Lest we forget, Grand Island and surrounding areas are home to real people and real farmers, who have legitimate concerns about their home and livelihood. There are also many people in the wider community who care about Grand Island because of past experiences there or hope for the future. Here are some sample voices from those real people, in the form of letters to the editors published in local papers. These letters also expand upon some of our diverse concerns about the pending gravel quarry application.
This page will be updated weekly as new letters are published. If you would like to submit your own letter to the editor, please see the submission info on our How You Can Help page. Thank you for listening to us.
Farms offer longer benefits
Todd Baker recently wrote a letter to the editor arguing the economic benefits of his company’s proposed Grand Island gravel quarry (Readers’ Forum, July 31).
As a Grand Island farmer, I disagree with the notion that a gravel quarry is better economically for our community than a farm in the same location. Yes, during the approximate 30 years that the proposed quarry will operate, it will create income and some jobs for the county — but, after that 30-year run, the site will become a virtual economic black hole for the community. The reclaimed site will become a permanent economic liability rather than an asset. It will require money to maintain as a park and will never again provide jobs or income.
Furthermore, the site is currently being farmed, already creating jobs and contributing to the wider economy. Individual farms such as this one make up the economic base for Yamhill County and the state of Oregon. As an industry, farming is an essential economic contributor, and farms work best when they are on good ground, have access to plentiful irrigation water and are near infrastructure and markets.
On all these counts, Grand Island is an ideal place to farm. The soils here are particularly productive because of their well-drained gravel and sandy subsoils. To me, destroying prime farmland in order to mine the substance that makes it so productive is akin to killing the goose to get the golden eggs. In the end, our community loses if it kills its economic base: farming.
As farmable ground, the 224-acre site could keep contributing positively to the economy well beyond the next 30 years into the foreseeable future. Prime irrigated farmland is a long-term asset to our county and state. Let’s consider Yamhill County’s real economic future and protect Grand Island.
Protect Grand Island
I write to share my concerns about Baker Rock’s request to mine aggregate on 224 acres of farmland on Grand Island. While the company’s application addresses many issues, I still am worried that approval of a third quarry on the island would have irreversible and expensive outcomes. These include loss of productive farmland, dust and weed damage to neighboring crops, degradation and possible failure of roads and bridges, hazardous traffic conditions, changes in floodwater movement and negative impacts on groundwater resources.
I appreciate the value of aggregate resources but am not convinced that there is a demonstrated market need or demand for them, especially a demand that can only be met by destroying prime farmland on Grand Island. While not a farmer, I grew up on the island and returned here to raise my family in the rural environment I love and respect.
On the Yamhill County Planning website there is a brochure titled “So … You Think You Want To Live in the Country?” This brochure discusses the realities of rural living, such as using well water, being on a septic system, and living next to farming operations. It clearly describes how farming practices are protected and must be accommodated in farm use zones, but does not address how quickly or easily those protected farmlands can turn into gravel pits.
On the road to Grand Island a sign proudly calls this special place “The Garden Spot of Oregon.” If you have never been here, please come out and see what makes it so special. Then, help keep Grand Island from becoming “The Gravel Pit Spot” by voicing your own concerns. Visit www.protectgrand island.com for more information.
Don’t be fleeced
In the 13 years I’ve lived in Yamhill County, I had never visited Grand Island, but this gravel-mining controversy stirred my curiosity. On Sunday, July 24, I drove over there with no particular expectations.
What I found was almost a throwback to another era; an era of rich farmland cultivated with lush crops of every kind, a poster child for how the Willamette Valley gained its reputation as a peerless breadbasket. Poignant it was, though, to witness the pathetic little yard signs dotted here and there, the words “Save Grand Island” scratched out on pieces of cheap cardboard.
Baker Rock has an application pending for a 30-year mining operation on a 224 acre tract. That’s in addition to their current Grand Island gravel-mining on a smaller tract. Add to that another 245-acre operation already approved and what do you have?
Mining, that’s what you have. Mining, whether for gold or gravel, is about one thing — extraction. Unlike farming, there’s no renewal, only removal. Have you ever heard of a mining operation leaving the land in better shape than before the mining began? Good luck. Why do you think miners refer to the waste material from excavation as spoil?
Can’t we do something about this? Are we always going to be like tourists funneled into the gift shop, waiting around for the ritual fleecing?
Call or write your Yamhill County Commissioners.
Preserve Grand Island
My husband and I have owned and operated Heiser’s Pumpkin Patch on Grand Island for 17 years. We were drawn to the island for many reasons, one – that it’s a wonderful place to raise a family, and the other – its fertile, rich farmland.
