working from home, after twenty years Webb says she may be considering a change in the future. “I think I’m ready for more people contact again.”

Kathy Larsen is a data analyst at Daimler Trucks North America. Three days a week she drives an hour to her office on Swan Island in Portland; the other two days she works from the computer in her home office. “My job is very conducive to working from home,” says Larsen. She mostly works alone on ‘ticket driven’ projects and has a queue that gives her the tasks she needs to complete each day.

Larsen says her work doesn’t require a lot of interaction with her co-workers, but if she does need to talk with someone she can easily do so electronically through email or instant messaging.

Larsen has Frontier DSL service for her home computer to access her work server through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and has two monitors and a Voice over IP phone system at her home work station. “Where I’m working from is invisible to my customers or my co-workers,” says Larsen. “They have no idea if I’m working from home or the office.”

Larsen seems to have the best of both worlds. She says she enjoys the days she goes into the office for the social interaction with her co-workers – going out to lunch, walks during breaks or after work drinks and shopping. When she works from home she saves two hours of commute time each day, plus the fuel expense. She can be at home during the day with her dog Harper and when she’s finished work at 3:30 she can head straight outside to her deck or work in the garden.

Although working from home allows her quite a bit of flexibility and independence in her day, (she can start a load of laundry, play with her dog, or run a local errand) Larsen says her work is monitored through the computer system. “They know when I’m on line and can see how much work I get done,” says Larsen. “Big brother is watching.”

Choosing Vernonia

VMPSpring2105LandonAvenueDesignTiffaniweb            Why would a family chose to move to Vernonia to live and work?

Tiffini Meyer and family have lots of reasons.

Meyer and her young family moved to the community from Beaverton in June of 2014 after Tiffini opened a retail store and workshop in downtown Vernonia. Meyer’s shop, Landon Avenue Design, features handmade, one-of-a -kind home decorations. “I take things that are useless and make them useful again,” explains Meyer.

“To rent space in Beaverton for what I’m doing – the cost per square foot is just outrageous,” explains Meyer. “You have to have serious cash to get up and running and I just didn’t have it.”

Meyer’s parents live at nearby Fishhawk Lake and saw the for-rent sign in the storefront window of the corner property where Meyer’s business is now located. “My husband and I came out and talked to the owner and it just kind of happened,” she explains.

To expound on Meyer’s business, she takes old wooden items she finds at garage sales and thrift stores – furniture, windows, doors, ladders and more – and re-purposes them. “I take things people normally wouldn’t or couldn’t use any longer and make them into something decorative or functional that they can put back in their home,” says Meyer.

In addition, Meyer is a Stampin’ Up demonstrator who creates invitations for weddings, baby and bridal showers, parties, and greeting, thank you and save-the-date cards. “Anything that involves paper,” she says. “That’s actually become a big part of my business now.”

She is also a vendor at a large Portland Christmas bazaar and is also exploring the idea of renting some of her furnishings and decorations for weddings and other events.

Her decorations, invitations and cards have become so popular she’s having trouble keeping up with demand and keeping items in stock. This is a good problem to have as a small business owner.

“I haven’t even been in business a year,” says a somewhat amazed Meyer. “I have lots of big ideas about where I’d like to go with this.”

Initially Meyer was creating her items in her garage at home and selling them on line. As her business grew she realized she needed a bigger workshop space, which is what initially brought her out to Vernonia.   After seeing the corner space with the big windows the idea of a retail store took shape.

VMPSpring2015LandonAvenueDesignFenceweb            Meyer, twenty-six, and husband Ray, were renting a house in Beaverton along with six-year-old daughter Madeline and two-year-old son Landon. Ray, a manager at Cash-n-Carry, wasn’t happy and wanted them to own their own home. He also preferred that he be the one commuting to work. “We started looking in North Plains and out and quickly realized we could get more property and more house for our money in Vernonia,” says Meyer.

Meyer says they saw an opportunity in Vernonia. “We thought if we’re going to have a business why not start it somewhere where the town is growing, so the business can grow with the town,” she explains.

They bought a home in Vernonia within walking distance of her shop and moved two weeks after Landon Avenue Design opened.

Meyer says she loves living and working in small town, quaint Vernonia. She said she was surprised when they made an early purchase at the local hardware store and were handed a hand written receipt. “I felt like I had fallen back through time,” says Meyer with a laugh.

