Submitted photo ## A dumpster is filled to the brim with trash from the north side of Cozine Creek during an April cleanup event organized by the South of Downtown Association of Neighbors.
Submitted photo ## A dumpster is filled to the brim with trash from the north side of Cozine Creek during an April cleanup event organized by the South of Downtown Association of Neighbors.

Neighborhood associations give citizens more of a say


From my front porch on Southeast Washington Street, I can see five homes built before 1900. There are newer dwellings, as well — some, like ours, which was built in 1904, along with several from the 1940s and a duplex and 12-unit apartment complex of more recent vintage.

Guest Writer

Ellie Gunn Ellie Gunn graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in community service. After pursuing a series of different career paths, and authoring a memoir and two novels about Scotland, she is spending her retirement years growing vegetables, enjoying local music, spending time with her family and playing cribbage with friends and neighbors.

From my backyard, I can see at least nine shades of green trees, ranging from Douglas fir to mountain ash, and our orchard, featuring apples, pears and grapes. Cozine Creek wanders below, headed from its beginning in the hills of West McMinnville to the Yamhill River.

I want to keep it just as it is now. I guess, in my “old age,” I’ve become resistant to change.

With the growing popularity of McMinnville creating a shortage of housing, and our neighborhood lying just three blocks from downtown, our family joined a group of others in 2015 in deciding it was time to act — to provide a voice in future planning. That November, the group of families, all living southeast of Second Street along Cozine Creek, met to begin considering how to make our neighborhood safer and better preserve its historical nature.

Around 100 people attended the first meeting. They agreed to create an official organization with a mission statement, board of directors, membership and annual meeting.

Our purpose in forming the South of Downtown Association of Neighbors, known as SoDAN, was to create a mechanism for interacting with the city of McMinnville, helping each other resolve common problems and keep ourselves informed about issues as they arose.

In doing so, we have been able to interact with the city staff to help resolve difficult problems, make progress toward our goals and receive information and support from the planning, police and public works departments.

By 2017, we found ourselves in the midst of camps of homeless people sleeping in the courtyards and sidewalks of three local churches, along the banks of Cozine Creek, and in RVs, vans and disabled cars lining the streets. Discarding needles, dealing drugs, stealing goods and scattering trash around became so common that some owners seriously considered selling their homes and moving away.

In response, we launched an informal Neighborhood Watch group, exchanged phone numbers and sponsored walks in the area to maintain a safe presence on our streets. SoDAN leaders contacted church pastors and police officials, and were eventually able to persuade the churches to ban overnight camping on their properties.

Another benefit of our group is the number of neighbors willing to help with the annual Cozine Creek Clean-up. This April, 35 neighbors and friends walked the Cozine from Ford Street to the Yamhill River picking up trash washed downstream from flooding, thrown over the railroad trestle, and left by people either camping illegally or just leaving beer cans and old clothes behind from spots they liked to hang out.

McMinnville Public Works Department supplied dumpsters on each side of the creek, both of which were filled in a matter of hours. On the north side, volunteers even had to drag discarded furniture up the creek’s steep bank.

Given the need to add more housing in McMinnville, the planning department has been looking for suitable places to increase density, which poses a challenge to the character of our neighborhood.

SoDAN members have attended forums and met with consultants to promote preservation of our neighborhood’s  historical significance and point out the challenges associated with increasing vehicular travel. We’ve suggested to the planning department that vacant houses and empty lots should be the first priorities when it comes to providing dwellings for people, not tearing down single-family homes in order to build more apartments.

While we value this area of the city as our home, it is also significant in the history of McMinnville. Here is a brief history of just one block of Washington Street, located between Ford Street and the railroad tracks:

By 1855, people were arriving in the Yamhill Valley by wagon train to settle acres of land allotted to them by the Hudson Bay Company. Among them were John and Eliza Wortman, arriving in 1844, to help establish a fledgling community.

Their youngest son, John, helped start the first bank. He built his first home in 1885 on the corner of what is now Ford and Washington streets.

The railroad line and trestle were built by 1879. Cozine Creek to the south helped define the railroad’s property line.

A large barn was raised near the Wortman house, providing room for cows and horses. An orchard was planted on the south slope near the barn, and vegetables were grown closer to the house, which was situated on five acres.

In 1895, a lot adjacent to the tracks was sold. The buyer built a boarding house for railroad employees amid the property’s oak trees.

A larger lot next to it was sold as well. A house was built on it in 1904.

By the 1930s, more homes had been built. This block became a neighborhood that enjoyed access to Cozine Creek below.

The challenges of acting as an official Neighborhood Association today include the ongoing need to keep working on local issues and finding new people to be involved when others get too busy or move away.

SoDAN has not collected dues for membership. Anyone who has attained the age of 18 and established 30 days of residency is eligible to join.

Some members have lived here for decades, others only for months. Some are homeowners, others renters. We send e-mail notices of events and important city news, like road closures, public meetings and surveys.

Want to join? Send me an e-mail at elliegunn@gmail.

It can be a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. It’s a way for people to get to know neighbors blocks away and discover what they have in common.

Should other neighborhoods in McMinnville organize in similar fashion? Yes.

Should the city be responsible for making that happen? No, but it should help make that work.

If the city departments had an e-mail contact for a neighborhood association, that contact person could forward information to a large number of fellow residents. Communication would be enhanced to the benefit of both the city and its citizens.

Having a neighborhood association that can reach out as a group to the police department, planning department and city council gives residents more influence in the decisionmaking for the present and future of McMinnville. Please consider starting one in your neighborhood.



I wonder if the writer is from the state of California? McMinnville has gotten to be just like Portland - left wing and wanting the flood of illegals to come in . Just not in my backyard they say! Is it really any wonder we have the mass homelessness and the illegals spongeing off our generous welfare system? If these proggies want the overpopulation then they need to raze some of those old neighborhoods like around the college and Cedarwood area and put in more apartment complexes.


greg. you're so funny. you are likely from california. you sound like it. all that hater lingo. but you say you live in heavenly newberg. good for you. of course they have a big corporate newspaper. do you comment with your wry humor in that paper? you just like to trash mcminnville.


@mike , no just the leftist newspapers Willamette Week and News Register

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