Interpretive Kiosk Joins History of Two Towns

The interpretive kiosk near Talmadge Middle School in Independence, Oregon, is a powerful symbol of harmony between two towns that have historically been at odds. A stunning mosaic of Ash Creek—the stream that ripples through both cities—will soon grace the shelter’s exterior, facing west toward Monmouth. Between the kiosk’s timbers that open to the new Ash Creek Trail will be a historical display of the two towns, and visitors can step easily from shelter to pathway, and follow the creek toward Riverview Park.

“It was a whole weekend process, selecting the project. We did a good job playing off people’s strengths,” says Marilyn Morton, member of the group 2Cities1CommUnity, a grassroots organization formed by graduates of the 2006–2007 Ford Institute Leadership Program. The multicultural, multigenerational group chose the Ash Creek shelter for its Ford Institute Leadership Program project because of its proximity to Monmouth, which lies just beyond 16th Street where the kiosk stands, as well as its location near three of the area’s six schools.

“This shelter is symbolic. It is really exciting to people,” says Marilyn. “People really get the message of cooperation between the cities.” Marilyn and others sold small mosaic tiles at $5 a piece through the summer of 2007 to help raise money for the $20,000 project, slated for completion by year’s end. A stream of in-kind donations have steadily lifted the project up from the dust since its groundbreaking in July 2007. A team from Polk County’s Helping Achieve Lifelong Objectives (HALO), a program for disadvantaged youth, poured concrete under the direction of Eric Olson, the project construction leader and owner of an architecture and design firm in Monmouth.

Among the many diverse volunteers joining in the kiosk labor force were the mayors of both cities and Independence’s city manager, Greg Ellis. Greg, whose city was one of twenty chosen nationwide as finalists for the 2007 All America City Award, expresses gratitude for leadership skills made possible by RDI’s community involvement through the years. “The ability of RDI to facilitate programs such as the leadership building has been invaluable to making this program work,” he stresses. “They also bring time-tested best practices to the community that help leadership sustainability, which is critical to the livability and long-term economic health of the community.” Likewise, Scott McArthur, a seventy-four-year-old retired attorney living in Monmouth for the past forty years, completed the Ford Institute program with Marilyn and about thirty others and commends RDI for uniting disparate sectors of the community, who have sometimes unwittingly worked at cross-purposes, in efforts to promote positive community change. “RDI was involved with the gathering together of all these different communities,” says Scott. “Now we’ll be able to pull groups together. With a finite source of assets, we want to establish priorities, coordinate efforts. The RDI classes brought together people who are active in the community, but who didn’t know each other. I have a bunch of new friends now. We’re ganging up together,” he laughs.

Marilyn Morton, who was involved in RDI-facilitated strategic planning sessions in 2000 and 2001 and has attended at least two Regards to Rural conferences, praises the leadership training program for identifying unique, complimentary talents and abilities among individuals. “One of the best things about the FILP-RDI program is that the training highlights what skills people have. It provides a setting where you can envision mentally putting together a puzzle. You realize these highlighted skill sets plug right into the project, and people can run with one aspect of it.”

Photograph © Rural Development Initiatives.
Mural Art by Bruce Beltz.