Communities, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir, Uncategorized

Grants, tours, and forward momentum for the Willamette Activity Center

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The Willamette Activity Center, or WAC, now condemned, had been the home of many of Oakridge’s community services for decades. Herald photo

By GUEN DIGIOIA/for The Herald  —  Excitement increases for the Willamette Activity Center (WAC) refurbishment project! The WAC funding committee received two more grants of $27,500 each! The funders, the Oneatta Fund and the R.W. Family Fund, work with the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF). These funds will support an architectural feasibility study and community outreach.

This announcement coincides with a walkthrough of the WAC that occurred on June, 8 2022. Attendees included the WAC Funding Committee, Oakridge Public Works, Oakridge Interim City Administrator, McKenzie Commercial, Wilson Architecture, and WoodWorks.

McKenzie Commercial and Wilson Architecture have worked together in Oakridge renovating the Oakridge School District to serve as an emergency shelter. WoodWorks is a Portland based nonprofit that supports commercial and multi-family wood building design, engineering, and construction using mass timber.

Old growth timber is still strong

“The old growth timber that built this building is tight, despite the leaks,” Curt Wilson of Wilson Architecture said during the walkthrough. They were in what was most recently the DMV office. “The wood is so beautiful,” commented Janelle Leafblad from WoodWorks. Despite persistent roof leaks, the wood and structure appeared intact and without signs of rot, Leafblad noted during the walkthrough.

From left to right: Kevin Martin, Robeart Chrisman, Curt Wilson, Lynda Kamerer, Jim Mender, Guen DiGioia, and Bryan Cutchen Photo by Sarah Altemus-Pope


Both Wilson and Jim Mendor of McKenzie Commercial concluded that the WAC’s structure is salvageable, due in large part to the old-growth timber that makes up the structure of the building. The best thing the community can do is preserve this resource.

Secure the building’s envelope first

Mendor and Wilson recommend first fixing the roof, the exterior, the mechanical systems, and the windows; all the components that affect the building’s “envelope.”   Secondly, they recommend beautifying and upgrading the inside facilities. Additionally, beautification of the exterior could highlight the classic timber structure. This could be done with donations of mass timber products and by working with local Oregon companies and WoodWorks.

Mender and Wilson examine the Willamette Activity Center’s roof Photo by Sarah Altemus-Pope

The next step for the WAC is to utilize the OCF grants. These, along with funds set aside from the City of Oakridge, will be used to complete architectural and engineering feasibility studies.

These studies will inform commercial contractors how to update the building’s envelope and re-slope the roof. Also, The WAC Funding Committee will continue to pursue grants to renovate the building envelope, investigate solar electric feasibility and installation. They will also look for assistance in upgrading the internal portals of the building to house essential community services.

Guen DiGioia is an Oregon State alumnus with her master’s in sustainable forest management with a minor in statistics. She grew up here in Oakridge, Oregon, and is currently the residential upgrade and smoke outreach coordinator for Oakridge Air. Guen DiGioia photo

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