Two years ago, we purchased an adjoining farm to expand our pumpkin patch and have been working tirelessly getting it ready for October, adding more attractions in hopes of providing an even more enjoyable family experience.
I am very concerned about the new application by Baker Rock for a 30-year, 234-acre mining operation for many reasons. First is the increased truck traffic that will result and how it will affect the many people and children who visit on weekdays. We have, for several years, offered special weekend events that use this entire beautiful island, i.e. biking, volkswalking, and running races, and will possibly have to alter our events if trucks are hauling on Saturdays. Second, needless to say, there will be major wear and tear on an already aging bridge – the only way on and off the island.
Last, we already have two rock quarries on the island. One large 245-acre quarry owned by Bernert Towing, not yet in production, borders our new farm on the north, and a second 40-acre quarry, owned by Baker Rock, is less than a quarter mile south of our home.
I realize gravel has to come from somewhere and we, I admit, have used our share on both our farms; however, Grand Island has more than its fair share of quarries. The irreversible effect of mining will render this island’s prime farmland useless for future generations.
Those interested in learning more can visit www.protectgrandisland.com and help preserve this very special Yamhill County island.
Say no to gravel pit
Yamhill County commissioners are going to decide on a new, open-pit gravel mine on Grand Island. This one is for 620,000 round trips for the life of the pit, with the largest trucks allowed.
In 2004, they approved one for 475,000 round trips. Not only will this destroy forever the Grand Island community, it means more than 1 million round trips going right by your renamed park. And that is just from Grand Island.
Also in 2004, they approved another pit, closer to Dayton, for 270,000 round trips. These are all new ones to add to those already in place. When the bypass work starts, watch out – it won’t just be the destruction of farming and property values on Grand Island that will be forever changed.
Please say no to ruining our land, our roads and our homes. Contact the Yamhill County Planning Department for more information.
Protect Grand Island
Until a recent employment change, my husband and I had lived in the Yamhill County area since 1978. We have friends and family who have lived on Grand Island since 1953.
Grand Island is a beautiful place: lush, wonderful for growing all kinds of produce, cherries, blueberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, apples — everything that makes living in the Willamette Valley so terrific.
The dangers from gravel quarries digging up all the gravel and creating huge holes undermine the integrity of the Island and can destroy the livelihood of every farmer who lives there. It can cause flooding. It also could destroy the habitat of protected species, including egrets, hawks, other birds, fish and other wildlife that live, breed and hunt on or around Grand Island.
To allow this wonderful place to be put in danger and possibly destroyed by a gravel pit is unbelievable and unthinkable. We urge the Yamhill County commissioners and all the citizens of Yamhill County to oppose any more gravel quarries on Grand Island.
Mathew M. and Tracy A. Kindred
Land use laws weak
At the June 16 county commissioners hearing, Barbara Schaffner spoke eloquently about protecting farm and forest lands for the future of Yamhill County. She also testified concerning the rules governing the Mills’ rezoning request.
Unfortunately, all that testimony fell on the deaf ears of the current land use laws. That really shows the weakness of land use laws in Yamhill County, because they don’t deal with the future, but concern only the here and now.
Recent letters to the editor for protection of farming on Grand Island show citizens are concerned with the loss of farming in their area. It is great to see the common sense interest in the control of their future by concerned citizens. Only by their participation will the future direction of Yamhill County and the state be determined. If the citizens do not get involved, then the land use laws will continue to be eroded.
Bit by bit, as each development is presented and approved, farmlands will gradually disappear. Also, it’s time the editors of the newspaper get on board and help encourage more people to take time to care about the future of farming and land use. It’s their future, too.
Continued loss of farmland means that, eventually, what’s left of the land will not support the present population, let alone any future growth.
Most people do not know about the food rationing during World War II. Since that time, there has been a great growth in population and a great loss of farmland. The national security of this country — its ability to feed itself — during a major conflict is being put into jeopardy as the farm lands are destroyed by development.
It’s too great a risk not to care.
Urge rejection of quarry
The Yamhill County Planning Commission voted July 1 to recommend denial of the current gravel quarry application on Grand Island. However, the county commissioners are under no obligation to follow the planning commission’s recommendation.
It will be very expensive for Yamhill County taxpayers if the quarry application is approved. A gravel quarry was approved in 2004 for 75 truck trips per 12-hour workday, although it is not yet in operation. The current application also states there will be 75 truck trips per day, doubling the potential truck traffic to one truck every five minutes.
The only access to the island is across a long, narrow bridge that was built in 1964. The bridge has numerous tiny cracks in the support pillars. A large chunk of concrete broke off from one of the main support pillars a couple years ago. The county merely cemented the piece back into place.
