▶️ Bend Chamber of Commerce hosts ADU fair as local interest rises

On Tuesday night, an ADU fair hosted by the Bend Chamber of Commerce drew more than 130 people to Open Space Event Studios. 

ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) are small houses or apartments built on a property where there’s already a main home, and they’re becoming increasingly popular in the area. 

The City of Bend says around 100 ADU permits are issued each year, and that number is only going up. 

RELATED: Deschutes County discusses rural ADUs to fight housing crisis

RELATED: A guide to developing ADUs –Accessory Dwelling Units–available online

Mary Hearn and Darci Palmer are among those hundreds of people who decided to take the step. 

“There’s just not enough housing for all the people who want to live and work here,” Palmer said. “And we thought, you know, we have the ability to get a loan to finance it and have the land and we have the expertise, and we know who to call for help, so we thought why not?”

They started planning for their ADU around a year ago, and they started construction four months ago on the space next to their home. 

Chloe Crabtree, the Sponsor Relations Lead for Bend Chamber of Commerce, said the ADU boom is due to the pressure on housing and the lack of developable land in Bend. 

“We have to get creative with what type of housing we can kind of execute pretty quickly, and ADU’s are one of those things,” she said. 

Last summer the Chamber decided to release an ADU guide for people looking to make the leap. Crabtree said the pandemic was a partial influence. 

“The first thing that happened when COVID hit was everyone was like, gosh, I should do something with my lawn or I should build something or redo my deck,” she said. 

A few barriers may stop people from pursuing the ADU journey. 

“Interest rates are through the roof,” Crabtree added. “Building costs continue to remain high, and so I think there’s definitely barriers when it comes to building anything right now that’s continued to be difficult really for over a year now. And I don’t think there’s a firm and fast end in sight.”  

Hearn said it took about four months to get their ADU permit approved by the city. 

“The total cost construction budget is about $170,000,” she said. “And then if we were to include permits and design and some landscaping, it’s probably going to be closer to $185,000 when it’s all said and done.” 

She believes it’s still worth the investment to improve Bend’s housing market. 

“Bend needs a lot of housing and a lot of different housing types, and options for different household sizes and to meet people’s needs,” Hearn said. “And so I think ADUs are one one way to meet that need incrementally.” 

▶️ Bear Creek Elementary students learn basics of coding through robots

It’s not your grandma’s kindergarten class. 

In an age of technology, local classrooms are trying their best to keep with the times to prepare students for success, including one Kindergarten class at Bear Creek Elementary. 

Things were literally abuzz Monday morning in teacher Amber Rojas’ class as kids tried out some new technology. 

They’re called Bee Bots — bee-shaped robots that teach the basic concept of computer coding with a few simple instructions. 

“They’re going to understand preliminary coding and programing, which is simply just sequencing. They’re also going to be able to use the bot with activities that have to do with sight words and learning to read,” said Tracy Howk, the Instructional Technology Coach for Bend-La Pine Schools. “There’s just buttons on the top of the robot that have a go forward, backward, side to side, and they will put in a code to get them from point A to point B, and then they will need to adjust the code if they find that they have made a bug in their sequence.”

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Students explained the process in their own words. 

“First you press clear and you set it down on which track you want…” said 6-year-old Wyatt, setting down the Bee Bot in front of a course made of blocks. 

“You press forward and then forward, then you can turn to this side or this side or you can go back,” said 5-year-old Mariah. 

Five-year-old Aiden pressed the buttons on the bot and let it fly — but it rolled right off the course. 

When asked what went wrong, he said “I did too much … I pressed too many straights.”

 

The Bee Bots are a brand new addition to the district’s lending library.  

“We brought them in and the first day, we really just kind of figured them out and played,” said Rojas. “And then we started talking about what are the uses of coding, and thinking about future jobs for these students and what they might be doing in the future.” 

