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Culp Creek post office gets canceled.

Byline: Karen McCowan The Register-Guard

CULP CREEK - 97427 is going the route of 97416 and 97428.

Like residents in Curtin and Camas Valley before them, people living in this small community east of Cottage Grove got letters this week telling them they are losing their post office, effective Aug. 1.

The U.S. Postal Service has decided it would not be cost-effective to replace the deteriorating "dumpy trailer" that has served as the former mill town's mailing center for at least a quarter-century, said Marilee Spitsnogle, manager of post office operations for rural southwestern Oregon.

Spitsnogle said in a July 24 letter that there are "severe safety and health deficiencies" that include "unstable foundation, rotted flooring, extensive rust damage, vermin infestation, and a lack of running water caused by the failure of the well."

With longtime Postmaster Rosemary Bird retiring Tuesday, the agency decided the time was right to suspend services at the single-wide mobile home at 37807 Row River Road.

The news does not sit well with some Culp Creek residents. They still see beauty in the mildew-stained trailer, with its vintage, combination-lock post office boxes and fabric-covered posting space for notices such as "Sawdust Wanted" and "AA Meeting."

"It's the only hub and meeting spot left in Culp Creek," said Amanda Wilcox, a Lane Community College student who has lived in the area off and on since 1980. "This is where you come when there's a fire or a flood, a death or a birth, to find out what's going on."

The community was a booming, blue-collar town when Bird first arrived as acting postmaster in 1983.

People earned good money at the Bohemia Lumber Mill, then operating just across the Row River, she said.

"We rented more than 90 post office boxes and delivered to 110 mailboxes,' she said.

Culp Creek never recovered financially after the mill closed in the early 1990s, to the point that its only market eventually followed suit.

But Bird was still renting 80 post office boxes as recently as last winter, many to elderly, disabled and other low-income people who remained in the area because of its relatively cheap rent.

Bird said she began warning customers last winter that the post office did not plan to replace her, urging them to transfer their mail service to the Dorena post office, west of Culp Creek.

About 20 people, however, have yet to do so.

"I have people that still walk here every day," she said. "I don't know how they're going to get their mail on Wednesday."

That's a particularly bad day to lose such access, Wilcox said, noting that government Social Security and disability checks typically arrive on the first of the month.

Spitsnogle said Culp Creek residents have other options for mail service. They can transfer to the nearby Dorena post office, "a beautiful little facility with a nice, paved parking lot" less than two miles to the west.

"They have plenty of post office boxes available to accommodate all the Culp Creek customers," she said. "Or they can get mailbox delivery by putting up a curbside mailbox along the carrier's line of travel. The majority of Culp Creek area residents already have delivery to their homes."

But many of Culp Creek's post office box holders living along rural roads worry about theft or vandalism if they put up mailboxes, Bird and Wilcox said.

Spitsnogle said she was unaware of any pattern of such problems in the area, and that residents could always install locking mailboxes.

Wilcox countered that some area residents can't afford to buy such a mailbox and put it up in sturdy, vandalism-resistant fashion.

And getting to the Dorena post office will be a hardship for some elderly Culp Creek residents who don't drive, Bird said.

She said she expects that one elderly customer, disabled by polio, will get mail from her new Dorena box only when her son comes up for dinner once a week.

Spitsnogle has scheduled a public meeting in Culp Creek tonight to answer residents' questions about the impending closure.

She answered one such question in an interview Wednes- day: The combination-lock post office boxes, now collector's items, most likely will be auctioned off.

Wilcox plans to pose another, after noticing that Spitsnogle's letter says the Postal Service is "suspending services" at Culp Creek, a "tentative" change until the agency determines how to provide "a maximum degree of regular and effective postal services."

"I want to see, in writing, what the steps are for a community to reopen a post office after a suspension," she said.

PUBLIC MEETING

A U.S. Postal Service official will answer questions about next week's closure of the Culp Creek post office

When: 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight

Where: Child's Way Charter School, 37895 Row River Road
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Title Annotation:Government; The tiny town's tinier postal facility will go out of service on Wednesday, leaving some with few options
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 27, 2007
Words:801
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