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Jacksonville honors three for volunteer work

Nearly five decades of volunteer service to the city by three individuals was recognized by Jacksonville City Council Jan. 4.

Carolyn Kingsnorth was named the town’s 2020 Person of the Year, Kandee McClain was named 2021 Person of the Year, and Tony Hess was given the city’s Lifetime Achievement honor. All had previously been named the Jacksonville Boosters Club’s “Booster of the Year.”

All seats were filled by those who came to honor the selectees, reported Mayor Dona Bowen, who detailed the volunteers’ achievements. “Isn’t this a wonderful way to start the new year?” Bowen said at the end of the ceremony.

Kingsnorth moved to Jacksonville in 2003, joined the boosters and served as the group’s president for three years. She also was publisher of the Jacksonville Review for three years.

When Southern Oregon Historical Society was withdrawing from Jacksonville, Kingsnorth organized the Jacksonville Heritage Society that helped preserve historic buildings then owned by Jackson County, including the 1883 courthouse that is now New City Hall. When the city gained ownership of the structures, Kingsnorth formed Historic Jacksonville, Inc., which took on preservation of the Beekman Bank and Beekman House. That stewardship continues to this day, Bowen said, and Kingsnorth remains its creative and energetic force.

Tours of the house and bank, the only museum-quality historical structures open to the public in town, are offered seasonably by the group. In addition, Kingsnorth created a series of haunted history tours and walking tours of Jacksonville. When the pandemic emerged, she created virtual content to continue telling the town’s stories.

“All of this is done because I love Jacksonville. One of the phrases I use is, ‘History is who we are, so we don’t want to forget it,’” said Kingsnorth. “That’s why we like to share it with you and bring it to life.”

McClain has lived in Jacksonville for 10 years. She is a Boosters Club member, has served on the board of directors and chaired the club’s Beekman Arboretum committee. She serves on the Boosters Foundation board of directors. She has also been a Jacksonville Woodlands Association board member, serving as secretary and now president. She set up an endowment to ensure the woodland trail system’s maintenance. She’s also been on the city Parks, Recreation and Visitor Services Committee.

For the last five years McClain has led the effort to restore the Beekman Arboretum, which had suffered from neglect. Work has included large-scale trimming and weed control, landscaping, restoration of a water feature and irrigation systems, and creation of a picnic shelter. She has inspired a number of volunteers to take part.

“Jacksonville makes a person want to take care of it, to volunteer for and be a positive part of it. I’m sure being here has made me a different person than I would have been if I had lived elsewhere,” said McClain. “Many citizens work so hard to make this the special town it is.”

Hess moved to town in 2001 and was on the Jacksonville Woodlands Association board of directors by 2003, where he was treasurer and contracting officer for a $905,000 fuel-reduction grant that cleared over 300 acres of woodlands and adjacent lands.

Later Hess began work to improve the city’s 1,800-acre watershed and reservoir site west of town. Despite controversy, a tract of land higher in the watershed was sold to the Motorcycle Riders Association, which removed motor bikes from lower portions of the parcel, which became Forest Park. Hess chaired a committee that led to an exchange of land with the motorcycle group. Beginning in 2008, Hess began work to create trails and build kiosks, restrooms, bridges and benches, and to protect the park lands. There are now over 40 miles of trails in the park.

Bowen noted that Hess, who had a career in mining, began drilling for grants to support many civic projects shortly after his arrival.

“When we came to town … we didn’t know of all the nonprofits that existed. That is the uniqueness,” said Hess. “I just had opportunities to be at the right place at the right time, to do things I’d never done in my life, like trail building and fuel reduction. The watershed was a great project. Most of it was fun. There was great camaraderie.”

Jacksonville’s mayor selects recipients for the awards after consulting with others, said Bowen. “The same names kept coming up over and over. It was kind of a no-brainer this time. They have all done so much for the city,” she said.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.