“At the elementary age, we’re really just looking for kids to love this and to become enthusiastic about it,” Howk added. “And this type of thing that they’re doing here in this Kindergarten classroom just encourages the kids to get a little bit of a taste, to feel good and confident in their ability, to keep moving forward with these computer science STEM-based activities in their classrooms. So that by the time they get to middle school and high school, they will choose them as electives and be able to graduate with some real skills that can help them get into colleges and careers related to these types of subjects.” 

These littles will eventually move up to more advanced robots and a district-wide computer science platform for elementary schoolers called code.org

It’s all to prepare them for life in a world much different from the one most of us grew up in. 

“We were talking about what technology is, and it was fascinating to me that they don’t even realize how much it is a part of their life,” Rojas said. “So just thinking about those possibilities, you know, and then what they could do with it, they’re starting to get excited about it.”

The Bee Bots are starting to show up in other classrooms in the district, from Kindergarten up to second grade. 

The district also partners with the Central Oregon STEM hub to include coding in curriculums all the way through the 12th grade. 

▶️ Bend First Presbyterian opens temporary warming shelter during cold snap

Many unhoused community members in Central Oregon are heading to shelters as this weekend’s cold snap continues into Monday. But the demand is so high, there just hasn’t been enough room. 

That’s why Deschutes County and the City of Bend called on First Presbyterian Church to provide a temporary shelter until things start to warm up. 

On Saturday night, they started welcoming people in to sleep on cots and get free food and clothing. They’re continuing through Sunday and Monday nights. 

It’s not the first time the church has stepped in, and it certainly won’t be the last. 

“They are so grateful to have a peaceful, quiet, warm spot and something to eat,” said Brenda Simpson, the Coordinator for Justice Admission at the church. “I had lots of comments that it’s so nice to be somewhere where they can actually sleep and be warm.” 

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Former pastor Morgan Schmidt said providing temporary shelter has been a ‘no-brainer’ for years for the church. 

“This is probably our fifth time in a couple of years,” Schmidt said. “We’re not a service provider, so we’re not open all the time. But when the temperatures get really, really dangerous, we want to make sure that there’s room for everybody in the community to get out of the elements.” 

Seven people showed up on Saturday night, but staff said that’s typical, as not as many people know they’re available on that first night. 

On Sunday, as many as 50 guests are expected. 

Donations of clothing, shoes, food, and bedding have poured in from community members, many of them from the Pandemic Partners Facebook group

The Red Cross pitched in with cots, and Shepherd’s House loaned them extra cots and mats as well. 

“We had a gentleman walk in wearing only socks as the snow was coming down last night,” Schmidt said. “We had another gentleman come in wearing Crocs as the snow was coming down last night. And so this is a place where we’re really proud to be a community that says, you know, you are not leaving here in your socks. You are not leaving here in your Crocs. We’re going to make sure that you leave here with with boots and and the appropriate attire for this kind of weather and know there’s a safe place you can return tonight and tomorrow night as well.” 

Though staff said they are happy to help fill this gap, they hope their services will no longer be needed one day. 

“We really want to work with our partners in the community to get to the the root cause of the problem and to establish more affordable housing, more shelter space to just get it so we actually aren’t needed to do these gap-fillers anymore, because it’s not ideal,” Simpson said. 

“There’s simply not enough,” Schmidt added. “Whether that’s shelter beds for those who are living unsheltered or permanent supportive housing, transitional housing or affordable housing. We know that housing is the biggest crisis in our community. And so if we can fill in that gap for a few nights when the weather is really bad, we are here for that.” 

The shelter opens Sunday and Monday nights at 6 p.m., and closes at 9 a.m. the following mornings. 

Church staff says they’ll reopen the doors if temperatures take another sharp turn. 

Temperatures were expected to drop as low as 4 degrees in Bend on Sunday night, and 15 degrees Monday night. 

▶️ New Warm Springs skate park expected to open spring break

In just a short time, Warm Springs community members will be able to rock and roll in a new skate park they hope will bring the community together. 

Sounds of power tools currently fill the air at Elmer-Quinn Memorial Park as construction crews put the final touches on the facility. 

The previous skate park was built in 2004. In recent years, the pliable boards wore out, and the beginner-level features left more experienced skaters frustrated. 

