▶️ National survey reveals drop in underage drinking; What about local youth?

A survey by the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicates a downward trend of underage drinking nationwide. 

“Just those declines alone I think are a win for public health because we know that’s going to help protect these young brains,” said Dr. Aaron White with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

The biggest drop was seen in 2021. Dr. White said the pandemic’s influence on these numbers isn’t known yet. But Lauren wood, the drug free communities coordinator with Deschutes County Public Health, told us, there was certainly some impact.

“The pandemic was a huge time of change in both our community landscape and family landscapes,” said Wood.

Other factors, according to Wood, include how prevalent alcohol is in the community and the perception that there is more drinking than there actually is.

2022 results of the national survey include:

  • 11% of eighth graders reported underage drinking
  • 21.5% of 10th graders
  • 32.6% of 12th graders

Although Deschutes County is seeing a decrease, it most recent reports are from back in 2020.

“We do see a 23.8% of our 11th graders in Deschutes County reporting past 30 day use of alcohol,” said Wood.

Wood added this report also shows the county having higher numbers than the state average by almost 7%.

“We see typically as a state, Oregon coming in higher than the national average,” said Wood.

While the those county and state averages are higher, the number of underage drinkers continues to trend downwards.

Deschutes County Public Health also says parents are the first line of defense for minors drinking. The department encourages parents to have open conversations with their children and to model healthy behaviors.

▶️ ‘Hundreds’ of homeless to be moved for Deschutes County land exchange

A land exchange deal from 2015 between the state of Oregon and Deschutes County has one more step: Clearing the homeless population off of 137 acres of land east of Redmond.

“They don’t have the means of moving their trailers,” said Cody Ledbetter, a man that lives off of East Antler Avenue in his trailer. “They’ll lose a lot.”

The deal was supposed to be closed in 2022, but the state raised concerns about the unhoused people living on the land it was receiving. 

Ledbetter has been unhoused for six months. He says there are hundreds of people living on the 137 acres of land.

“There’s dozens of communities out here,” said Ledbetter.

This communities have up to 20 to 30 people, according to Ledbetter. 

RELATED: Prototype mass timber affordable home to be tested in Madras

RELATED: Kotek requests $130 million from state to tackle homelessness emergency

 

Central Oregon Daily News did not see any of these communities during our brief visit Wednesday, but reporter Morgan Gwynn did not want to risk driving the news car through more rough terrain in the area.

The county says it’s figuring out a way to move everyone. 

“Internally, we’re working on a plan, like a project plan, that would include working with service providers and assessing the encampments and the individuals in those encampments and seeing what kind of services they can be connected with,” said Kristie Bollinger, the Deschutes County Property Manager. 

The other piece of land is south of the Deschutes County Fairgrounds. That 140 acres is owned by the state, but when the exchange is complete, the additional acreage will be used to expand the fairgrounds. 

As for the property east of Redmond?

“The property that DSL would acquire from the county, that would be large-lot industrial. So that would be eventually sold and proceeds from that would go to the common school fund,” said Bollinger.

First, all the homeless people have to go.

“I hope the county doesn’t kick everybody out of here,” said Ledbetter. “I mean, if they do, I hope they give us some place to go or an area to move to. At least, maybe a means of moving, helping us move our stuff.”

The county said it won’t move anyone until a plan is in place. Once everyone is cleared out of the East Antler property, the land exchange will go through. 

The county also said specific dates have not been decided. 

▶️ Bend Park and Rec seeks public feedback on river access point designs

The Bend Park and Recreation District is requesting public feedback on design options for four new Deschutes River access points. 

“We’ve seen over 250,000 people just go through the river float channel alone. With that increased use comes a whole bunch of wear and tear and so this is the best attempt to get a hold and make sure that people are going to be able to access the river,” said Ian Isaacson, a landscape architect with BPRD.

With the increased river use, these new access points range in designs from a dock to a ramp to terraced options. 

RELATED: Riverbend Park access project expected to be finished this spring

RELATED: Deschutes River Trail through Drake Park being extended under Newport Ave.

