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Building Community Support

January 16, 2019

When the City of Canby re-instituted its Heritage and Landmark Commission after a decade of inactivity, commission members quickly realized that building community support for historic preservation was their greatest challenge. As a result, the group decided to make community outreach and involvement a significant element of all of their heritage initiatives.

Recognizing that heritage programming often attracts a limited portion of the community, HLC members looked for ways to reach a broader segment. The commission began with students. Collaborating with Canby’s Lee Elementary School, they included student council members as speakers at the induction of the Philander Lee Oak Tree into the Oregon Heritage Tree Program. When the nomination of the community’s 1937 City Hall required a public hearing, Commissioner Tony Crawford worked with teachers to create an opportunity for students to participate. Fourth graders wrote essays in support of the nomination and read them as part of the public testimony segment of the public hearing. The inclusion of students has the added benefit of attracting parents, grandparents, teachers and others to heritage events, many of whom might not otherwise attend.   

Another challenge for the commission was engaging Canby’s relatively large (22%) Latinx population. In 2017, the group decided that the first step involved eliminating the language barrier. They voted to produce all brochures and interpretive signage in English and Spanish to better connect with that group. With their 2018 project, Building a Better Community: The Canby Women’s Heritage – the first in Oregon dedicated to the accomplishments of women, they took that one step further. A city-wide student essay contest invited submissions in English and Spanish. The featured speakers at the public event, which was headlined by former Governor Barbara Roberts, included the reading of an essay in Spanish by a Canby student in which she recognized the sacrifices her mother made to ensure the success of her family.

Written by Carol Palmer, Canby Heritage and Landmark Commissioner

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