“They were going to Madras to use their skate park up there,” said Michael Collins, the Director of Managed Care for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. “And that’s fine, if they have the transportation to get there. Highway 26 is a busy highway, especially during the summer, on the weekends when you have traffic from Bend to Portland. Some of those kids, because they’re such avid skaters, they’d start walking the 14 miles to skate. So there are safety issues there just for the love of skating.”

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Pretty soon, that trip won’t be necessary thanks to sponsorships from the Skatepark Project, Tactics, Jefferson County, and more, as well as donations from the community. 

They’re just $8,000 away from reaching their $140,000 goal for the project. 

Below is a video taken by YouTuber PhaseSkater, as he tested out the old skate park. 

“It was probably in February of 2021, and I was approached by Scott Koerner from Tactics, and also from Joey Martin from Collective Concrete,” Collins said. “Tactics had a local skater on their team, so they went to that local skater who’s from Madras, Oregon. And he says, you know, Madras has a really nice skate park already. You know who would really benefit is Warm Springs.”

Collective Concrete has led the construction team of mostly volunteers. 

Foreman Tavita Scanlan was excited to work on the project, as he’s helped assemble skate parks before. 

Construction began in October and Scanlan said the team has worked through all kinds of weather to get to this point. 

“Mainly the ice and the snow and the freezing fog and the short days, since we started in late fall,” Scanlan said. “Getting crews and supplies over here, over the mountain has been a challenge.”

Upgrades to the new park will include a jersey barrier area, bank to curb, and manual pad.

Don’t know what those phrases mean? Maybe the rendering below will help. 

The tribe is looking to extend the skate park to be even larger, if they can secure the funding to do so. 

Warm Springs community member and artist Coletta Macy has pushed for the new park from the beginning. 

“My son and my nephews and their friends, they’re all really close. And they were asking like, man, wish we could get a new skate park, you know, it’s all busted up down there. It’s not safe,” she said. 

She kept knocking on doors until she managed to get the Warm Springs Community Action Team involved, which now acts as the fiscal sponsor for the project, taking care of the grant money received. 

She also covered the gang tagging on the old skate park with art of her own.

“I was asking who is in charge that can cover up the gang tagging. And so since nobody would give me an answer and I kept getting shuffled around to different departments, I was like, you know what? I’m going to do it and apologize later. And so I did. And nobody said no,” Macy said. 

Her art was a skill she also used to beautify the nearby bathrooms in the park with the help of some local students. 

She’ll be leading another group of students to christen the new skate park with designs.

“The K-8 academy down here, each grade is going to become a come up with ideas that they want painted on the park and I’m going to bring them to life on the park, and hopefully have some of the kids come down and check it out,” Macy said. 

She’s grateful for the new skate park not only because of the upgrades, but because of the ability to have them in her own hometown. 

“It’s really hard to start to see our kids, you know, that they want to go to all these other parks, but they don’t feel welcome,” Macy said. “So we want to have a park that helps and welcomes in others, so that way they’ll be welcomed on the outside.”

“Warm Springs is a very tight community. Everybody here knows everybody,” Collins added. “Having something positive like this where the family can be interactive and and tighten that bond with your family and your community helps give balance to everybody.” 

Materials from the old Warm Springs skate park will be used to construct a new park in Simnasho, the northern part of the reservation. 

The grand opening for the new skate park will take place during spring break. An exact date and time has not yet been announced. 

To help the community reach its financial goal for the park, visit https://warmspringsskatepark.funraise.org.

▶️ ‘Point in Time’ homeless count kicks off in Central OR, increases expected

The homeless crisis is visibly worsening, but what do the numbers show? It will all be revealed in the annual Point in Time homeless count, which began on Tuesday.

The count, run by the Central Oregon Homeless Leadership Coalition, is a chance for a check-in on the state of homelessness in our region and a reflection on the work left to be done. 

Last year’s data revealed a 17% increase in homeless community members between 2021 and 2022.

