Editor’s note: This is part of a series on Bend’s 13 neighborhood associations and the issues facing the residents of those neighborhoods. Run by volunteers, the associations work to keep residents informed about issues important to their neighborhoods and to advocate for residents before city government. Active associations receive a small stipend from City Hall for postage and other costs related to communicating with their membership. Read more in the series at bendbulletin.com/neighborhoods.
About 15 years ago, or maybe a little less, the Boyd Acres neighborhood on Bend’s north end faced emerging issues that could have radically altered traffic and development patterns in the area.
A Wal-Mart Supercenter had been proposed on Cooley Road.
Juniper Ridge was considered the most likely site of Central Oregon’s first four-year university.
And the Oregon Department of Transportation was planning a new interchange where U.S. Highway 20 and U.S. Highway 97 come together.
Years later, nothing much has happened on any of those fronts. The Wal-Mart proposal has been on hold for years, OSU-Cascades’ campus is open on the opposite side of town and development at Juniper Ridge remains sparse, while ODOT is still years and hundreds of millions of dollars away from building an interchange.
So last week, when Boyd Acres Neighborhood Association board members gathered around a table at a strip mall cafe along N. Third Street to plot out their requests of city government, they focused entirely on the main east-west route through the neighborhood — Empire Avenue.
As one of a few neighborhoods in Bend that includes “a little bit of everything,” in the words of association board member Joette Storm, the area is well-positioned to become the kind of self-contained, walkable and bikable neighborhood the city is trying to encourage.
Getting Empire Avenue right is a big part of that, Storm said, particularly when the city decides to move forward on its longer-term plan to extend Empire through to NE 27th Street.
Better bike and pedestrian routes along Empire and a Cascades East Transit route along the street are needed. Roundabouts are needed where Empire intersects Boyd Acres Road, and at Purcell Avenue where Empire now ends in a T-intersection.
Board member Larry Kierulff, who served back when the association’s plate was piled high with bigger issues, said taking a narrower focus makes it more likely that the association can get results that make a difference in residents’ day-to-day lives.
“We’d like to see improvements in our lifetimes, you know?” Kierulff said.
One of the largest neighborhoods in the city, Boyd Acres straddles both sides of U.S. Highway 97 and U.S. Highway 20 and is named after Charles Boyd, who came to the region in 1904 and began ranching cattle on 6 acres along the Deschutes River. Boyd’s ranch eventually grew to 600 acres. The buildings that once formed the core of his operations were moved a short distance in the late 1970s and now sit just north of the Bend River Promenade.
The Swalley, North Unit and the Pilot Butte canals all split off from the Deschutes River just outside Boyd Acres and traverse the neighborhood, including the stretch of the Pilot Butte Canal that was added to the National Register of Historic Places early last year.
The Riverhouse and its convention center are here, as is the Deschutes County jail, the Bend River Promenade and the Cascade Village Shopping Center. One of the Bend Park & Recreation District’s largest parks, Pine Nursery, is tucked into the neighborhood’s southeast corner, while the district’s still-in-development Riley Ranch Nature Preserve is just past the neighborhood’s western boundary.
Both board member Joette Storm and board president Don Leonard said one of the biggest factors in their decisions to move to Boyd Acres was a desire to live in a newer house and to avoid the maintenance demands associated with older construction.
Though some older homes remain scattered across the neighborhood, the majority were built after 2000.
Construction flatlined during the recession, Storm said, and with the prospect of new development out of the picture, interest in the neighborhood association dwindled. Now that construction is picking up — and in a big way, with 130 apartment units along Empire set to be complete by summer — she said residents are again starting to take notice.
Jeff Silverman is one of those new residents, having moved to the area in June and joining the board a short time later. He said he’s been charmed by his interactions with his neighbors, even small things like maintaining eye contact when passing on the street, and wanted to do what he could to encourage that openness.
“I’ve never lived in a neighborhood that’s so friendly, engaged and supportive,” he said. “So when the opportunity arose, I readily said yes.”
Leonard said the association still needs to do a better job of reaching out to residents living west of Highway 97, where issues like development and traffic along Empire Avenue are less pressing. To that end, the association has made a point of inviting city officials to address their monthly meetings, giving neighborhood residents an opportunity to learn about city-wide issues and neighborhood concerns.
Storm said new arrivals to the neighborhood have at times been surprised to discover the degree of access to decision makers they have in Bend, and are warming up — albeit slowly — to recognizing how the association can help amplify their voices.
“If you come here from a bigger place, you may have some misconceptions about what’s possible,” she said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0387, firstname.lastname@example.org