Almost 100 members of an association of Native American employees of Procter & Gamble waged war on Russian olive tress at the Bear River Massacre Site on Sept. 26.
Their work was one of the group’s service projects conducted annually somewhere around the country near one of Procter & Gamble’s plants — in this case, the company’s Box Elder County facility near Bear River City.
NAILT (Native American Indian Leadership Team) is one of Procter & Gamble’s affinity groups — employee-led groups that serve employees of different backgrounds.
Founding NAILT member Bill Armstrong, of Brigham City, made the organization aware of the Northwesten Band of the Shoshone Nation’s efforts to restore the foliage of the Bear River Massacre site to native plants. NAILT decided the project was a fit and arrangements were made, said Jeff Backer, a Global Business Services Finance Manager for Procter & Gamble based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Backer, a long-time member of the P&G’s Native American Indian Leadership Team, said the day of service is the favorite part of several days of activities sponsored by P&G once a year for NAILT.
The group had spent two days in Box Elder County before coming to Preston, touring the company’s plant there and conducting leadership training and team-building activities.
NAILT has conducted service projects for the last seven years, said Backer. Some of the other projects were helping a family clean up and repair their home in Wisconsin, refurbishing a school in Louisiana, rebuilding powwow grounds in Oklahoma, and cleaning up wetlands in Arizona for the Pima Maricopa tribe.
“We are fortunate the company has been super supportive of doing this work. They give us a lot of autonomy to find where opportunities are and go after them,” said Backer.
The group represents Native Americans from 20-25 tribes across the United States who work at Procter & Gamble’s plants in from Massachusetts to California and Wisconsin to Georgia.
“We are a proud family of Natives who are trying to improve the lives of our employees so they can bring their full selves to work, bring their passion to work and support their communities,” said Backer.
“One of the biggest things about Native American culture is providing a sense of community. Family is very important. I wanted to join the group to have that family sense away from home but also to give that sense of support to others. It’s grown to a really great thing that we can give back to the community and that drives my participation,” said Allyn Kauffman, who has been a member of NAILT since 2008.
“This is another one of the projects where our team gets to learn about the local community, culture and give back. That’s what’s great. We’re here to help the Shoshone kick off construction of their interpretive center,” said Original NAILT member Shaun Howard, of Cincinnati. In addition to cutting down Russian Olive trees, the group manicured the area around the monument.
“What a blessing they’ve been. They were awesome,” said Darren Parry, chairman of the Northwestern Band of the Shoshone Nation.
To help share the tribe’s story with the group, Parry explained the tribe’s history and the story of the massacre with the group. His cousin, and fellow council member, Micheal Gross performed two of his original songs for the group during their lunch break. One of them has been nominated for a Native American music award, the other was written about the massacre.
That sharing of history and culture is a highlight for some of the participants.
“It’s fun. We get to learn about some of the other traditions and some of the other tribes. We can help do something like this. Its something that all of us just thoroughly like to do and be a part of,” said a woman originally from California.
Michelle, of Wisconsin, enjoyed “meeting with people and working with different tribes,” but said that “the history of the different tribes is important to me because that is all we have to share with our kids.”
Tremonton City has formally put its support behind a regional effort to promote the Bear River area’s historical and cultural resources as a means of increasing tourism in the area.
For the better part of two decades, the Bear River Association of Governments has been working on establishing the Bear River Heritage Area, encompassing several counties in northern Utah and southeast Idaho.
Those involved in the project are now working to establish it as a national heritage area, which would make it eligible for federal grant funding.
Pooling the area’s Native American cultural sites, pioneer trails and settlement sites, and other historical and cultural assets will make it easier to present the Bear River as a unified area and help draw more visitors into local communities, said Brian Carver, community and economic development director for BRAG.
Carver said the effort is patterned after a national program created by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service to identify and promote areas near national parks.
“Our immediate area has no national parks; however, we have national historic sites, monuments, bird and wildlife refuges and a national grassland,” he said. “We justify a lot of this as economic development. “We want to promote these opportunities for people to visit our area, to learn about the unique culture and history, purchase local arts and crafts, spend the night and buy a meal.”
At a meeting last week, the Tremonton City Council approved a resolution expressing the city’s support for the designation of the Bear River National Heritage Area.
