Category Archives: Live

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!

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.

Worth the Trip – Five Day Trips From Vernonia Your Family Won’t Want to Miss

Planning a trip to Vernonia? Why not stay for a few days and take in one or more local attractions Here are several family friendly trips that are just about an hour from Vernonia. You’ll have a fun adventure-and be back in time for dinner!

Jewell Meadows Wildlife AreaSee majestic Roosevelt Elk in their natural habitat in the 2305_bull_elk_swart_odfwOregon coast Range. This 2,940 acre preserve is home to well over 200 elk that spend the winter and spring in the lower meadows along the highway feeding and resting. There are two parking areas, four viewing areas and interpretive signs. The elk are the main attraction but the area is also a great spot for birding and other wildlife viewing.

Travel time from Vernonia: 52 minutes. Distance 39 miles.


Tree to Tree Aerial Adventure ParkVoted on of the Top 10 Zip Parks in the country, Tree to Tree offers an Ariel Adventure Park with six colored levels graduating in height and difficulty and over sixty extreme obstacles. There’s a level for just about every member of the family including a tween and children’s course. In addition take a separate zip line tour which includes a 1200′ single line as part of the adventure. Reservations are required for all adventures.

Travel time from Vernonia: 52 minutes. Distance 39 miles.


Tillamook Forestry CenterLocated in the remote heart of the Tillamook Forest in the Oregon Coast Range, this education and recreation center is a special

Tillamook Forestry Center
Tillamook Forestry Center

place to explore. Learn about forest history, wildfires or sustainable forestry practices inside the center. Hike through the forest and see it for yourself—make sure to dress appropriately for Oregon weather. Highlights include the climbable 40 foot high lookout tower replica, a 250 foot suspension bridge crossing the Wilson River, connections to a host of trails, hands on exhibits and the award winning film Legacy of Fire. Hours change seasonally—the Center is closed December through February; open Wednesday through Sunday in fall and spring; open seven days a week in summer. Admission is free.

Travel time from Vernonia 57 minutes. Distance 38 miles.

Steam Donkey

Camp 18 Restaurant and Logging MuseumFor anyone interested in the logging and railroad history of this region, or just history in general, Camp 18 is a must go! Wander the grounds and be fascinated by the outdoor displays of huge, heavy equipment. See a Steam Donkey, a Spar Tree, a real wood-sided caboose on tracks, a large band saw and much more. Visit the Logger’s Memorial and see the displays family members have created for their lost loggers. When you’ve finished your outdoor tour, step inside the restaurant and be amazed by the size of the log beams used to construct the massive building. The Oregon coast is just another 18 miles on Hwy 26.

Travel time from Vernonia 42 minutes. Distance 32 miles

Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens, Oregon

Fort Clatsop and Fort StevensThese two historic forts are located on the Oregon Coast near Astoria. Fort Clatsop is part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Park and was the winter encampment of the Corps of Discovery from December of 1805 to March of 1806.   You can explore the replica of Fort Clatsop where Lewis and Clark spent a cold and wet winter with their men.   Visit the interpretive center and view two different films to learn more about the explorers of the west. Fort Stevens, part of the Oregon State park system, was the primary defense installation at the mouth of the Columbia River from the Civil War through World War II. Explore history, nature and enjoy recreational opportunities in this 4,200 acre park. Bring your bikes—there’s six miles of paved trails providing easy riding for everyone.

Travel time from Vernonia to Fort Clatsop: 1 hour 25 minutes. Distance 67 miles

From Fort Clatsop to Fort Stevens: 15 minutes. Distance 7.7 miles


Diamond in the Rough

A visitor to Vernonia might be surprised by the quality of the small but enthusiastic art scene this community has carved out. Not only was Vernonia the one time home to Christopher Burkett, considered by many to be the greatest color landscape photographer alive, it also has a non-profit community group, the Vernonia Hands On Art Center, dedicated to promoting the arts and heritage of Vernonia. Additionally, young artists are discovering their artistic talent through Artist-in-Residence Kerri Boutwell and the Grace Fine Arts academy she has established. The annual Salmon Festival, held the first Saturday in October, is a great opportunity to see the work of local artists; this year the Salmon festival will include the work of Boutwell and others.

