Something special: Scotts Mills Grange builds covered bridge

August 2010 Posted in Community

By Aurora EllisonCommunity members who led the efforts to improve Scotts Mills City Park:  Grange members Margaret Girsch, left, Joe Plas, Paula Darland, Roger Darland; Mayor Ron Bielenberg.

Scotts Mills City Park recently got a facelift, thanks to Scotts Mills Grange and harmonious efforts of the community and city.

The new and improved park is now available for weddings and events, with a new covered bridge, freshly planted flowers, new grass and even a waterwheel.

It all started with some toilets and sinks at the Scotts Mills Grange. After a much-needed remodel of the restrooms, the Scotts Mills Grange’s funds were low. Scotts Mills Grange members Roger and Paula Darland, Joe Plas, and Margaret Gersch started brainstorming.

“We were looking for ways to make money and Joe [Plas] said something he always wanted to do was fix up the park and have weddings there,” Roger Darland said.

The original idea was to clean up the park, add a gazebo and make it available to rent for weddings. Plas offered to donate lumber from his company. Then the idea came up to do a covered bridge instead of a gazebo.  Knowlens Bridge, which crosses Butte Creek at the edge of town, was a covered bridge until the 1950s.

Scotts Mills City Park
Planning a wedding or other event?
Here’s what you need to know:
Scotts Mills City Park can
accommodate 100 guests.
Fee $500 – $1,000 (price not yet fixed)
Includes: Reservation, chairs, option to
use the Grange hall for indoor reception
Contact Scotts Mills City Clerk at

Gersch, president of the Scotts Mills Historical Society, favored the idea of building a covered bridge in the park to “create more history.”  The historical society had tried but failed to convince Marion and Clackamas Counties to rebuild the cover on Knowlens Bridge. (Butte Creek is the county border.)

Although there are other local wedding venues, including Abiqua Country Estate and Domaine Margelle Vineyards, planners weren’t worried about competition because the park would be a more economical site.

In fact, Scotts Mills Grange members spoke with owners of larger venues who are glad to be able to refer some customers to a smaller venue.

Having settled on the idea of a covered bridge and wedding venue, Scotts Mills Grange members approached the city of Scotts Mills in March to strike a deal. The Scotts Mills Grange would spearhead the makeover and receive the reservation fee for special events.  When not reserved, the beautified park would be open to the public.

Scotts Mills Mayor Ron Bielenberg was glad to support something that would improve the image of the community.

“It’s a win-win for the taxpayers because they get a very beautiful park at a very low cost,” he said.

The idea quickly became a reality. Volunteers started cutting down dead trees in the park in May and were finished with the project by the end of June.

“People just kind of came out of the woodwork and wanted to do something,” Roger Darland said. Between 40 and 50  residents donated money and materials, not to mention time, sweat and ideas.

The new water wheel at the park.

Plas and his associate, Tom Bielenberg, donated the lumber and built the bridge at their sawmill as promised. Roger Darland said Plas “didn’t realize how much he was going to donate when he started.” The Scotts Mills Historical Society donated money for some flowers and Kraemer’s Nursery made a large donation of plants.

As they moved forward, they decided, “If we’re going to have a bridge, we need a creek… and if we’re going to have a creek, and this is Scotts Mills, we might as well have a water wheel,” Roger Darland chuckled.

The self-contained “creek” has a fountain at one end and a water wheel at the other end, with a pump to keep it moving. There are even a few small fish.

In the near future, the Scotts Mills Grange members plan to recruit volunteers who will “adopt a flower bed” to maintain. They also hope to replace the picnic tables throughout the park.

Scotts Mills Grange members report that there have already been more family reunions than usual this summer and Mayor Bielenberg said he’s heard “nothing but positive comments” about the park.

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