You’ve heard of “new and improved?” It’s an apt description for the Nature Store at Silver Falls State Park.
For years the store was hidden away inside South Lodge in a dark, somewhat gloomy, corner room near the café. But that’s all changed.
Bigger and better, the Nature Store operated by a volunteer organization, the Friends of Silver Falls State Park, now has its own building – renovated, warm, bright and rustic in a Pacific Northwest-style of log walls and a huge stone fireplace.
It’s easier to find, too. Just follow the signs to South Lodge but walk on another 200 feet to what was called the Log Cabin and dates to the 1930s. It’s on the right side of the main path going to and from the South Falls viewpoint.
For information on Friends of Silver Falls
State Park call 503-874-8735.
The group has 14 volunteers but
welcomes more. Benefits include
a 10 percent merchandise discount,
a newsletter, an identifying vest and
nametag, and social activities.
In addition to operating the Nature
Store, the Friends sponsor the
Mother’s Day Birding and Wildflower
Weekend, State Parks Day, Star Party,
and holiday festivities.
The store sells nature-oriented merchandise, including clothing and T-shirts; books; souvenirs; and art items such as bowls and sculptures, providing a place for shoppers to find merchandise illustrating the spirit of the park. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with shorter hours during the winter.
Steve Janiszewski, park regional manager, said renovation cost $165,000. Otak Engineering carried out the planning, he said, and “helped take this historic building and make it usable year round.” Workers from Arciform, a historic preservation company, did the construction in three weeks.
They raised the front porch so a former step at the doorway is gone, making the building accessible to wheelchairs. A new concrete floor was laid over heating elements installed atop the old concrete floor, the logs were sealed for better insulation and storm windows were put in for weatherproofing. Display shelving, electrical upgrades and new halogen lighting added the final touches.
“Store sales have doubled,” Janiszewski said. “People are impressed by the doubled inventory.”
Jade Rutledge, an intern from Texas in the park’s interpretive program, said she’s excited about the new store and about working in a scenic location so unlike her home state. John and Mary Hodgins, newly moved to Silverton from Alabama, said they came to Oregon six years ago to volunteer at the park and decided to retire here.
They’ve done everything from picking up litter to trail maintenance, they said. “We just love this park,” Mary Hodgins said. “The visitors who come just rave about the beauty and the waterfalls.”
Lou Nelson of Shaw, Friends president and publicity chairwoman, has been with the group two years.
“My husband and I originally were volunteers doing whatever, and Steve Janiszewski came up one day and said we needed to be part of the Friends and invited us to a board meeting,” she said. “We’ve been in it ever since.”
As she leads history walks at the park, she meets many people.
“Yesterday I met a man from Eugene with dreadlocks who looked like he was out of Pirates of the Caribbean,” she said. “I also recently met a family group from India, only one of whom spoke English and had to translate my talk for them.”
Nelson volunteers because she enjoys it. “And I’ve come to find out that the people who work for the park are top-notch people,” she said. “They’re fun to work with and they believe in their mission to make the park as safe, interesting and educational as possible.”
Money raised by the Friends in the Nature Store goes toward the park, she said. “This year we’re working to buy (outside) interpretive panels here at the store and at the Stone Kitchen Center. At the end of the year we’ll look and see what we’ve got, but all profits go back into the park.”
They also assist with the park’s annual Christmas Festival in December. “We prepare kits for the kids to do all year long,” she said. “This new store is large enough to carry holiday merchandise and to decorate for the holidays.”
The partnership between staff and the Friends creates a park experience that goes far beyond what state funding provides.
“The main advantage to the new store is its more visible location,” Janiszewski said. “People wouldn’t find it before, but now they have to walk right by it. The other thing is its attractiveness. Making this building into a store is going to help the Friends sell more, and the more money they make, the more they can help us.”