She and her husband are both naturally social and have made friends and gotten to know people quickly. “Everybody knows everybody here,” says Meyer. “I like knowing who is walking down the street, who is coming in my store, who my customers are. I like knowing who is dependable. You don’t find that in Beaverton or other bigger towns.”VMPSpring2015LandonAvenueDsignWorkshopweb

Vernonia has talent! [Updated]

1926750_10152236749058211_1413660083_n  The producers of the local talent show let slip a pretty big tease today when they announced the three regular judges of “Vernonia Has Talent” will be joined by a special celebrity. A local celebrity who will be particularly appealing to those who like “American Idol”… 1505455_10152236766373211_64359359_nHmmm. No matter who it is, the evening is sure to be a blast. The $5 gate fee goes to fund Freshman and Junior class activities, and gets you a slice of pizza and a beverage.

Last year the competition was fierce, and talent of all types was on stage, playing to a packed house. No word if the special guest on the judges line this year will be performing or not, but why take the chance on missing something? This celebrity will join local businessman and reality TV star Mike Pihl a1383383_10152236766708211_1348733816_nnd Kimberly Maus, anchor on Fox 12’s Good Day Oregon.


Check back here for updates over the next week. As soon as we find out, we’ll reveal the special guest right here.
Tonight it was revealed to me that Lovey James of Hillsboro has graciously accepted an invitation to our talent show, and will lead off the proceedings with a rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Ms James was recently voted off the latest season of American Idol, but that has not slowed her down. You can find more about her on her website, including a link to her YouTube channel. Let her know how much you appreciate her visit to Vernonia by leaving a comment on her Facebook page. Who knows, if enough fans come to hear her sing, she might perform one of her songs!

Hunting in Vernonia

When you ask most Vernonia area residents for their favorite recreational activity you will hear something about the forest. Hunting is a big deal in this small town and on opening day you can be sure to see a parade of successful hunters parading down Bridge Street, proudly showing off their trophy from the back of their 4×4 trucks.

Located at the border of two ODFW hunting units, Scappoose and Saddle Mountain, Vernonia has a lot to offer for both the serious and casual hunters. Vernonia is home to 3 public campgrounds, one with facilities for RVs, and there are several county and state parks within easy driving distance. The state forest system in nearby Clatsop County permits backcountry camping.

A Roosevelt bull elk keeps watch over his herd. Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Elk and deer are the biggest draws for local hunters. The Saddle Mountain unit is tag controlled for elk (1320 tags for each of two seasons) and hunters generally enjoy better than a 15% success rate. The Scappoose side is open to all hunters that buy a tag, but expect company on this “spike or better” management unit. It plays host to many Portland area hunters that fail to draw their eastern Oregon tag.

The coastal jungle can be daunting to the new hunter but there are some local tricks and tips that can help increase your chances of the big score. First, be odor neutral. That means clothing, snacks and beverages. Next, be ready to cover ground. There are plenty of logging roads in the area, and the best hunting is usually behind closed gates. Bring a GPS and a mountain bike and get ready to glass some clearcuts. There are thousands of elk in the area, spread across thousands of acres of land, mostly in young forest that is very difficult to hunt. Early season scouting will go a long way toward success.

Oregon’s black-tail deer are Columbian black-tail deer. Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Blacktail deer are a whole different challenge to even the most experienced hunter. General season tagged, like most areas on the coast, the easily hunted areas contain does and a few spikes. The 4 point and better bucks are rarely seen because they live where people dare not tread. If you dare hunt, prepare to spend all day in the woods. Prepare by using google maps to find likely territory that is behind locked gates, and get practiced on your mountain bike. Consider purchasing a trailer for carrying game.

The basic rules are simple to remember and difficult to execute. Hunt when the rain is blowing sideways, and keep your binoculars dry. Scout the pre-season for established game trails that lead to water and figure out how to get above the thickets so you can see the bedding areas. Move slower than slow and spend more time looking for deer than thinking about other things. Travel only when it’s too dark to shoot.

Hunting deer and elk in the rugged coastal forests is a test of endurance and skill. Some punch their tags every year, and some eat tag soup. While you are in Vernonia on a scouting trip, make sure to stop by the True Value store for hunting and shooting gear, and ask for some tips. The store owners have been hunting the area for decades, and the mounts on the walls prove it.

