Tag Archives | vernonia

The school Vernonia (and Oregon) built with a clear vision

There were some quite rational people who openly wondered why Vernonia wouldn’t call it quits and just leave the sodden place in ruin. It had happened before, in 1996, but never this badly, in 2007: The Nehalem River, pushed by torrential rains 14 vertical feet above its banks, ate the tiny timber town by inundating homes, floating cars like rubber ducks and leaving five feet of sewage-sullied water in school buildings. Fixing everything for the roughly 2,400 residents would cost more than $100 million — hard to come by and likely futile anyway…

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The school Vernonia (and Oregon) built with a clear vision. The Oregonian. August 12, 2012.

Vernonia stakes future on new school

In the winter of 2007, a series of Pacific storms unleashed their fury on Vernonia, a small town in rural northwest Oregon that sits on the Nehalem River. The river crested seven feet above flood stage, and the ensuing flood swamped nearly half of Vernonia’s homes, one third of its downtown buildings, the town’s sewer and electric systems, community health clinic, senior center and food bank. The entire school district — elementary, middle and high schools along with the Head Start building — was left in ruins.

The damage to Vernonia’s property was estimated at $113 million. The damage to Vernonia’s soul was incalculable.

How could this tiny community survive such loss? There were some who believed it could not. But there were many more who believed this was exactly the moment — when Vernonia was on its knees — to re-invent this struggling town surrounded by lush forests, streams and parkland, and in those places plant a future.

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Vernonia stakes future on new school. Oregon Business magazine. October 2011.