McKay and Columbia Parks will get one access point each. Miller’s Landing Park will receive two. You can find interactive examples of the proposed changes on the BPRD website at this link.

“I was hoping to go to the meeting tomorrow night just to see what they’re planning,” said Aleta Nissen of Bend.

Nissen also said she’s seen an increase in river use in recent years.

“More access points for the river is only good because the more access points people have that are kind of official access points, then the less of that traipsing through the riparian area you get which always bums me out,” said Nissen.

An online survey and an open house on Wednesday will give Bend residents the opportunity to give their opinions. The open house will be at the BPRD building at 799 SW Columbia Street from 10:00 a.m. – noon and 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

▶️ Prototype mass timber affordable home to be tested in Madras

The proposed mass timber solution aimed at solving the state’s affordable housing problem will get a test run in Central Oregon.

Hacienda CDC, a community development group in Portland, gave a first look at their mass timber modular homes on Friday. 

“One of our core objectives for this project is to test these prototypes in different climates in Oregon,” said innovation director for Hacienda CDC Leticia Cervantes.

One of those climates will be the High Desert, specifically Madras. A Central Oregon family selected by Casa of Oregon will test the home.

“We want to learn how the families that are using the house and the appliances are doing. We are going to interact directly with the homeowner,” said Cervantes.

RELATED: Kotek requests $130 million from state to tackle homelessness emergency

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

Every three months for a year, the organization will inspect the houses. Inspectors will check “the material, the resistance, if we have any flaws or moisture, which is something important to measure,” said Cervantes. “We also want to receive feedback on the design of the house.”

 

Mass timber products are compressed layers of wood that are strong but light building materials. 

In 2021, the Oregon legislature approved $5 million for the pilot program. 

If the houses do well during inspections, construction and distribution will continue. 

“We are going to donate these houses directly to the organizations that we have partnered with, and then they are going to run their internal process to decide which family is going to be able to live in this house,” said Cervantes.

The first batch of six houses is expected to be finished in April of this year. 

The units have two to three bedrooms each and range from 426-square-feet. to 1,136-square-feet.

▶️ Riverbend Park access project expected to be finished this spring

The Riverbend Park South Access and Restoration Project took more than five years to start. But it’s now quickly making progress and should be finished this spring.

Restoration, accessibility and conservation are the main goals of the half-million dollar project, according to Ian Isaacson, a landscape architect with the Bend Park and Recreation District.

“We want to show that within town, with the increased use, that access and restoration don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” said Isaacson.

RELATED: Riverbend Park River Project to reconstruct Deschutes River banks 

Deterioration of the riverbank has been a concern for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council (UDWC). 

“We are seeing through historical photos over the years, was receding 5, 6 up to 10 feet back from folks coming in to swim or dogs coming in and out,” said UDWC restoration program manager Mathias Perle.

In response, BPRD and UDWC along with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Sunderland Foundation and the Visit Bend Sustainability Fund came together to build three river access points, a man-made marsh and fencing between the Bill Healey Bridge and the Farewell Bend Park footbridge.

The marsh will be home to migrating fish and spotted frogs in the area. 

“When [the marsh] is complete, the river will flow into it,” said Perle. “It’ll get completely planted with wetland ‘seg’ vegetation.”

Along with the vegetation in the marsh, the rest of the north side of the river will also be re-planted with all native species, which is expected to be complete by Fall 2023. 

While the project is being led by BPRD, taxpayers footed $300,000 of the $500,000. The rest was funded by grants.

▶️ Deschutes Co. commissioners unanimously approve removal of ‘unsafe’ camps

The Deschutes County Commissioners on Wednesday unanimously approved a motion to remove “unsafe” encampments from county-owned property. 

The county’s Houseless Strategies and Solutions Director, Cheyenne Purrington, testified that officials are aware of the risks to public safety certain individuals present.

“In talks with local law enforcement, including the sheriff’s office as well as service providers who are familiar with that area, there are significant concerns both around criminal behavior, fire risk, significant incidents around violence, gun use,” said Purrington.