RELATED: Homeless Leadership Coalition releases 2022 Point In-Time Count results

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“I foresee that we are probably going to see another increase again this year,” said Colleen Thomas, the Supervisor for the Deschutes County Health Services Homeless Outreach Services Team. “Part of that is because we have better ability to count folks, and we know we have more staff that know more folks and where they’re at and located. But it’s also just the result of the rising housing costs in our community.” 

It’s the first year the Shepherd’s House Lighthouse Navigation Center in Bend is participating under its current name, after its change from the Bend Emergency Shelter. 

 

Director of Emergency Services John Lodise said the shelter has been at full capacity for “quite some time now.” 

He said he already has an idea of how this year’s count will go. 

“We expect to see an increase,” Lodise said. “So when we first opened the shelter as a permanent shelter, we were experiencing between 60 to 70 people. With the winter cold weather, we’ve been seeing numbers of 100, 110. And then we’ve been letting extra people in to warm, so that sometimes we’ve had 130 to 135 people.” 

Volunteers will help count data until January 31, all the way from Warm Springs to La Pine. It’s a process those involved know is not airtight. 

“The Point in Time count I always say, is just a snapshot of our overall population,” Thomas said. “The survey that is used during the Point in Time count is completely voluntary, and so folks can choose not to participate.”

 

That snapshot is a crucial step for the future of homelessness advocacy. 

“The really important part of the Point in Time count is that those numbers that we report back to the federal government through HUD [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] is how they allocate funding for our region. So the better data that we have, the more resources we can allocate to our community,” Thomas said. “It’s a formula-based thing that the government does, and so that by having that data, it allows us to be receive more funding.” 

Despite the numbers from the past several years, these advocates told Central Oregon Daily News that they have to hold on to hope. 

“I think we always have hope that the numbers are going to go down,” Thomas said. “We want to work ourselves out of jobs in regards to homeless outreach. There will always be people that are going to live unsheltered, but we want to see that rate go down.”

“You have to have faith that, yes, that is going to make a difference,” Lodise said. “People are going to be helped. Maybe the phenomenon will ripple, right? We help a group of people who then become motivated to help others, and eventually we have more people trying to help those who need it than we have folks who need the help.” 

The results from the count are expected to be released in the next couple of months. 

This comes after Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek signed an executive order on Jan. 10, declaring a homelessness state of emergency in certain parts of the state that have seen a 50% or more increase in the unsheltered homeless population between 2017 and 2022. 

Central Oregon is one of the regions included on that list. 

▶️ Sisters School District to re-purpose old elementary school building

Out with the old, but not entirely. 

Sisters Elementary School is moving to a new building in fall 2024 thanks to money from a bond measure passed in May 2021. 

It’ll be 80,000 square feet — almost double the size of the current building. But the former building has a chance for a new lease on life. 

“It’s been, I think, a 10-year goal to consolidate the campus for services for our kids,” Sisters School District Superintendent Curtiss Scholl told Central Oregon Daily News on Monday. 

Sisters boasts a population of 3,400 people. Maybe not the largest town in Central Oregon, but it’s grown by more than 1,000 people over the past decade. 

The impact on the schools is evident. 

“Five years ago, the elementary school was about 330 students and we’re at 395 right now,” Scholl said. 

At the time the $33.8 million bond was passed, the current elementary school building was operating at 106% capacity, a percentage that’s only increased since then.

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Thanks to the bond measure, the new building with a larger library and gym will take shape on a plot of land next to Reed Stadium. 

The current school, a 50-year-old red brick structure, will then be open to a new purpose. 

The city recently partnered with Masters of Community and Regional Planning program students from the University of Oregon in order to “look at the city, look at the demographics, and give some suggestions and recommendations.” 

Following the study, three potential pathways stood out from the rest. 

“One is this Park and Recreation idea, and that was one of them. The other one was an age-friendly Sisters,” Scholl said. “So if you look at our demographics, we have a large aging community as well, and so there was a plan to really focus on that. And then the other was affordable housing, and so there was a plan to focus on that as well.” 

