Mapleton: A story of resilience

Mapleton on the river

Mapleton:  A story of resilience

Nestled in the woods of Oregon’s Siuslaw region is a quiet town, named after its gorgeous bigleaf maple trees. Mapleton’s rustic charm and riverside location has made it a comfortable home to the families who have lived there for generations.


The town’s modest central community area encompasses everything its people need for simple living in a small strip of buildings that include: a grocery store, a cafe and bar, a coffee shop and the Farmers Country Hardware store.


Mapleton’s economy is primarily dominated by forestry and forest products. Up until the 1990s, many of the folks worked in the Davidson Industries mills along the Siuslaw River until the company was forced to shut down two of its major mill sites due to environmental reasons. Unfortunately, this event left a huge percentage of Mapleton townspeople out of work and desperate to provide for their families. The area’s economy is still struggling to recover. Hope, however, is far from lost.


The future of the Mapleton community lies in the hands of its residents, some active in the Lions Club, busy as board members with the Mapleton School District, the water board or the volunteer fire department and others who volunteer what time they have beyond work and family life. Although some in this devoted group were not born and raised in the town, they are all proud to call the upper river their home and want to do everything they can to make Mapleton’s future brighter than ever. Among this group of highly educated, engaged individuals is Lauren Hesse, who moved to Mapleton ten years ago from California.


Through her many roles as the Mapleton 4-H director, the president of the Siuslaw Regional Aquatic Center, the former director of the Mapleton After-School Program, and the upper river representative of the Siuslaw Vision Keepers, this retired schoolteacher has dedicated significant volunteer hours to provide Mapleton youth with the resources and knowledge they need to better themselves and build a stronger community for generations to come.


Her work in the 4-H program fosters positive youth development by getting kids involved in various activities of their choosing, such as hiking, camping, swimming, cooking and arts and crafts. Through these activities, the kids learn invaluable life skills. “The kids are fantastic,” she shares. “They’re so enthusiastic and eager to learn anything they can. A lot of the activities we provide give them opportunities they might not have otherwise.”


The Mapleton Lions Club is a historic community staple and provides fantastic resources and services for the youth and town at large. Starting in May, the Club will initiate its scholarship program, designed to help high school seniors pursue higher education. Toward the end of May, the scholarship interviews will be conducted, and students deemed eligible will receive their awards. Yet another source of youth and community initiatives is the Mapleton School District, which recently passed a bond to remove asbestos from and clean the school’s classrooms.


Aside from youth development, two other major incentives the community and specifically the Siuslaw Vision Keepers are working on include transportation and broadband access. Hesse says of these crucial public service needs: “Without the means to get to work or work from home on laptops or cellular devices, people here really struggle to make a living and support their families. That’s why these areas are the most pressing for our development.”


 Siuslaw River

Mapleton may have hit hard times and still has hurdles to overcome, but no great success story comes without facing adversity. Mapleton is no exception. Those devoted to its future refuse to let its townspeople struggle anymore. They’re fighting fiercely and persistently to help the upper river community thrive and investing in its children to provide better opportunities. The future bodes well for the community that revitalizes with each generation.