Don Vilelle, the Brookings resident often seen walking around town in a tie-dye shirt and picking up trash along Chetco Avenue, has resigned his position on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission.
He and his wife are moving in a week to Nevada.
Mayor Jake Pieper presented Vilelle with an award for his years of volunteer work.
“I believe I’m doing my part to help the community,” he said in a 2012 interview with the Pilot. “And I get to meet a lot of interesting people doing this.”
During a Monday evening city council meeting, Vilelle spoke of his ultimate goal to walk from Fifth Street to the Chetco River bridge and not finding one piece of litter.
“I’ve never met that goal,” he admitted. “But if someone does, I’d like to hear about it. If someone can go that distance and does meet that goal, let me know.”
He also indicated he’d miss people here.
“One thing about moving,” he said, “you make a lot of friends. Chances are you’ll never see those people again. When I moved here from Missouri, I thought people would want to visit the ocean. A few did, but not many. They viewed the West Coast as the edge of the world.”
Vilelle, a 12-year Brookings resident, has served on the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, is a member of a garden club and an usher and liturgist at his church, and worked part-time at Century 21, for his homeowner’s association, Salmon Run and as a driver for Curry Public Transit’s Trans-Link. He was later named Brookings Volunteer of the Year.
His wife, Martha, has been in a barbershop quartet, their church’s choir, conducts a Bible study, plays golf, helps people with tax information and was the past president of the lady’s golf club at Salmon Run.
“I’m impressed by Don’s dedication to the community,” said Tom Bozack of the parks commission. “He’s the sole proprietor of Bankus Park. We’ll miss his contributions.”
“It’s a shame to lose an incredibly dedicated person in the community, who’s willing to dedicate so much time,” Pieper said.
Now is not the right time, nor are firefighters the right people, to talk about shortcomings in how the Chetco Bar Fire was fought and federal policy dictating it, Brookings City Manager Gary Milliman announced in a council meeting Monday night.
“The people here now from the Forest Service and allied agencies are not the people who should be answering these questions,” he said. “The people they work for should be answering these questions.
“Firefighters don’t carry that responsibility; their responsibility is putting the fire out. Their responsibility has nothing to do with decisions on how to put the fire out.”
Some citizens have made angry comments about decisions to let the fire burn and inadequacies firefighters faced when it blew up the weekend of Sept. 19, from 6,500 acres to 22,000 acres.
Milliman noted that state and federal officials are aware of the forest management problems in Oregon, as was evident when several met in Brookings Sunday to acknowledge the changes needed. Among them was County Commissioner Court Boice, State Reps. David Brock Smith, Gov. Kate Brown, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and U.S. Reps. Peter DeFazio.
“They shouldn’t be surprised these issues are coming up,” Milliman added of the long-debated issue of forest management and fire.
Forest Service officials had originally hoped to have an analysis of the fire, the decisions made and actions taken by the beginning of September, but the rapid fire growth has precluded that to a later date.
The city is now in a transitional state, going from an emergency status to one of recovery — fire victims are now called fire survivors, for instance — and plan to work with numerous economic, forest and fire agencies to critique forest management and wildfire response, Milliman said.
Residents wishing to thank the 1,500 firefighters who continue to battle the 184,292-acre Chetco Bar Fire have a couple of options crews appreciate most, City Manager Gary Milliman said in a city council meeting Monday evening.
“I talked with an incident commander from North Carolina who said the best way to recognize the firefighters who came to protect us is to post signs — they love signs,” Milliman said.
Firefighters also told him to encourage citizens to make contributions to their local fire departments.
“That’s important because it was the communities from 19 states, provided with equipment and training to the point they could respond to Brookings to help with our fire, just as the Brookings Fire Department would respond to help one of their communities facing a threat,” he said.
He also gave kudos to the Tolowa Dee-Ni’ Nation, which opened its hotel and campground at Ship to Shore in Smith River to accommodate more than 140 evacuees and their pets.
“That was at no cost to them (evacuees),” Milliman said. “Laundry, showers, food … And when the Red Cross discontinued some of their reimbursement, they continued their work.”