The bridge needs to be replaced, but it could cost several million dollars to do so — money the county does not have. Many portions of Grand Island’s roads are too narrow for traffic to pass safely. While the quarry applicant will improve the roads to current standards, the wider roads will add to the county’s maintenance costs.
The added maintenance needs will not be limited to Grand Island roads and bridges. The gravel will have to be hauled to Dayton or McMinnville for processing, increasing the deterioration of those roads as well.
Grand Island residents must have safe access to their homes, yet the county cannot afford to replace the bridge. It makes no sense to approve another quarry that will further accelerate the need for bridge replacement. Send comments to the county planning department and include reference number PAZ-01-10/WRG-01-10 in your letter.
Protect Grand Island
My wife and I farm organic vegetables on Grand Island. Our farm community is threatened by another gravel quarry, which proposes to mine 175 acres of prime topsoils for the gravel beneath.
While the actual mining and loss of farmland will horribly disrupt the island and its farms, the aftermath of the m ining particularly concerns me. The gravel company proposes to craft two large (150-acre total) ponds, and then turn the land over to Oregon State Parks as wildlife and recreation land.
Who will be expected to maintain this new acquisition? Most likely, the same people who officially “maintain” the current day-use park across from the proposed gravel mine: the Grand Island community. That’s us. We busy farmers don’t have time to properly tend the existing park. Burdening us with an additional 175 acres of park, after destroying the productive and tax-income-generating farmland, is outrageous to us.
Imagine a possibly analogous scenario in your community: the neighborhood school — which your children walk to, where you watch ball games and your friends teach — is torn down. Where once you had a bustling building and groomed fields, all that remains is an abandoned lot, littered with trash, surrounded by a deteriorating fence intended to deter vandals. And, it gets worse: your public officials expect you to take care of the fence, the litter-strewn lot, the dried-up-grass playing fields.
Join us in saying No to the loss of prime farmland and to burdening our community with another park we don’t have the time or money to maintain.
Our county commissioners will hear this proposal in September. Ask them to deny the application or at least require the gravel mine to be reclaimed to productive farmland, rather than taxpayer-burdening “parkland.” Protect Grand Island.
Bravo to planning board
The Yamhill County Planning Commission voted 5-to-2 last week to deny Baker Rock’s application to mine gravel on 175 acres of prime Grand Island farmland, known to us islanders as The Harding Place. They sited various reasons for going against planning staff’s advice, which was to approve the permit.
They showed great courage and wisdom in taking all the evidence into consideration before casting their votes. We on Grand Island and the surrounding community wish to thank them for the fairness and attention to this very important matter. This, however, is just the first step. We still have to go before the commissioners and plead our case.
We are prepared to fight this to the end, doing whatever is necessary to stop the continued destruction of our farmland. We still need the public’s help. Please, write our county commissioners with your concerns. This gravel pit not only affects Grand Island residents, but all Yamhill County taxpayers.
Many drive around our island on the weekends and know the condition of our roads and bridge. They will not hold up with the addition of 75 more heavy trucks each day. The repair of these roads and our bridge will fall to Yamhill County taxpayers, with Baker Rock paying only a pro-rata share of the needed reconstruction.
The county states that ordinary and regular maintenance of the Lambert Slough Bridge is the responsibility of the county. If the condition of the bridge deteriorates following commencement of operations at the site, the operator shall participate in the repair, reconstruction or replacement of the bridge, to the extent bridge degradation is attributable to the site operations (pro-rata). This means the bulk of the costs will be paid with taxpayers’ money.
Let our elected officials hear your voice.
When wells run dry
I have been a Grand Island resident my entire life, and my parents have called Grand Island home for more than 30 years. My father worked on a farm here before then, and our family has made a portion of its living from a fruit orchard here ever since.
I am very concerned with the proposed zoning change that would allow mineral extraction on prime agricultural land because it will negatively impact not only my parents, but the other residents who find themselves neighbors to the proposed rezoning site.
I have always been a firm believer in being able to do what you want with your own property. I get worried when these practices affect the ability of others to continue their lives and their ability to make a livelihood as they have in the past.
We are not connected to municipal water supplies and, instead, get our water from shallow wells. I am afraid that, when the mine begins operation, the deep cells that they will carve out will cause the water table to drop in the area. The plan put in front of the county said that local wells should not be affected.
I’m not sure about you, but “should” is not a very reassuring word. A child who rides a bike without a helmet “should” be OK, right?
If our wells lose pressure or develop a water quality issue, we cannot simply run out to the nearest hardware store and fix it. It is a costly and time consuming ordeal to re-drill a well. This is one issue among many, but this one is key, because it is an issue of being able to continue living in a place residents call home.