RELATED: ‘Unsafe encampment’ removal up for vote by Deschutes Co. Commissioners

RELATED: ‘Unsafe campsite’ Hunnell Road to be cleared

We spoke with a woman who lives next to Juniper Ridge to hear about her experience.

“I told them to tie up their dogs and they told me they would shoot me in the head,” said the woman.

We are protecting this woman’s identity at her request. She is fearful of her unhoused neighbors seeing that she talked to us. 

“We had told the officers when they came up that we were threatened to get killed, both me and my neighbor,” she said. 

 

She said she has been scared for years, especially after the fire in August of 2020, started by somebody living nearby in Juniper Ridge that came right up to her property line. 

“It came all the way up within probably a hundred feet to my house. It burned some of my neighbors structures down,” said the woman. 

After calling 911 multiple times on one encampment, she does not know what else to do. 

This situation and others like it is why the Deschutes County Commissioners voted on a motion to remove unsafe camps. 

One of the worst encounters the woman says she has had with the homeless living near her:

“My husband was walking our dog right by our house and he said that the pitbull came out of the campsite and it attacked out rottweiler and my dog came out all bloody,” she said. “They had tubes in it and it died two weeks later.”

She told us she does not walk her current dog on her property at all. 

The county motion takes effect as soon as it is signed by the county administrator.

▶️ ‘Unsafe encampment’ removal up for vote by Deschutes Co. Commissioners

Deschutes County Commissioners will vote on a motion this week to remove “unsafe encampments” on county-owned land. 

To be deemed unsafe, camps will have to pose a repeated fire risk, be involved in the production and distribution of illicit drugs, be spreading disease or other hazardous activities.

“The driver of all of this is that there are some places on county property where we have encampments that are causing significant immediate public safety risks,” said Deschutes County Commissioner Phil Chang.

Elizabeth Deroche, a Juniper Ridge resident who lives with her two children and dogs, would have to move if her set-up was considered unsafe. She told us she tries to be as safe as possible.

“We have fire extinguishers. We have five-gallon jugs of water. We buy cases of water for that reason and then we also have shovels to cover the fire with dirt, if anything. I have an aluminum firewall around my trailer where the wood stove is,” said Deroche.

RELATED: ‘Unsafe campsite’ Hunnell Road to be cleared

RELATED: Volunteers assist campers on Redmond-Powell Butte Road

A fire that burned 39 acres north of Bend in August 2020 was started in Juniper Ridge. 

“A lot of people light other people’s trailers on fire. They blow up propane tanks, light fires. Last summer we had a trailer burn down because somebody got mad at his girlfriend and lit her whole entire trailer on fire,” said Deroche.

While, as far as we know, Deroche has not been listed as “unsafe,” she has plenty of equipment that could catch fire.

“I have a wood stove. I have every precaution to be able to use it and not catch on fire. I use it for cooking, for heat and for even boiling water. I have a buddy heater to keep warm in my living room for my kids, and then I have a camping stove,” said Deroche.

Commissioner Chang added the motion will focus on individual, repeat offenders. 

“In the scenario where we have a specific encampment that has almost caused wildfires on multiple occasions, we would be trying to make the entire encampment go away,” said Chang.

The meeting will be at 9:00 a.m. Wednesday.

▶️ Bend could see psilocybin service centers open by May: Here are the rules

The Oregon Health Authority announced its Oregon Psilocybin Services (OPS) branch that has begun accepting applications for licenses for manufacturers, laboratories, service centers and facilitators.

Ryan Reid, a Bend man working on opening two psilocybin service centers, has applied for the necessary licenses to open his doors in a few months. 

“Some people say it’s like 10 years of therapy in one session. So you’re going to have these breakthroughs and be like, ‘oh that’s why I behave this way’ or ‘that’s why I have this pattern’ or ‘this explains my relationship with these people’, and you’ll come out just more well rounded,” said Reid.

However, the doors cannot open just anywhere. 

“Where they are preferring we locate these are in existing medical or office settings,” said Reid.

The space needed is around 3,000 square feet for the service centers. The manufacturing room will be about 400 square feet, according to Reid. 

 

Manufacturing will include the growing and packaging of psilocybin. Every center will also need OHA-approved and trained staff.