In other words, the arts are alive and well in Vernonia.

Early Winter Snowfall, Colorado by Christopher Burkett

Any visit to Vernonia certainly must include a visit to Grey Dawn Gallery, which features some of the finest in northwest art.   The gallery is owned by Dan and Heidi Brown and includes, in addition to Burkett’s work, Dan Brown’s own Hardwood Originals custom wood furniture. The gallery also features artistic pottery by Jeff Patterson, also a former Vernonia resident, as well as the bronze sculpture work of Jacques and Mary Regat.

Hardwood Originals furniture by Dan Brown

The Browns established their business in 1991 and moved it to their hometown of Vernonia in 2000 to a custom designed building at 879 Bridge Street they designed themselves. The front is home to the gallery while the back contains the workshop where Dan designs and builds his locally famous “Dan Brown Kitchens” and other fine furniture. The Browns also do custom framing for the art work they sell.

Bronze sculptures by Jacques and Mary Ragat

Brown says he and Heidi were hoping to help revitalize downtown Vernonia following the 1996 flood by locating the gallery and workshop there. “We wanted to convey the image of what we saw as the potential for Vernonia,” says Brown during a recent visit to the gallery. “I had gotten to know several local artists and thought we could showcase our work, have space for the wood shop, and hopefully do something for the local artist community at the same time. There was kind of budding artist community at that time and it seemed like the logical thing to do.”

Burkett is considered one of the world’s foremost experts in Cibachrome printing, the process he uses to uniquely capture the color and light of his work. He has painstakingly developed his

Graceful Aspen, Colorado by Christopher Burkett
Graceful Aspen, Colorado by Christopher Burkett

system of sophisticated masking techniques over thirty years, hand making each individual print without the use of digital or computer enhancement, creating a unique and individual piece of art work. Burkett signs and numbers each of the three sizes of prints he produces and therefore controls the number of prints released to the public, usually in the low hundreds. His work has been displayed in galleries worldwide, including the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., and has been compared to the work of the great Ansel Adams.

“Christopher’s work has, beyond a shadow of a doubt been the main reason we have remained in business over the years,” says Brown. “He has a world-wide reputation and we ship his work all over the U.S. and abroad.” Brown notes that their custom framing work has made them a sought-out source of Burkett’s limited edition work.

Pottery by Jeff Patterson

In addition to Burkett’s work, Grey Dawn Gallery continues to show a small collection of Jeff Patterson’s work. He is no longer producing his fine art pottery. “We were sorry to see Jeff stop working,” says Brown. The bronze work of Anchorage, Alaska based Jacques and Mary Regat is focused on wildlife. The inclusion of the Regat’s work allows Grey Dawn Gallery to display and sell some of the finest regional art, and makes the gallery a must visit for anyone interested in seeing some beautiful creations.

Kerri Boutwell and the other instructors at Grace Fine Arts offer after-school classes in acrylic painting, sculpture, drawing, and watercolor. Boutwell also conducts workshops for adults. She has held two art shows locally, displaying the surprisingly impressive work of her youth students. Her instructional classes have been fun and popular and have uncovered some artists who have found talents they were unaware they possessed. Grace Fine Arts is encouraging a new generation to appreciate and participate in the arts in Vernonia.

Alongside Boutwell at Salmon Festival will be local realist Randal Harvey, potter Wanda Aszman, and Nicole Gray, who specializes in photographic portraiture and local landscapes. Coined “Art in the Woods”, this event showcases local artists but also hosts a salmon-themed art auction which funds art scholarships for local youth. In 2014 the inaugural scholarship was awarded. It is the first local scholarship offered to students interested in exploring the arts.

The Vernonia Hands On Art Center has been encouraging the Vernonia art scene through its volunteer and financial support of various artistic endeavors within the community. Hands On Art has supported community theater, the Vernonia Ballet, First Friday gatherings and the Vernonia Salmon Festival. Hands On Art has been encouraging learning environments with financial grants, advertising assistance and volunteer manpower since 1997, continually helping to raise awareness of the arts in Vernonia.

