Once at risk of fading away, Salem’s oldest neighborhood association celebrates 50th birthday

A woman walks through Northgate Park on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Salem’s oldest neighborhood association was at risk of fading away without enough members to keep it going in 2020. 

Then Bayard Mentrum and his wife, Kaethe, decided to step up. Bayard now chairs the Northgate Neighborhood Association, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Monday.  

“We’re trying to keep something that lasted this long going,” Kaethe Mentrum said. “It was the first one to be established and how could we let it die. We had to give it CPR. That’s how we felt.” 

The pair took over responsibilities for their northeast Salem neighborhood a year and a half ago after moving to Salem in 2019.  

They said it has been difficult to get more people to join, because people often have other things to do.  

Meetings usually have about 20 people on average.  

“You need to be kind to people in order to have them come in,” Kaethe Mentrum said. 

Irma Dowd, the city of Salem’s neighborhood program manager, asked the Mentrums to take over running the association so it could continue on. 

She works with all the city’s 18 neighborhood associations, helping them put together agendas and trying to encourage participation. 

“The city of Salem really does want to hear from its neighbors,” she said.  

Dowd said the main purpose is for neighbors to get involved, ask questions and “just learn about things that are going on in your neighborhood.” 

That could be issues over land use, street development or park improvements.  

“We want to hear from our neighborhoods because we want to make sure we are taking everybody’s ideas and questions into consideration,” Dowd said. 

She said the associations have a lot of pull with the city and can make a big impact on decisions. 

In February 1972, citizens elected officers for the new pilot program in the city, the Northgate Neighborhood Association. The Faye Wright Neighborhood Association was also established that year. 

An article in the Capital Journal called it “the first grassroots advisory group formed by the city to allow citizens to lend a hand in planning matters.” 

Those officers immediately voiced concern over city plans for a new industrial route linking Keizer to Northeast Portland Road because of traffic, the article explained. 

About 80 people attended that first meeting. The association’s boundaries used to be from Interstate 5 to Portland Road and south to Silverton Road, the article said.  

Now, they expand further east to Cordon Road.  

The association met for a second time the following month, with 75 people in attendance at Northgate Wesleyan Church.  

The people at that meeting complained about noise from the Salem Speedway, the lack of storm drains and sidewalks.  

“I’ve worn out two pairs of shoes,” one woman said during the meeting, referring to the state of the neighborhood’s walkway. 

When the association meets now, 50 years later, Bayard Mentrum said they try to invite community members who can speak on topics that are of interest to the neighborhood.  

He said the neighborhood is concerned about homelessness, speeding and crime.  

The association’s February meeting had the city’s Public Works director, code compliance manager, a police officer and a staff member from homeless service provider The ARCHES Project attend.  

“It’s interesting for people to not only listen to but also ask questions,” Bayard Mentrum said. 

To find out more about joining an association, visit the city’s website.

Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, [email protected]. 

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