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A small stuffed animal rest on a tombstone at the Eastwood Cemetery in Medford Friday. Mail Tribune Photo / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Take Care of Oregon

Everything from cleaning cemeteries to building a dog-poop station is on a giant to-do list to mark Oregon's 150th birthday.

Some 20 projects have been organized across Jackson County in conjunction with Take Care of Oregon Days, an initiative to encourage people to give back to their communities as Oregon celebrates 150 years of statehood. At least 500 projects have been organized statewide.

The work parties are designed to create a legacy for the next 150 years, said Sara Ryan, a program manager for SOLV, a statewide organization that works with government agencies, individuals and businesses to enhance Oregon's livability. SOLV was founded in 1969 as "Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism," and is perhaps best known for its annual beach cleanup on the Oregon Coast.

"We want to instill the notion of taking care of Oregon so future generations can enjoy the wonderful state we live in," Ryan said.

Jackson County projects include cleanups at Medford's Eastwood Cemetery, Logtown Cemetery near Ruch and Jacksonville's Pioneer Cemetery.

"Some people don't even know we have an old cemetery," said Bev Power, cemetery records clerk for Medford's Eastwood Cemetery, which was established in 1890.

Power said work projects will be organized so there will be something for people of all ages and skill levels.

"There will be things for little kids to do for a couple of hours," she said, "and more adult work that takes some heavy lifting.

There also are cleanups scheduled along Bear Creek and the Rogue River, building a community garden in Medford and a day of pulling invasive Scotch broom in Ashland's Lithia Park.

Scotch broom is a European shrub that was introduced into North America in the 1800s and has spread rapidly across the Northwest, especially on disturbed sites such as cut-over timberland. It is widespread in many areas of Jackson County.

"They've been working on (removing) it for years in the park, so it's gotten a lot better," said Lucy Whitridge, an Americorps worker who's organizing the project. "Some places it's still really dense, so with a lot of people out there we can really make a difference."

The idea for the Take Care projects came from the board that organized Oregon's sesquicentennial events.

"The board decided service should be part of the celebration," Ryan said. SOLV worked together with the Eugene-based Rural Development Initiative organization and another service group, Oregon Volunteers!, traveling around the state to encourage service groups to develop their own projects.

"We were open to partners for all kinds of projects," Ryan said. "Food drives, clothing drives, library projects — everything under the sun people want to do to give back to Oregon."

She said the dog-poop station was one of the most unusual projects. It's the brainchild of Gold Hill residents who want to develop a dog park in part of the big Gold Hill Sports Park along the Rogue River just upstream from downtown.

The idea for the dog park surfaced last fall when Gold Hill residents organized a day to drum up interest for the sports park. Margaret Dials said a dog park was one of the most popular ideas, and it made sense to have a way for people to clean up after their dogs

"It will be a great way to clean up our park," Dials said.

A full list of the projects is on the Take Care of Oregon Days Web site, http://tinyurl.com/dhbvse, including contact and registration information.

Reach reporter Bill Kettler at 776-4492 or e-mail bkettler@mailtribune.com.

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