Echo receives third America in Bloom award

<p>Echo city officials will continue to pursue having the city designated as a Heritage All-Star Community by the state of Oregon. Thus far, the city meets 11 of at least 15 criteria needed to receive the designation.</p>

The City of Echo has earned a number of titles and accolades over the years, signifying their success as a small community.

City officials announced Monday Echo won this year’s America in Bloom national livability contest for cities with a population of less than 4,000, which it also won in 2009 and 2010.

The city also earned the rank of “Circle of Champions,” which is for cities that have a combination of three population category wins and/or criteria awards.

Echo also received the Oregon Heritage Excellence Award in 2009 and has received a Tree City USA designation since 1989.

Now, city officials are focusing their attention on receiving a “Heritage All-Star Community” designation.

Given the city’s cultural history with the Oregon Trail and the railroad, and city officials’ efforts to preserve that history, City Administrator Diane Berry thought the small town of 700 would be a perfect fit for the state of Oregon’s Heritage All-Star Community program.

Berry filled out an application earlier this year for the program.

If approved, the city would receive a “Heritage All-Star Community” designation, be featured on the Travel Oregon website, receive two metal signs with the designation and would be eligible to apply for non-competitive grants from the state to continue efforts to preserve the city’s history and heritage.

To qualify, a city must meet at least 15 of 20 criteria, ranging from having a historic preservation program in place to having grant-funded projects in the works involving the city’s history and heritage. The city must also continue to meet at least 15 of those criteria — either the same or different — to keep their designation.

Since the inception of the Heritage All-Star Community program last November, Oregon has named five cities as heritage all-stars including Albany, Salem, Roseburg, Cottage Grove and Oregon City. Other cities, such as Astoria and Bend, are also trying to qualify.

While Berry said she initially thought Echo’s dedication to preserving its history and current programs would automatically qualify it, but program representative Kuri Gill recently told city officials and interested residents Echo was a few criteria short of receiving a designation.

“The purpose of this program is to, one, recognize communities that are doing lots of heritage things because we believe that it makes communities more livable and more economically viable and also, makes them retain their unique character,” Gill said. “The second reason is to help people doing heritage work realize all of the resources we have available to help them do the work. The last thing is to encourage communities because they make them stronger.”

Gill said Echo meets about 11 of the program’s 20 criteria.

She said the city is close to meeting four others. Those include implementing a historic preservation program, a photo archive of the city’ history, a history record archive and a long-term local business summary.

Berry said they plan to have their museum board serve as their local landmarks commission, which would satisfy the historic preservation program criterium.

As far as having a photo and history record archive in place, Berry said the city has the materials, but does not have a medium in place yet allowing community members to access the documents.

The only thing remaining would be a long-term business summary, which identifies three locally owned, active businesses that have been in operation for 50 years or more and recognizes them for their achievement in a specific program.

Berry said she revisited the city’s application and included the Echo Hills Golf Course, Spike/Teel Ranch headquarters and Cunha Farmstead/Snow Ranches and will work on getting them recognized for their years of service to the community.

“You guys have a lot of great stuff here,” Gill said. “It is pretty exciting.”

Gill said she is also very impressed with the Echo city website, stating it was probably the best one that she had seen. She said she was also equally impressed with the city’s grant achievements to keep the history of the community alive.

Berry said officials will work to revise their original application and work closely with Gill until the city qualifies for the program, which might take a year.

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