Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Downriver Dispatches

News of Western Wahkiakum County and Naselle

Finn Fest and School Projects Update

The Finnish American Folk Festival scheduled for 2024 has been cancelled due to the likely unavailability of the school because of construction in the summer of 2024.

As announced at the last School Board meeting, Lisa Nelson, Superintendent of the Naselle GRV School District, received a call in July confirming the $4.8 million grant for a major project in 2024. Since I just completed an interview with Lisa Nelson, Superintendent at the Naselle GRV Schools, I will give you an update here on the important project to be completed in 2024, the renovation and modernization of the Music/Vocational Wing at the school. Called the "57 Building" by school staff, the number recognizes the year it was built. It needs serious renovation because the windows are original, as is the siding and wiring. There is only one door for exit in case of a fire. Not long ago, a new roof was installed from a different grant, so that portion of the renovation work is already completed. The $4.8 million grant for the project will include new windows, a new ventilation system, a new electrical system, new siding, new storage and a new custodial bathroom. The concrete floor will be given a new finish also.

This project began in 2019 when Nelson submitted a grant proposal for $2.7 million dollars, but it was not funded. The State was interested in the project, however, so with a grant of $50 thousand for more detailed planning, a professional planner was hired who completed a report listing actual needs and projected costs. From that planning report, the $4.8 million grant was funded. The next step will be inviting an architect to complete drawings, then applications for permits will be submitted, and bids will be called for by advertisement as required by law. After the best bid is selected by the School Board, the work will possibly begin in the 2023 school year, but that is only if there are no surprises in the process, or during preparation for construction. The project is hoped to be finished in 2024. "Safety, structure and electrical" was the description Nelson gave to describe the basic renovation work.

After being asked what has been most important in this process for her, Nelson said, "It's important to me that I work to fund capital projects with other sources of funds rather than levies and bonds. My bottom line is that I try to treat the school's funding as I would my own. I want to get help where I can and keep the burden off the taxpayers. After all, I am a taxpayer, too." Nelson also was clearly happy that the new track surface work was completed, and a new scoreboard was installed this summer.

Nelson also reported on the first meeting of the Task Force set up by the State of Washington to begin the process of determining the future of the Naselle Youth Camp, now closed. A representative of the School District was requested to be a member of the group. Nelson will fill that seat in the group of approximately ten individuals representing entities who are interested in the future of the Camp property, including State Legislators, Tony Johnson, Chair of the Chinook Tribe and others. This initial group met for their first meeting on July 27 and will continue with monthly meetings.

Last week, word came of the death of Merle A. Reinikka, an important historian and writer of invaluable research work on the Finnish immigrants and their descendants in the SW Washington area. In the 30th book on this history,"Finns of the Grays River Area," Merle acknowledged the help and prompting of Don Raistakka, local descendant of an early Finnish immigrant family to the area. Don wrote, "Having been born some time back (he is now 89), I am fortunate in remembering being raised among many first-generation immigrants who used Finnish exclusively, with a little 'Finglish' creeping in."

Merle also listed other sources, such as Mrs. Meserve's "Grays River Builder" newspapers published weekly from 1936 to 1944. Others mentioned include: Irene Martin, the Appelo Archives Center, Carlton Appelo, Carol Ervest, Wesley Raistakka, Philip Blair, Nadine Long, May Adair, Cara Lee Crowder, Robbie Johnson, and Jon Westerholm. Merle's tribute to Walter Mattila, the first to give birth to this series of special writings commemorating the history and contributions of immigrant Finns in western North America, is a fitting tribute to the man whose vision and foresight gave birth to these special publications. Most are for sale at the Appelo Archives Center in Naselle. Merle documented our own local history, including families whose names live on today. He will be missed by so many, including myself. W

Calendar of Events:

Tuesdays: Naselle Lutheran Church sponsors morning quilters and knitters in afternoons.

Third Tuesday: Naselle Grays River School Board meets at 6:30 in school library.

Second Wednesday of the month: Grays River Flood Control District meets at the Grays River Fire Hall across from Duffy's Pub at 5:30. Also available by Zoom.

Wednesdays: AA meeting at the Grays River Grange at noon.

First Thursday of the month: Grays River/Rosburg Gardening group meets at Johnson Park at 6.

Thursdays: CAP Senior Lunches are located at Rosburg Hall at noon.

Second Saturday of month: Grays River Grange's Farmers Market at the Grange 10-1.

August 2 and 16: Wednesday Senior Lunches at Rosburg Hall at noon.

August 12: 4-H Horse Show at County Fairgrounds in Skamokawa.

August 15: Naselle GR Valley School Board meets at 6:30 in the school library.

August 17-19: County Fair.

August 19: Loggers Reunion with BBQ and beer from 2-5 at Appelo Archives Center.

September 13: At this meeting of the Grays River Flood Control District, the Columbia Land Trust will give a presentation on new land acquisitions.

Word for the Week: History


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