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MailTribune.com
  • Volunteers help new operator of rest stop

    Oregon travel group adding value to stops
  • BOARDMAN — Rosa Rodriguez serves coffee to travelers one morning a week through a window at Boardman's eastbound rest stop. Her grandchildren, Julien, 10, and Lizette Sanchez, 7, stretch their heads up to the window to greet the roadies.
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  • BOARDMAN — Rosa Rodriguez serves coffee to travelers one morning a week through a window at Boardman's eastbound rest stop. Her grandchildren, Julien, 10, and Lizette Sanchez, 7, stretch their heads up to the window to greet the roadies.
    "It helps me with stress," Rodriguez, 65, said. She volunteers with rest stop coordinator Kay Thomas through the Columbia River Food Bank.
    "I get to talk to people from all over. You don't have time to think about bad things."
    The rest stop where Rodriguez volunteers is the example of what Oregon Travel Experience hopes to bring to all rest stops along Interstate 84.
    Since OTE took over the Boardman stop from the Oregon Department of Transportation, a freshly-painted trailer has room for a coffee stand for nonprofits to use. Several nonprofit organizations in the community keep a steady flow of local volunteers who point out sights to see in the area to passers-by. "For this area, coffee was a big deal. It was pretty much bare dirt where we are now," OTE Community Assets Officer Annie VonDomitz said. "We're working with community coalition groups to figure out what they want at the rest stops."
    As of January, OTE has taken over all rest stops along I-84 from Oregon Department of Transportation. The organization will take over I-5 rest stops as well in the next few years.
    The hand-over began as a statewide effort to drive people passing through on highways into the community. OTE Communications Officer Madeline MacGregor said the organization may appear, at first, to be a strange rest stop caretaker. "It does seem weird, and in many ways it was a bit of a novelty, but that is part of our mission, to promote tourism," McGregor said.
    As ODOT did, OTE receives money from the state highway fund to run the rest stop area.
    In line with the agenda from Oregon's 2009 Jobs in Transportation Act, OTE employs locals such as Joleen Odens to run the rest stops. Odens oversees the Boardman and Stanfield rest stops, with one full-time on-site manager at each. OTE is in talks to build a similar office and coffee trailer at Stanfield's site. Odens said the popular Boardman location was a natural fit for the first OTE-sponsored trailer along I-84.
    "People are pretty desperate when they get here," Odens said of the 90-mile stopless stretch along eastbound I-84 before Boardman.
    But OTE says there are more improvements to be made, including more trucker parking in the Boardman stop. It's in the process of gleaning suggestions from the public.
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