Feedback sessions, open houses and community surveys narrowed down the needs to a likely winner. 

“Park and Rec has a small facility and they actually are leasing more space to accommodate all the the programs that they run,” Scholl said. “And so currently getting all that feedback about what the needs are, it looks like our primary partner in this process will probably be Park and Rec.” 

Keeping the building in the family while making room for new members. 

“The opportunity to build a K-5 Elementary gives us room for growth, consolidates our campus. It’s going to be built between our middle school and high school. So all of our facilities will be together at the west end of town. So I think there’s a really outstanding opportunity,” Scholl said. 

The Sisters School Board will have to make a decision about the building’s future sometime this spring. 

They will have a work session sometime next month to discuss all the feedback they’ve received and the various ideas on the table. 

▶️ Volunteer Fair takes over Downtown Bend library

Last Monday many people recognized Martin Luther King, Jr. day through volunteer work, but a volunteer fair in Downtown Bend this weekend highlighted the opportunities available year-round. 

The fair took place Sunday in the Deschutes County Library, with 20 nonprofit organizations represented. 

They ranged from the Red Cross, to Habitat for Humanity, to the Deschutes Land Trust- all required to be nonprofits largely depending on volunteer work. 

It’s the 15th year the fair has taken shape in the library. 

“This event started when someone suggested that we have a event, a program where volunteers could or organizations could come in and talk about their organizations and volunteering with them. And we thought, well, why don’t we do a fair instead?” said Liisa Sjoblom, a librarian with Deschutes County Library. 

They selected Sunday for the fair because of the high amount of foot traffic at the library, bringing in visitors to the event who might not have attended otherwise. 

They had to waitlist around 15 organizations due to space constraints, but they hope to include everyone once the new, larger library space is built. 

“It’s pretty cool that there’s that many people who really want to volunteer,” Sjoblom said. “I think there’s a great history of volunteering in Central Oregon, and we’re getting new people here all the time and they’re going, where do I volunteer? Where do I find out? And this is one of those events that they can do that.” 

Around 200 people came through the volunteer fair during the course of the day. 

If you missed the fair but still want to find volunteer opportunities, you can find them on connectcentraloregon.org

▶️ Cascades Wedding Show sees boom in attendance this year

If you’ve got the ring, all you need now is the cake, the invitations, the venue, and about a million other things. 

The Cascades Wedding Show this weekend looked to help all those couples who are anxious to cross some things off their lists. 

The show at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes featured around 80 vendors, and nearly a thousand people came through over the course of the day Saturday. 

Event organizers said it was twice the turnout they saw compared to last year. They believe people are feeling bolder about throwing larger weddings in the wake of the pandemic. 

“We haven’t filled up yet this year, which is normal for us. We usually fill up pretty quickly after this event. We usually get about half of our brides from this event,” said Autumn Persinger, the owner of Ida’s Cupcakes. “So it’s a very important one for us and we really enjoy it.

Ida’s Cupcakes gave out more than 46 dozen cupcakes during the event…a lot more than last year, they say. 

Other vendors reported a similar story, receiving more business in a time when gatherings feel safer. 

▶️ Oregon Adaptive Sports hosts 16th Heroes event at Mt. Bachelor

Slipping and sliding and riding the slopes. 

That’s what a group of disabled veterans had the chance to do this weekend at Mt. Bachelor. 

The 16th annual Heroes event with Oregon Adaptive Sports runs Saturday and Sunday, pairing veterans with certified instructors who helped them up and down the mountain. 

The group availed of skis and snowboards built specifically to provide more support for those with disabilities. 

“This weekend is always a highlight for us every year,” said Pat Addabbo, Oregon Adaptive Sports’ Executive Director. “It’s just so great to see the support from the community, the volunteers that come, the athletes willing to push themselves, to push their limits and gain the benefits of outdoor recreation. And that sense of joy, the sliding on snow, just the feelings that you get from being here in these beautiful spaces.” 

Air Force Veteran George Hamilton spent 20 years in the service, and has been involved with Oregon Adaptive Sports for 10 years. 

