Prairie City couple finds golden-color bottle stashed at local park

Jared and Kristen Howell, of Prairie City, who are directing their donation to Hope4Paws of Grant County, pause for a photo in front of the footbridge at Beck-Kiwanis Park where they found their treasure-hunt reward: a commemorative gold color bottle.

ONTARIO — Ontario was home to one of the six commemorative gold-colored bottles that was hidden around the state in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Oregon’s Bottle Bill. The Hidden Bottle Hunt ran July 7-11 with clues released each day for the respective zones.

The clues were not easy, but a Prairie City couple eventually discovered the park they were pointing to was right next door to Ontario’s fairgrounds and rodeo arena: Beck-Kiwanis Park in the 400 block of Northwest Eighth Avenue.

Jared and Kristen Howell were apparent masterminds of the clues for Zone 5 which covered all of eastern Oregon. In addition to Malheur County, the zone encompassed Baker, Gilliam, Grant, Morrow, Umatilla, Union, Wallowa and Wheeler counties.

Natalie Bennon, public information officer for the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative’s bottle hunt, provided an explanation of the clues that were given out over a five-day period. However, it is noteworthy that while the day 5 clue indicated a bridge would be nearby, the explanations given for that incorrectly state that the bridge in Beck-Kiwanis Park was a gift from Osakasayama to Ontario.

The final clue reads: “Do you need one more clue? A bridge to get you to the final spot? Knowing the importance of Osakasayama, Will get you very, very hot.”

While the bridge does symbolize the friendship between Ontario and its Sister City, Oskayasayama, Osaka, Japan, it was not a gift from Japan to Ontario.

The bridge itself was built by the late Robert Sullivan, according to information given to the Argus Observer for a spring 2020 Progress magazine. Mike Iseri, of Ontario and member of the the Sister City Committee, clarified to the newspaper on July 13 that while the bridge had "some relation to the Sister City relationship," he hasn't been able to find exactly what that is.

Initial clues on Day 1 had some people thinking that the bottle was in Baker County or Pendleton, as the clues included Pendleton Roundup and the naming of Baker County. However, it did state that the bottle was within “initial historic Baker boundaries,” which did include Ontario.

Finders of the bottles get to keep them, and also got to select a nonprofit to receive a $500 donation through the BottleDrop Containers for Change program.

The Howells opted to direct their $500 donation to Hope4Paws of Grant County.

A list of winners in other zones and their respective chosen charity follows.

• Zone 1A: Adair Fernee, of Portland, who is directing her $500 donation to Street Roots;

• Zone 1B: Liam, Trisha, and Ted Rutherford, of Stayton, who are directing their $500 donation to Stayton Young Life;

• Zone 2: Samantha Fieber, of Toledo, who is directing $300 to the Toledo Food Share Pantry and $200 to Toledo Jr/Sr High School Music Program;

• Zone 3: Caitlin Fernandez, of Medford, who is directing her $500 donation to the Central Point Elementary School PTA Program; and

• Zone 4: Erin Pryor, of Bend, who is directing the donation to Street Dog Hero of Bend.

“Congrats to the lucky finders. And thank you to everyone who participated — our volunteer clue writers, everyone who came out to look for a bottle, and everyone who followed the hunt on social media,” said Eric Chambers, external relations director for OBRC, the not-for-profit cooperative that serves as the operational steward of the Bottle Bill. “We were very excited to see so many people, across the entire state, enjoying the special places the Bottle Bill helps protect while they hunted for bottles.”

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