When exponential growth and development threatened the quality of life in Bend, Oregon, residents banded together with the city and Steven Ames Planning to create a visionary plan that would protect the unique community character they cherished.
Located along the eastern edge of the Cascade Mountain Range, Bend is the largest city in Central Oregon. The city’s population quadrupled from 20,469 in 1990 to an estimated 80,000 in 2009 which significantly increased the amount of residential and commercial developments, dramatically expanded the urbanized area, and subsequently strained public infrastructure and services.
In 2005, in response to public concerns about maintaining their community character and the need for a stronger sense of direction, the Bend City Council initiated a community-wide visioning process: Bend 2030. Steven Ames Planning, an award-winning planning and consulting firm based in Bend, was employed as the project lead, coordinating the logistics and designing the direction of the initiative.
The city council charged a 27-member Vision Task Force (VTF) with guiding the creation of the vision statement. The VTF received advice from a 30-member Stakeholder Advisory Committee consisting of representatives from key community partners, representing the public, private and nonprofit sectors.
The first task for Bend 2030 was a volunteer-led effort to develop a community profile that described the current state of the city and emerging trends, as well as key issues, opportunities and challenges. The Task Force amassed ideas and used them to develop a draft Vision that would become the basis of a vision action plan.
The Bend 2030 Vision was adopted by the city council in June 2006. Following city council approval, a Project Management Team led the action planning phase of the effort to identify 88 action items. This Action Plan was officially adopted by the city council in December 2006.
For the final, ongoing phase of Bend 2030, an 18-member board of directors was created to support and implement Bend 2030. Since that time, the board has promoted lead partner involvement, monitored implementation of action plan items and prepared a five-year update of the plan.
Although the process of Bend 2030 was city-led, leaders attribute its success to broadly-based community engagement and ownership. Participation was encouraged from a cross-section of community interests. Additionally, involvement from all sectors of the community resulted in strong partnerships to implement the Vision.
During the initial phases of the endeavor, a major source of the information that led to the action plan came from an annual citizen survey of city services administered by the city of Bend. This was augmented by a report that produced data on 12 topics relating to the future of the city, including land use, transportation, housing, water and public safety.
This snapshot of Bend provided everyone with a shared baseline of facts and helped elevate the quality and accuracy of community discussions. The official process commenced with a Community Forum Week—a series of events designed to welcome community members to the process, encourage their participation and present the information contained in the profile. Also introduced were these six key focus areas of the emerging Vision that were based on the profile and other research:
• Well Planned City
• Vibrant Economy
• Quality Environment
• Safe, Healthy People
• Strong Community
• Creative, Learning Culture
A full-page advertisement in the local newspaper promoted Forum Week, which featured guest speakers, performance artists and electronic keypad polling and was described by the organizer as the most effective public meeting in which they had ever participated.
In all, more than 5,700 people had participated in the 11-month visioning phase of the process. Seven of ten adults said they were aware of the Bend 2030 process and one in seven actually participated in at least one Bend 2030 meeting or activity.