The rebuild begins as coalition secures land for new Detroit community center


A coalition formed to help rebuild the Detroit area after last fall’s devastating wildfires has secured the land for a new community building.

Somewhat miraculously, one large piece of land was left virtually untouched by the recent wildfires.

The coalition shared its vision to restore Detroit with the property owner, Kim Fowler, who then donated a large portion of the two-acre parcel to the project.

The property was formerly the site of Detroit High School.

The school building was demolished a few years ago, yet the gymnasium is still standing. Rebuild plans include using the existing structure.

The Santiam Rebuild Coalition was formed to support Detroit and bring relief to the canyon.

Nick Harville, Business Retention & Expansion Manager for SEDCOR/Marion County (Strategic Economic Development Corporation), and Rich Duncan, owner of Rich Duncan Construction, created the coalition.

They plan to construct a community building for the area to jump-start the region’s redevelopment.

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The coalition brings together licensed, local construction industry members who will volunteer their time to fast-track the construction of a new community building in Detroit—doing more together towards this goal than they could individually.

“We hope the community building will be a place for Detroit and surrounding area residents to meet and begin reconstructing what has been called Oregon’s playground,” said Volunteer Coalition Communication Coordinator Mary Louise VanNatta.

There is much work to be done to restore life to the canyon.

“If Detroit doesn’t come back, the canyon cannot come back,” Duncan said.

Though more people live in the surrounding communities like Gates and Mill City, Detroit has been the economic driver for all residents in those areas.

Along with the community building, the new Detroit plans include features like a thriving and beautiful downtown with new businesses, a historical monument, and a visitor’s center.

The Santiam Rebuild Coalition was developed for multiple purposes.

One is to provide Canyon residents contacts for a group of trustworthy, local construction trades. Another is to improve logistics as reconstruction begins. At an organization meeting in mid-October 2020, over 90 contractors pledged to provide labor and materials.

The Detroit Lake Foundation, a 501(c)3, will accept donations of both funds and materials on behalf of the project at

The coalition has created its own website,, to help the contributors communicate and coordinate schedules. Approved licensed contractors will have access to a discussion forum and be listed in a public directory.


“The Detroit Lake Foundation is blessed to be a part of such an inspiring project,” Tardiff said. “We are diligently working to help make this project a reality and are in amazement with all the outpouring of donations and help from the community. We are excited to see this be a place that will benefit the Detroit community, families, and visitors alike.”

The project brings together many of the partners involved in the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition build, led by Duncan in 2010.

Thousands of citizens gathered to revitalize the Oregon School for the Deaf’s Nightmare Factory haunted house and boy’s dormitory.

Duncan said citizens are overwhelmed by the outpouring of support by the industry.

“It is great to have a relationship with trusted colleagues we can call back together a decade later to work on this important rebuild,” Duncan said.

Contractors can find the volunteer/supply donation form on

To make cash or other contributions, visit


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