New Health Center to Open this Fall

Vernonians are excited to see progress on the beautiful new Vernonia Health Center on the south side of town.   Construction has been moving along swiftly through the summer with the new facility scheduled to open this fall.

Carolyn Keasey Memorial Health Center
Carolyn Keasey Memorial Health Center

Owned and operated by the non-profit Vernonia Health Board, the new health center will provide a “medical home” where several services can be offered under the same roof.   Primary care, provided in partnership with the Public Health Foundation of Columbia County and Pacific University, will continue. The Health Board is planning to add mental and behavioral health and physical therapy in the near future and is exploring other support services that will benefit their patients and the community.

Health care services are currently being provided at the old clinic building which was damaged in the 2007 flood. The building was repaired following the flood, but the Health Board has made the effort to raise the funds and move to a safe location

The new construction was fully funded with generous support from Meyer Memorial Trust, the Ford Family Foundation, Collins Foundation, Oregon Community Foundation, Samuel S. Johnson Foundation, funds from Providence, their FEMA buyout, and many donations from community members to the Carolyn Keasey Memorial Fund.

The Health Board is happy to be able to provide service five days a week for their patients under primary care provider Albert Rodriguez. Additionally, the partnership with the Public Health Foundation allows a seamless transition so students seen at the student based health center,  Spencer Health and Wellness, may also be seen at the Vernonia Health Center.

The clinic accepts the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid), Medicare, and a majority of private insurance. For those without insurance, the clinic has staff on site to walk you through the healthcare application process and they have a sliding fee scale for eligible patients waiting for approval.

A grand opening celebration is just around the corner and is another indication that Vernonia is continuing to move forward and grow as a community.

Linear Trail Brings Visitors to Vernonia

One of the many trestles on the trail

Oregon is well known internationally as a bicycling destination. Located in its scenic northwest corner, Vernonia continues to attract its share of those cyclists who are finding the local Banks-Vernonia State Linear Trail to be the perfect excursion.

This past summer Vernonia enjoyed an influx of visitors, many who traveled up the tree lined and paved trail from Washington County and L.L. Stub Stewart State Park to visit this little town. Others started right here in Vernonia and contributed to its growing reputation as a cycling hub for both local and visiting riders alike. Any season of the year will find riders of all ages scattered along the trail, enjoying the scenery, fresh air, and solitude.

The trail is not just for cyclists. Hikers, runners, and horseback riders also congregate on this multi-use pathway. Managed and maintained by Oregon State Parks, the trail was the first Rails-to-Trails project in the state of Oregon. It has an easy grade with thirteen bridges, including the scenic Buxton trestle. The trail can be accessed at any of 6 points along its progression – including trailheads at Manning, Buxton, Tophill, and Beaver Creek, as well as in Banks and Vernonia. Many cyclists have discovered the joy of riding to Vernonia in the morning, stopping off for a bite to eat at one of several eclectic downtown restaurants, before heading back down the trail towards home.

The trail was extended last year by the addition of the newly established Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway. In 2013 the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission formally approved the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway as the tenth designated bikeway in the state, cementing the region as one of the top spots to cycle in Oregon. The bikeway features the best of the northern Willamette Valley, from friendly downtowns to fertile farmlands and lush natural areas. Set in the heart of Washington County and traveling into Columbia County, the Bikeway runs for 30 miles one way, and connects in Banks with the Banks-Vernonia State Trail.

Taking a break at The Black Iron Grill in Vernonia

From the trailhead in Hillsboro, the Tualatin Valley Bikeway travels on mostly rural roads. The middle portion of the Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail travels through lush forests including a portion of Stub Stewart State Park and features a gentle climb of about 600 feet. Overall the Scenic Bikeway is rated as a moderately challenging ride and can be enjoyed by a wide range of cyclists.

With the route’s layout, cyclists have many overnight options for multi-day rides, while day trips covering sub-sections of the route are easy, too. Stub Stewart State Park offers full hook up RV camping, as well as primitive campsites. Vernonia’s Anderson Park, which serves as the trail head in Vernonia, is a full RV park with showers and flush toilets, but also offers primitive tent camping along the Nehalem River. Vernonia Lake and Airport Park in Vernonia offer primitive camping.

