Common ground found amid change

| Daily Tidings

ABOVE: Residents of the Greensprings gather at Little Hyatt Lake on Friday to talk about BLM plans to drain it and possibly tear down the dam.

FRONT: Pastor Joe Johnson works on the construction of Mountain View Christian Church on Friday, which he says is the Greensprings’s first church building.

On Friday, a half-dozen Greensprings residents got together at Little Hyatt Lake to discuss the latest threat to their mountain community.

The Bureau of Land Management is considering taking out the dam on Little Hyatt that created the fishing hole and hiking spot four miles from Highway 66 on the Pacific Crest Trail.

"One thing everyone up here agrees on is we need to keep Little Hyatt Lake," said Diarmuid McGuire, who owns the recently closed Greensprings Inn.

Last week, BLM officials attended a community meeting about Little Hyatt Lake in a conference room behind the Greensprings Inn.

Residents reported that there were between 50 and 60 locals in attendance. An environmental assessment is expected from BLM this week, documenting what could become of the lake that many locals consider one of the area's most important recreational amenities.

— Videographer | Daily Tidings

Considering the Greensprings has about 500 residents, according to an estimate from the local volunteer fire department, 50 people showing up for a meeting is like if 2,000 Ashland residents came to a city council meeting.

"The level of interest has been enormous," Ron Schaaf, who some consider to be the mayor of the Greensprings, said. "It cuts across every political persuasion. It's amazing the cross-pollination on this issue. We even have Box R Ranch and the Friends of Greensprings on same side. "

Friends of the Greensprings, a community group, and the Box R Ranch, a destination resort with rental cabins and acres of hiking and horse trails, have come down on different sides of political issues in the past, Schaaf said. But more often than not recently in the Greensprings, many residents are finding common ground on the issues driving change in this community.

Little Hyatt Lake is not the first environmental issue to find agreement across traditional political divides up the Greensprings. Issues affecting the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, the 50,000-acre biological reserve that literally surrounds the area, has also made allies of the Friends of the Greensprings and the Box R Ranch.

Because the Monument was protected for its biological diversity, environmentalists have long wanted cattle taken out of it. While this was an issue of contention when the Monument was being created, both sides now agree it's time for the cattle to go.

Like with the Little Hyatt Lake issue, Rowlett said the locals are in agreement, but the politicians still need to be convinced.

"The only hold-up is for the legislators to get it done," he said. "We don't know why they won't get it introduced."

Schaaf said because of the broad community support for Little Hyatt Lake, the Greensprings community is going to pressure BLM over the potential dam closure.

"It's a win, win for politicians," he said, noting they have made contact with U.S. Rep. Greg Walden's office and plan to contact Oregon's senators, Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden, this week as well. "They don't have an adversary, they don't have opposition to counter. All they have to do is support a very popular issue."

Central issues

Other new developments in the Greensprings have garnered widespread support among residents, such as the prospect of the first permanent fire house. The all-volunteer Greensprings Fire and Rescue Department has recently embarked on an effort to raise $150,000 to build a four-bay fire station across the street from the Greensprings Inn on Highway 66. The one-acre parcel was donated to the fire department by McGuire, the owner of the Inn.

"Before the fire department came into being, at least a half dozen houses had burned to the ground" McGuire said, "It's become one of the hubs of the community. The Inn was one nucleus, the school is another. Now the Fire and Rescue is another nucleus."

Fire Chief Gene Davies said there are economic reasons, in addition to safety concerns, that will bring the community together around the potential fire station.

"It will impact people's insurance bills," he said. "I don't know what the savings will be, but it will be substantial."

Even residential growth seems to be acceptable to many up the Greensprings. As school populations have been dwindling in recent years, residents are confident that some of the those "for sale" signs that are increasingly dotting their neighborhood will turn into young families with school-aged children.

"One family will move away and, miraculously, another will move in," Schaaf said. "Somehow it seems to magically just keep rolling. Three kids is 10 percent of the school."

Matter of faith

In another part of the Greensprings, growth is happening in a different way. On Friday, Pastor Joe Johnson put up the walls of the first ever full-time church in the Greensprings, the Mountain View Christian Church.

"We've always had a place for service," Johnson said, as he took a break from framing. "But this is the first ever building set aside for God. It doesn't belong to me, it belongs to the community."

A carpenter who grew up in Ashland, Johnson moved to the Greensprings 15 years ago and became the community's preacher three years ago. In that time, his congregation has grown from a handful of people, to 60 on busy weekends.

"Change is always good," he said. "You just go with it."

Schaaf said even the non-religious faction of the Greensprings is happy with the progress the new church is making. He remembers when he and his wife were building their first home in the Greensprings. It was November and snow had started to fall before they had their roof in place, when Johnson and a team of carpenters showed up to help.

"I didn't even know Joe then," Schaaf said, noting that such is the neighborly attitude up the Greensprings. "People help each out up here because we've all got to deal with a lot with winter and the distance to town. We manage to keep it together as a group up here. It's about loyalty to where you live."

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