Establishment of a national heritage area requires an act of the U.S. Congress, and Carver said Utah Congressman Rob Bishop is currently working on a bill to that end.
“We’re currently contacting all communities in our area, trying to rebuild a support network,” Carver said. “We’re just trying to get as much awareness as possible and trying to get written letters of support. They go a long way in helping Congressman Bishop back in Washington.”
Tremonton City Manager Shawn Warnke said the effort fits in well with the city’s efforts to establish a historic district in town.
“They’re not asking for any funds from (the city),” Warnke said, “just our political support.”
The effort includes Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties in Utah; and the Idaho counties of Bear Lake, Caribou, Franklin and Oneida.
Carver said a national heritage area designation isn’t like a national park or national monument. It wouldn’t be involved in local land use decisions, water management decisions, or have any impact on private property rights, he said.
“This is not a government land grab,” he said. “A heritage area has no regulatory authority. There’s a long list of ‘thou shalt nots’ in there.“
Landowners who have sites with historical or cultural value on their property wouldn’t be required to participate in any activities related to the heritage area, he said.
“We want this to be a voluntary opportunity,” Carver said. “Becoming part of the national heritage area program opens up a lot more resources to us.”
Two Cache Valley-based developers are working on plans for separate developments on vacant plots of land in Tremonton that would include a mix of housing catering to residents of varying ages and income levels.
One of the developments, a project on nearly 35 acres of currently open land at the southeast corner of 1000 North and 1000 West, is moving forward after the Tremonton City Council last week approved a zoning ordinance that would restrict development to residential purposes and keep commercial projects out of the area.
The other project, which would be located in the south-central portion of town in between the railroad tracks and the canal, is still in the early stages of working through the city approval process.
The project on land east of Bear River Valley Hospital in the Archibald Estates area is being done by Visionary Homes, a North Logan-based company. Visionary Homes has a plan to build a mix of single-family, patio homes and upscale townhomes on the land over the next five to seven years.
Tremonton City Zoning Administrator Steve Bench said the mix of available housing products in the development going forward will be flexible depending on demand. For example, if single family homes are selling well, the developer may want to include more of those and fewer townhomes, Bench said.
The area is currently zoned as mixed use, which allows for residential development interspersed with commercial businesses, but the zoning overlay approved by the council last week restricts development in the area to residential only.
The other project under consideration would be done by Hyde Park-based Sadler Construction, the developer of Tremonton Pines, located between the railroad tracks and canal just north of 600 South.
The new project is pegged for the area south of Tremonton Pines, between 600 South and Rocket Road (1200 South). It would consist of somewhere between 140 and 200 townhomes, with plans for as many as 10 units per acre and homes ranging from 1,400 to 3,000 square feet.
The townhome project would include numerous shared amenities, including a swimming pool, clubhouse, fitness center and playground, among others.
A presentation at a recent Tremonton Planning Commission meeting received some negative feedback from residents concerned about high-density housing in that area, which would have to be rezoned to accommodate the higher density.
Warnke made a presentation to the city council last week regarding the project. He said there were some legitimate concerns raised at the recent planning commission meeting, and city staff had written an overlay zone to address those concerns.
“There was some concern about the density proposed,” Warnke said. “I think this is a good location for density for several reasons,” including the buffer zones included with the canal and railroad tracks. He also said the roads in the area are well-equipped to handle the increased traffic load that would come along with the development.
The trail corridor that has already been set aside near the tracks would also allow for pedestrian, bicycle and other non-motorized traffic to and from the townhomes, he said.
Kirt Sadler, owner of Sadler Construction, said a similar project his company did in Smithfield has helped increase business activity in that city by 15 percent.
Sadler said he wanted to bring his plan before the council, not to circumvent the planning commission, but just to get a feel for how city leaders might receive the project.
“We did Tremonton Pines, and hopefully it has lived up to everything we’ve committed to there,” he told the council. “We don’t want to push it on you guys.”
Any plans will have to go before the planning commission again for approval, but city council members expressed general support for the project after hearing the presentation last week.
“We need housing in this area, and there are no entry level homes at this point,” councilmember Lyle Vance said. “I think this a good idea.”
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