Local Students and Partnerships Build Woodsheds for Better Air Quality

Justin Overdevest is a board member with the Middle Fork Willamette Watershed Council. He works for Good Company, a sustainability consulting firm located in Eugene. In 2018 and 2019, Good Company served as the Woodsmoke Coordinator for the City of Oakridge.

As the 2019 school year was coming to a finish, a partnership bringing Oakridge high school students and a prospective Elmira Eagle Scout Antonio Turtura was coming to the finish line. Earlier in the year, Oakridge High School wood shop teacher Ray Yarbrough, the City of Oakridge and Good Company, decided to try a pilot project building woodsheds for the community members in Oakridge, Oregon. 

The grassroots project relied on identifying small funding sources and leveraging donations from such companies as Oakridge Hardware and Stringfield Lumber. The high school shop students and Boy Scout Antonio Turtura, supported by Trish Maxfield and Justin Overdevest did the hard work of building the sheds. The high school student team built 12 sheds and Antonio’s team also built 12 sheds for total of 24 sheds. In early June, local community members in Oakridge came together to deliver the sheds to local residents.

The purpose of the woodshed project is to help reduce the emissions from woodsmoke and the fine particulate matter that enters into the air, then human lungs when wood is burned. Many living in Oakridge don’t have a woodshed and therefore burn wood that has a higher moisture content which leads to more smoke. Woodsheds can ensure that wet wood can dry and season properly before it is burned. The woodsheds are part of a larger woodsmoke program that is finding funds and implementing known solutions to improve air quality while maintaining a higher quality of life and comfort for the community. One of these solutions is the community firewood program which helped get dry firewood to local residents. During the 2018 – 2019 winter season, the CFP program sold 70 cords, helping over 90 households burn clean seasoned firewood. During the winter storm the program provided 12 cords of seasoned firewood to 40 households and two warming centers within the community. 

The project has been a collaborative effort with the support and coordination from the Upper Willamette Community Development Cooperation with a grants/fundraising from Oregon DEQ, Union Pacific, Oakridge Hardware, Stringfield Lumber, and Inbound LLC. The building project used funding from Union Pacific, Upper Willamette Community Development Corporation and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to purchase the materials. The initial recipients of the program are on the woodfire exempt list and qualify based on being sole source wood heat or income-based. This woodshed project is anticipated to continue next school year given requests for further grant funding.