Sammy’s Place Sees Progress – Coming Up Roses as Cleanup Continues

By Laura Swanson
Clearing blackberries and hauling away tons of debris reveals the resiliency of the land at Sammy’s Place on Thompson Road in Nehalem. The 3 acres of land acquired by nonprofit Sammy’s Place in the Fall of 2018 shows its promise as an heirloom rose blooms through the invasives, and a pink climbing rose uses an alder tree for a trellis.

Arboretum worthy tree specimens surround the acreage including a huge black walnut tree, and several old-growth spruce trees adding to the beauty of the property.
SP board members, along with representatives from Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the Environmental Protection Agency, Tillamook Estuaries Partnership and Tillamook County Solid Waste toured the property last week. This was a preliminary site visit by the DEQ and EPA to determine the routes for continued cleanup.

“As we began to peel back the layers of blackberries, and brought in volunteers to salvage the piles of old logging equipment, the task seems daunting,” noted Kathy Jean Hrywnak. “But most of the trash was confined to the area around the house.”

Margaret Olsen, EPA, Rebecca Wells-Albers, Zeb Bates and Tom Lang from the DEQ along with David McCall from Tillamook County Solid Waste, walked the Thompson Road property from the northern border with the Nehalem City Park to southern boundary. Taking photographs and samples of materials, making notes to develop a sampling and analysis plan to identify potential contamination on the property was the purpose of the visit. Since DEQ haven’t yet analyzed samples of soil or water, it isn’t known yet if this kind of contamination exists at the Sammy’s Place property. It’s entirely possible there isn’t contamination in soil and water, and that the primary concern at this site is clearing and properly disposing of the trash and debris.
Tom McDermott from TEP assessed the unnamed streams and further monitoring of the land will be necessary to determine wetland areas, and restoration efforts.
All agreed that the property is truly magical and clearly presents many possibilities to provide much needed housing, especially for those experiencing disabilities. “Everyone deserves the opportunity to choose where they live, and those with disabilities in our community that want their own homes in a nurturing, nature-based setting will have that choice with Sammy’s Place,” said Kathy Jean. “It’s so exciting to see these dreams becoming reality.”
“This clean up will be a great benefit to the neighborhood and community,” said David McCall. DEQ will make recommendations for next steps, including the removal of the remaining materials and the house, which likely contains asbestos. “We will make sure that the debris is properly handled and correctly disposed of,” said McCall.
The land continues to heal. “We are taking it slowly, one step at a time,” said Kathy Jean. “This would be an excellent site to utilize innovative methods for clearing the blackberries,” noted Rebecca from DEQ. “This is an exciting project and we will provide assistance with best practices for the cleanup, next steps, and help in any way we can.”
Sammy’s Place has received support from a variety of sources with the clean up process, and looks forward to working with community partners on the myriad of tasks to come. For more information, go to

Kathy Jean with Blake Chick at a Buddy Walk.

The Story of Sammy’s Place: Who is Sammy? As told by Kathy Jean Hrywnak
“If Sammy had lived, he would be 48 years old, and living with disabilities.
I was not allowed to see him, it was 1971, I was 18 years old, enveloped in grief and didn’t question the decision made by hospital staff. I was told there was something wrong with his little hand. I never saw or got to hold Sammy, but I had a relationship with him. He has been in my heart for 48 years.
Ultimately the type of disability he had doesn’t really matter. Sammy charted my course in life.
There is a high number of birth defects in my family of origin so as kids we naturally made room for all abilities. I learned that if we close our eyes we really are all the same. I learned to be compassionate and that it was my job to protect and support those that couldn’t do it for themselves.
Twenty-five years ago the idea of living with and supporting folks with disabilities became my dream.
The idea for Sammy’s Place was born and the name brought him into the living circle, because when we speak of the ones we’ve lost they live again.”

Kathy Jean brings years of experience working with people who experience disability. She and friends founded Sammy’s Place in 2006, through which she continued to serve individual families. Already a willing learner and compassionate person, she has learned to use those innate abilities even more skillfully in her years of doing the work which she is thrilled to be doing. Committed to bringing the vision to fruition, Kathy Jean is excited by the challenge and eagerly anticipating the chapters to come.