Paved trails in and around Vernonia give families a chance to ride together as well. The connection from the Banks-Vernonia Trail to Webb Way at Anderson Park is a flat and easy ride for even the youngest cyclists and takes riders to scenic Vernonia Lake.

For mountain bikes enthusiasts, Stub Stewart State Park, just 10 miles south of Vernonia, has a new Free Ride Skills Area that is open to the public. A session/training area includes options for beginner to advanced Free Ride mountain bikers. Initial construction has focused on beginner and intermediate level trails but construction in the area is ongoing. For others looking to explore more of the outdoors, the Vernonia region is literally covered with logging roads, many of which are open to the public for limited recreational use.

As you can see, it’s no wonder Vernonia is becoming a destination for bicycle riders as well as other trail users who want to enjoy the great outdoors.

Reinvesting In Vernonia

            As the economy slowly continues to improve, there are many positive signs that the recovery may finally be reaching Vernonia. Numerous signs indicate things are looking up around Vernonia, with local business owners reinvesting in their businesses by expanding or refurbishing.

Sharon Bernal is a local resident and real estate agent for John L. Scott. Bernal recently purchased the building where her office is currently located on Bridge Street In the space next door, she re-opened ‘Out on a Limb,’ a gift shop which carries cards, decorations, crafts and gifts with a country theme. Bernal is re-roofing and painting her building, along with remodeling its three apartments.

“I thought it would improve Vernonia, and it was time after the economic downturn,” explains Bernal. “Vernonia was ready for ‘Out on a Limb’ to come back. I thought I could take this old building, and some make improvements. When I looked at it, it was a win-win.”

Bernal says the real estate market continues to rebound and is particularly strong in Vernonia. “We have a lot of people from Intel who are looking to live in a small community that is half an hour from where they work,” says Bernal.   “And many of them are younger families with kids. And I have to tell you, every person who comes into Vernonia just thinks it’s great. They absolutely love it!

Vernonia has something to look forward to this fall as word has spread that the former Vernonia Inn is being renovated. New owner, Jerry Cordell, along with his business associates, brothers Elmer and Santos Rivas, have begun work on the fifteen room lodge renamed the Ride Inn. Cordell says plans call for a complete rehabilitation to the building with a grand opening tentatively scheduled for October 1, 2014.


Bridge Street
Bridge Street

Cordell and his partners had previously purchased the old Masonic Lodge in Vernonia and are currently renovating it. That building will likely be a six room up-scale bed and breakfast.

Cordell says the name Ride Inn is specifically to help tap into the potential customer base of bicycle, motorcycle and other tourists who visit or pass through Vernonia.

Cordell, who currently lives in Portland, has a history of remodeling homes and has completed nine projects over the years. Cordell says he sees a lot of potential for Vernonia and has undertaken a significant investment. “It’s not the idea of making money,” explains Cordell. “It’s the idea of doing something with yourself and your money to improve the community. That’s what I’m about.”

Dana Roach is the owner of The Black Iron Grille, formerly known as Black Bear Coffee and the Bear Creek Pub. Roach recently did a major kitchen renovation, adding a grill and hood which has allowed him to expand his menu as well as his staff.

“After the flood in 2007 and the drop in the economy a large number of area restaurants closed down,” says Roach. “We saw a void and are trying to fill it.”

A favorite spot for visitors, especially tourists on bicycles, Roach expanded his outdoor seating area last year and added additional bicycle parking. Roach says he is betting on Vernonia becoming more of a destination. “I’m very excited about the future of this community,” says Roach.

Photo Solutions is a small manufacturing firm servicing global high tech industries and is one of the only light industry businesses in Vernonia.   Owner Brad Curtis recently took advantage of Vernonia’s inclusion in the South Columbia County Enterprise Zone and expanded his business by purchasing $200,000 of new equipment.

“I see a lot of possibilities for firms to do business out here, especially for businesses where location doesn’t matter.” says Curtis. “The enterprise zone expansion helps level the playing field.” Curtis’s manufacturing plant was damaged in the 2007 flood and incentives available through the Enterprise Zone may allow him to move his business to higher ground at the California Avenue industrial site currently under development in Vernonia.

Local businesses and owners see great things happening in Vernonia and are choosing to re-invest in the community.   “If you just come to Vernonia you’re going to love it,” says Bernal. “If you just get to know some of the people in this community, you’re going to love it. I do. That’s why I’m here.”