Vernonia Schools Creates a Positive Learning Environment

SustainabilityDay2013KidsLooking            Schools in rural towns can offer a number of benefits to students, such as modest enrollment numbers and tight-knit, supportive communities. The Vernonia School District, a small district of around 600 students, has been creative in developing unique opportunities for students to learn, grow and succeed.

Situated on the edge of the Oregon Coast Range and surrounded by trees, Vernonia is instituting a new approach to learning by creating a sustainability curriculum. The new learning model takes advantage of the community’s surroundings, the cutting edge design of the new K-12 school facilities and campus which opened in 2012, proximity to natural resources, logging heritage, local resources and partnerships to create a multitude of living laboratories and natural classrooms.

Following the example of its community over the years, Vernonia Schools has made the most of its locality, history and resources. The new curriculum uses human relationships to the natural world as its foundation, and features three levels of forestry education by which students are taught plant identification, proper forest management techniques, trail building proficiency, and watershed enhancement procedures. In addition a logging skills team competes against other regional schools working closely with several local logging companies and governmental agencies.

As part of the sustainability curriculum, the school oversees the management of the ‘Old Mill Marsh’ wetland area. This 8.2 acre wetland mitigation project was developed on city land in exchange for wetlands that were impacted through construction of the new school campus. Each year students remove invasive species, plant native plants and map and build trails. A greenhouse supported by a grant through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was constructed on campus and is shared with the local Upper Nehalem Watershed Council (UNWC), providing a space for students to raise native plants.

“The sustainability curriculum encourages all our teachers to find ways to include the natural world and our region’s surroundings into daily instruction,” says Vernonia School Board Chair Bill Langmaid.

Each year all K-12 students participate in several ‘Sustainability Days’ when learning is focused on concepts that include the life cycle of native salmon populations, the impact of invasive species, and sustainable forestry practices. Students spend at least part of the day doing field work, including riparian restoration projects, tree planting, and wetlands maintenance.

As part of the sustainability curriculum, Vernonia is developing a Career and Technical Education program. A new shop facility is being constructed in 2014 and the District has developed partnerships with several local entities including the UNWC, BLM, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the OSU Extension Service and Stub Stewart State Park. As part of an internship program, high school students worked on maintenance projects, utilizing Geographic Information System mapping techniques, trail building, using customer service skills and enhancing local watersheds and riparian zones.   Students received valuable, real-life work experiences all while receiving a summer pay check.

Vernonia’s small size is actually be a benefit when it comes to education. Katie Cook and her family moved to Vernonia a year ago. Her school age children had previously been enrolled in the Hillsboro and the Beaverton School Districts.

“We moved from extremely overcrowded schools where students became numbers,” said Cook. “All my family described it as ‘suffocating.”

“Initially, the small school in Vernonia caused concern but, within a few weeks I knew the staff and they knew my kids,” explains Cook. “My daughter, who was failing some classes in her previous schools, became a straight A student again. In her own words, ‘My teachers know me and it helps me want to do better.’ Unlike in larger schools the teachers here are connected to their students and there is time to teach each one of them and, if encouraged and with the support of parents, there is time for these great teachers to make up the difference where the education system lacks.”

Another attribute that makes an education at Vernonia Schools extremely unique is their robust Foreign Exchange Student program. In each of the last half-dozen years, approximately 20 students arrived at the end of each summer from all over the world to spend the school year in Vernonia. The students live with, and become part of, local families giving students, families and the entire community firsthand experiences with other cultures, lifestyles, languages and perspectives. Students from countries as diverse as Germany, Kenya, Romania, Taiwan, Italy, Kurdistan, and Norway spend the year in Vernonia becoming teammates, family members, and lifelong friends. Past students regularly return to visit their ‘American families’ and Vernonia students often go to visit their friends in faraway countries. The Foreign Exchange Student program gives Vernonia’s schools and the community a truly international feel.