“To have a psilocybin session, you have to go to a licensed service center. You have to take the mushrooms there, and you have to stay there for the duration of the experience. You have to be under the guidance of this licensed facilitator the entire time,” said Reid.

“The entire time” is at least six hours.

If you are micro-dosing, the time trims down to 30 minutes, still under supervision. 

 

Reid told us the center will mitigate the possibilities of having a bad experience. 

“First and foremost is dose. Mushrooms are highly variable from mushroom to mushroom on the concentration of psilocybin. So if you’re just taking these homegrown mushrooms, you don’t know exactly how much you’re getting. So you could get a more intense experience than you were expecting,” said Reid. 

OHA certified labs will be able to test and confirm the amount of psilocybin in each mushroom, according to Reid. 

His goal is to have two facilities operating in Bend this year. There will be a for-profit center open to giving people experiences. That will fund a nonprofit center focused more on helping those with depression and PTSD.

▶️ Bend HS welding students to see program upgrades thanks to grant

Bend High School welding students came back from winter break this week with an extra present waiting for them. The school received a $24,510 grant from the American Welding Society — a move that can help create a pipeline from high school to a career.

“Our reason for applying for the grant was so that we could upgrade our equipment, buy some new tools, and then with that new equipment we would be in a position to offer the AWS entry level certification for our students,” said Chuck Hill, one of the Bend High Welding Instructors.

“The entry level certification, if a student wants to pursue it, that is a nationally recognized certification that students can go to work and gives the employer some confidence that they have a guy or gal that has minimum skills and knowledge that they can make money for that employer right on the first day,” said Hill.

RELATED: Mountain View HS students certified as professional welders

A freshman student told us she’d rather be welding than what she called regular studies.

“I’d say it’s a more hands-on thing during the day instead of just siting at a desk the whole day,” said Megan Rounds, who is considering a career in welding.

While most of the equipment works, Rounds explained the grant money would go a long way, including fixing holey gloves and scratched face shields.

Hill mentioned this statistic: When four welders leave the industry, only one new welder replaces them. In other words, there’s a welder shortage.

Rounds believes the AWS grant will help the shortage on a local level by encouraging the trade.

“It would definitely give more space and more room and especially would invite other people to come in, make it a bigger class and make more people interested in welding,” said Rounds.

▶️ It’s not an egg-cellent time for grocery stores right now

An egg shortage is causing stores to either raise prices or put up the “out of stock” signs.

“A lot of time, customers just think that ‘Oh, grocery stores are making all this money,'” said Food 4 Less Store Director Aaron Price. “We’re not making any money on eggs right now.”

Due to avian influenza, customers may see empty egg shelves in larger corporate stores. But for locally owned stores, the issue is pricing.

“Typically for corporate stores, they have to buy through their own warehouses and their own producers and their own facilities so they don’t have the freedom to go elsewhere as locally owned and independent stores like us,” said Price.

RELATED: Here’s how inflation takes a bite out of a Central Oregon restaurant

RELATED: Nationwide egg shortage hitting some Central Oregon stores

Newport Avenue Market said the same.

“We have, I don’t know, upwards of a dozen different eggs that we’re offering, but mostly due to the avian flu,” said CEO Lauren Redman.

Central Oregon Daily News visited some other stores around Bend to see the prices of a dozen eggs:

  • Fred Meyer: $2.39-$10.99
  • Market of Choice: $3.89-$9.99
  • Safeway: $1.69-$8.99 (raw eggs out of stock)
  • Albertsons: $2.19-$7.49
  • WinCo: $3.48-$6.96

Redman tells us the price at Newport Avenue Market is anywhere from $3 to $10.

We spoke with one man at Food 4 Less who said the price increase does not bother him.

“They are a little bit more expensive than they were before, but I love eggs so I decided to just go for it,” said Neal Osotio.

The hope for stores is that industrial farms will fix the situation fast. 

“Word is that you will continue to see this for at least a little bit longer, but the eggs, at some point, when the facilities are able to catch back up on their egg production, we will catch up and cost will start coming down,” said Price.