Love the tranquility
What I love about Grand Island is the tranquility. Sure, there are sounds of the land being tilled, planted and harvested at times of the year. However, from pre-dawn hours until dark, I mostly hear only birds singing. There are songbirds and birds of prey. There are osprey nests on the property next door that Baker Rock wants to turn into a gravel pit. The osprey is protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Protection Act.
Across the road from me is what we call the barn orchard, which was planted by the farmers many years ago to keep the flood waters from eroding the land. I have heard it is the largest cottonwood forest in North America. It is beautiful. I love to sit in the yard taking in this scene, listening to the birds with the trees swaying in the breeze as the sun sets across the strawberry field next to it. Sometimes there is the sweet smell of strawberries wafting on the breeze.
The beauty and tranquility is evidenced by bicyclists who come on weekends from other towns to share in it. I once lived outside the gate of a gravel pit in Dallas, Texas. At 6 in the morning, many trucks with motors running were lined up waiting for the gate to open. Then, all day, trucks rumbled up and down the road, shaking the ground. From inside the pit itself, I heard bangs, clangs, shrieks and whines. Dust covered every surface of my home.
If Baker Rock has its way, tranquility will be a thing of the past. But we shouldn’t worry, they’ll be done in only 35 years — if they haven’t caused the river to capture the island long before that.
One quarry is enough
My husband Casey and I grow organic vegetables on Grand Island here in Yamhill County. We are young and make our complete living from our farm. We hope to continue farming our entire lives and hand off our farm someday to our baby son, Rusty.
The rich soil on Grand Island is ideal for organic production, and we have great demand for our vegetables locally. Yet we feel uncertain about our future on the island because of increased pressure to convert land from exclusive farm-use zoning to mineral extraction.
A 245-acre quarry on the island was approved in 2004. Right now, an application is pending for a 224-acre gravel quarry on the other end of the island. If this second application is approved, approximately one-eighth of Grand Island’s prime farmland will have been converted to mineral extraction zoning and out of farm use.
Two quarry applications within a 10-year period is a worrisome trend for us and other farmers on Grand Island. If this second quarry is approved, what would stop a third quarry from being approved in just a few years? And then a fourth, fifth, sixth … ?
How long until our island is clogged with road dust and our aging access bridge needs costly repairs from heavy use by gravel trucks? How long until Grand Island looks more like Ross Island, and farming here becomes impossible for people like my husband and me? How long until our son no longer has a future on Grand Island?
Agriculture is the base of Yamhill County’s economy, and farming should be a priority in land use decisions. Grand Island is an amazing place to farm — we ask the county to keep it that way. One already-approved quarry is enough for this small agricultural island.
Don’t approve zone change
We are concerned about the proposal to change the zoning on Grand Island for 224 acres of prime agricultural land to another rock quarry. Our concern is not only the loss of agricultural land, but also that Grand Island Road is much too narrow for the resulting heavy truck traffic, added to that from the already-approved gravel extraction.
Imagine 140 truck-trips a day with rock and gravel to be processed. Currently, there is barely room for two-way traffic, not considering farm equipment and bicycles. Necessary modifications to Grand Island Road will cost a great deal. Will the county (taxpayers) stand these costs?
We believe additional gravel extraction will cause dire problems for island farmers and us residing in the area. The conversion of Grand Island agricultural land to gravel pits should not be approved.
Ron and Barbara Bell
Farmland should be saved
Have you heard of Grand Island? It is home to approximately 4,000 acres of prime farmland in Yamhill County.
That land use is being threatened by a zone change request to make approximately 225 acres into a rock quarry. My grandfather, Clark Noble, bought his first piece of Grand Island in 1953, another in 1956. He farmed it until 1968, when he retired, and my dad and uncle farmed it until 1986. The property remains in the Clark Noble Trust, being farmed by Shelburne Family Farms.
If you ask anyone from surrounding communities who grew up in the 1950s through 1970s what they did during summers, they would probably respond with “worked on a farm on Grand Island.” It could have been Alderman’s, Scoggans, Hildebrandt’s, Noble’s, Schindler’s or Tompkin’s.
Although most aren’t farming now, a younger generation is trying to make a profitable living. Growing up on the farm was the best way to be raised. For kids, summers were spent working with our extended families. Lifetime friendships were formed.
It gave us a value of the land and work ethics that helped us become who we are. Even though we weren’t able to stay and raise our families, it has always been home and I am fortunate to be back living here. Farming and the land have been in ou blood, and this place remains in our hearts.
My grandfather’s greatest love was family, followed closely by farming, whether it be behind horses, on a tractor, with wagons or a truck. He loved the soil, treated the ground with respect, helped neighbors, and was a true believer in God, because he was with God 24 hours daily.
Save the farmland on Grand Island for future generations to work as our ancestors did. They will gain much respect and love for the soil.