The Vernonia schools have also experienced success in other endeavors. The school band program earned a State Championship in 2011 and finished 3rd in 2012. Mentored by local volunteers, the robotics program has competed in Oregon FIRST Robotics programs for the last three years, and has seen great success for such a small and newly created program while competing against all sizes of schools from throughout the Pacific Northwest. In 2012 the Loggerbots finished third in the qualifying rounds and reached the semifinals in just their second year.

Vernonia’s sports teams, the Loggers and Lady Loggers, compete in the state’s 2A division. Recent successes include four individual state champions in track and field in 2012, a fourth place finish at the state tournament in boys’ basketball in 2010, back-to-back league championships in girls’ basketball in 2013-14, three straight years of qualifying for the state tournament in volleyball in 2012-14 and a league championship in softball in 2014.

For a small, rural school district, Vernonia is working hard to create unique and exciting learning experiences for its students, helping propel them to success in careers, university studies, and life.

Vernonia: A great place to Live, Work and Play

Rich in history, bountiful forested hillsides, and a thriving small town culture, the town of Vernonia offers both visitor and new residents a warm welcome. Travel through the trees, over the streams and under the railroad trestles and you’ll find a small, tight knit community that is ready to be discovered.

            Vernonia is a small town of just over 2,000 people, nestled in the Upper Nehalem Valley in the foothills of the Pacific Coast Range. It sits at the confluence of the Nehalem River and Rock Creek and is surrounded by forests. Less than an hour from from SW Portland and Hillsboro employment centers, Vernonia is also just 60 minutes away from the Oregon Coast.

            Known for it’s logging history, Vernonia is remaking itself as a outdoor recreation destination as well as a great place for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle and relocate to the peace and quiet of the country.

            We invite you stop by for a visit. Come see why Vernonia is such a great place to live, work and play.

Live – With a charmingly old-fashioned downtown and a brand new school, life in Vernonia is a mix of old and new.

            The new Vernonia K-12 school offers a green design, two gymnasiums, new computer labs and a natural resources curriculum that connects to an eight acre wetland just across the road. The high school robotics class has earned awards at several competitions!

            The walkable downtown core offers shopping, a full service post office, grocery store and two hardware stores. The town has eight restaurants; seven are in the downtown area.

The Vernonia Pioneer Museum is a collection of artifacts from throughout the county including items from the local Native American tribes, early settlers and logging.

            The community library offers after school and summer reading programs for children. A chess and stamp club meet there regularly as well. The Vernonia Library is also a favorite stop for Oregon Humanities special programs.

            A brand new Health Center has broken ground and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014; a new Senior Center and Food Bank is also in the planning stages at the same development.

Vernonia has a very active Lion’s Club, a PTA and a Booster’s Club that supports children’s activities. There are eleven active churches in town.

Work – Known for the huge trees that once grew in the area, Vernonia’s nearby forests still support both large and small natural resource-based businesses. But today you are just as likely to bump into a computer programmer or high tech fabrication plant employee when stopping to fill your tank and grab your morning coffee at the Mini Mart.

            Vernonia is the ultimate small-town bedroom community for the high tech industry. Intel employees who have moved to town get the best of both worlds – high tech opportunity a short drive from a quiet, safe and friendly small town to raise their families.

            Local business is another key element in the employment market in Vernonia. Full time, part-time and seasonal jobs are available; some of the larger local employers include the Vernonia School District, Sentry Market, Photo Solutions and Cedar Ridge Conference and Retreat Center.

            Numerous home-based businesses have become successful; those with an entrepreneurial streak may find an opportunity in Vernonia. Work-from-home is also an option for some  as high speed cable internet service is available in town.


Play – Vernonia is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with multiple parks, trails, streams, rivers and logging roads to explore.

            We are proud of our city Park system which includes full hook-up RV camping at Anderson Park and primitive camping at Airport Park. Both parks are set along the Nehalem River and offer river access. During summer months, we also enjoy an old-fashioned swimming hole at Hawkins Park.

The 42 acre Vernonia Lake is regularly stocked with rainbow trout by ODFW and anglers can also catch largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and brown bullhead – there may even be a steelhead or two! The lake features a paved trail, a wheelchair accessible fishing platform, restrooms, drinking water, and on-site bait shop/concession stand during the spring and summer months.