He had to take the past few years off the Heroes event due to medical concerns, but he said returning to the mountain was like ‘coming home’. 

“I come up the slopes, and I’m past a lot of the feelings I have over being sick, over being hurt. I’ve been loose, I’ve been doing things I couldn’t normally do. And it’s so very cool,” he said. 

Hamilton said he couldn’t describe how much the team at Oregon Adaptive Sports means to him. 

“I’ve been through a lot. I’ve had some PTSD and I’ve gotten through a lot of things that I wouldn’t have gotten through without the regular activities that I have here,” he said. “I just can’t begin to tell you how special these guys are to me and what they mean to me. This was like a homecoming, going back.”

Abbaddo said the eight veterans in this year’s program receive lodging and sports instruction free of charge for the whole weekend. 

The participants came from all over Oregon and Washington to build confidence, skill and camaraderie with other veterans on the slopes. 

Veterans are often connected to the program through the Oregon Veterans Association and the Paralyzed Veterans Association. 

For more information and for upcoming events, visit https://oregonadaptivesports.org/.

▶️ Forest Service gets $700,000 to build alternate route to Forest Road 4606

Nearly two years ago, a local landowner put up gates on his private property, restricting a stretch of a popular stretch of forest road west of Bend. But recent funding from Congress will provide a long-awaited work-around. 

The Verheyden family’s closure of the stretch of Forest Road 4606 that runs through their property was a cause of outrage for members of the public who enjoyed hiking and biking on the scenic route. 

The U.S. Forest Service now plans to construct an alternate route around the property, thanks to $700,000 in funding recently provided from Congress’s fiscal year 2023 omnibus appropriations package. 

“Basically we were trying to find the most direct alternative to getting back to the 4606 Road off of Johnson Road, and this was a pathway that takes advantage of a number of existing paved county roads and then basically beefs up an existing forest service road,” Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang said.

Chang sought federal funding for the project after it appeared there would be no other way forward. 

“I carried a request to our two senators, Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, to provide a congressionally directed spending allocation to restore access to those lands. And the senators were very kind and very attentive in helping to make that happen,” Chang told Central Oregon Daily News on Tuesday. 

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Chang said when the controversy first began, he was hearing from many people in Deschutes County about access to their favorite playground being cut off. 

“It reached a point where I did not believe that we were going to be able to resolve any of these disagreements to the point where I thought we could restore public access through the original road that connected to the original 4606 Road, so I started looking for an alternative,” he said. 

“Last year when this all was going down and I attempted to speak with the land owners, Mr. Verheyden declined to speak with me,” Chang added. 

The Verheyden Family sent a statement to Central Oregon Daily News today, saying they have endured vandalism and even physical assault as a result of the public backlash. 

They say they’ve spent half a million dollars already on maintaining their section of the road, and have offered alternatives to the county and forest service. 

“The ongoing and misdirected public outcry suggests that the Bend community would like to see the road reopened. Despite public comments suggesting the contrary, the Verheyden family would as well, so long as the county or forest service commit to paving and maintaining it,” the statement read in part. 

It’s an offer they say has been turned down. 

You can read the family’s full statement below: 

Verheyden Public Statement (1_16_23)

 

“We really just were never able to find common interests and find common ground in terms of what road maintenance would look like and what what each party’s authorities were, and so we didn’t get very far in the negotiations,” said Kevin Larkin, the Bend-Fort Rock District Ranger for the Deschutes National Forest. 

“No one has ever received such an offer to me, and I would’ve been very interested in discussing that if such an offer had been made,” Chang said. 

It’s now up to the forest service to allocate resources to get the project off the ground. 

“Initially, we conducted a preliminary assessment of what kind of work would need to go on on the ground. Now, we will actually go into the process of conducting an NEPA analysis for this project,” said Jaimie Olle, the Public Affairs Specialist for Deschutes National Forest. “So we intend to initiate that this year, making sure that we include adequate time for public comment.” 

The forest service does not yet know how long that analysis will take, when the public comment period will open, or when exactly the road will open.