            Vernonia, once the terminus of several logging railroad lines, is now the terminus of two great area recreation trails. The Banks-Vernonia Trail is 21 miles of paved multi-use trail that is now included as part of the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway. The trail is accessible from six trailheads. The Crown Zellerbach Trail travels from Vernonia to Scappoose and offers over 20 miles of multi-surfaced trail more suitable for fat tire bikes, hikers and horseback riders.

            Hunting and river fishing are two other popular pastimes that beckon Vernonians into the nearby hills. The Nehalem River, which runs 90 miles to the Oregon Coast, is a premier spot for wild native salmon, steelhead and cut throat trout.

            The Vernonia Golf Club offers a nine hole course and year-round alpine golfing.


Other Nearby Attractions:

            The Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area is a 1114 acre refuge for Roosevelt Elk. Open pastures border the highway, offering excellent

views of elk during winter and spring. There are two paved parking areas, four viewing areas.

  1. L. Stub Stewart State Park is just 10 miles south of Vernonia and offers camping, and day use areas for hiking, biking and equestrian riders. 25 miles of trails, RV and primitive camping, 18-hole disc golf course, mountain bike riding area, cabin village, and equestrian camp make

this a family-friendly and fun vacation spot.

            The Oregon Coast is just an hour away from Vernonia with easy access to Cannon Beach, Seaside and Manzanita. Portland, Beaverton and Hillsboro offer shopping, entertainment and sporting events ranging from Single A baseball to MLS soccer to NBA basketball.


Whether your interest is finding a new home, a new place to open a business, or just a new spot for a favorite hobby, Vernonia offers all that in one charming package. Give it a try, and be amazed at what you find. Come visit Vernonia, and stay a while.


Downtown Vernonia: An Old Fashioned Main Street

It has been called quaint and picturesque. It has been compared to Mayberry, North Carolina, the fictional television town of Andy Griffith in the 1960’s.

In an age of strip malls and big box stores, downtown Vernonia is a throw back to a by-gone era where the person working the counter is often the owner of the shop.

Downtown Vernonia certainly has it’s own special appeal and small town charm. The boundaries are unofficial but most locals consider the flashing light (and the only traffic light in town, another bit of small town charm) and the Rock Creek Bridge to be the borders of downtown.

The downtown features the usual rural amenities: a post office, a grocery store, two hardware stores, a dentist office, a bank and a credit union. There is also a laundromat, a handful of real estate agents, two bars and a couple of second hand stores.

What you might be surprised to find in this bucolic setting is the Grey Dawn Gallery, which specializes in fine northwest art and features a collection of work by renowned color landscape photographer Christopher Burkett. Owners Dan and Heidi offer custom framing services; Dan also runs his custom furniture making business, Hardwood Originals from his shop in the back of the building.

Muffy’s is another surprising business that’s made their home in downtown Vernonia. Muffy’s is the ultimate source of saddle shoes (that’s right, saddle shoes!) and believes they have the largest retail selection in the world for women, children and men. When costume designers in the film industry need to recreate a bygone era they turn to Muffy’s and so can you. Their new stock comes from current manufacturers. Muffy’s also carries more than just new saddle shoes; their stock includes work boots, dress boots, one-of-a kind pre-worn shoes and more.

Out on a Limb features gifts, décor items, and antiques. Providing one-stop shopping for cards, gifts for any occasion with a country theme.

One unexpected treat about Vernonia are the numerous restaurants. Downtown Vernonia has seven places you can eat, with a wide variety of choices, all within a few blocks of each other. From American grill to Mexican to Middle Eastern food, Vernonia just about has it all.

Gretchen’s Saddlery makes high quality, handcrafted saddles, tack and leather items, including belts, wallets handbags and more, all at affordable prices. It’s a craft from another era brought back to life in small town Vernonia.

Natural Path Health Services is a Naturopathic and Chinese medicine clinic.   Dr. Carol McIntyre treats patients using a combination of different modalities including Acupuncture, spinal manipulation, nutritional and herbal therapies and more.