The campus for OSU-Cascades has stirred up mixed emotions among Bend residents, some of which appear to be driven by fear of changes the campus may bring to the west side of town. As a 10-year resident of the west side (12 total in Bend) I can appreciate that concern, but the current discussion lacks perspective.
When I first arrived in Bend the population was just under 60,000. Traffic was a rarity, and many housing developments were either under construction or had yet to be built. Recreation on the river and in the surrounding national forest wasn’t the best-kept secret, but it was nowhere near as popular as it is today. It was a happening place to be, poised to be the next big boom-town in the West.
Bend changed rapidly and inexorably over the next several years, fueled by rampant housing development, an ever-expanding array of recreation opportunities and unabashed self-promotion by the city and various tourism bureaus. Restaurants, some previously considered mainstays, seemed to come and go with the changing winds. Iconic structures (e.g. the Crane Shed) were demolished to make way for new development. Festivals and breweries (sometimes combined) sprang up like weeds and Bend’s fledgling tourism industry exploded. The Bend I fell in love with was fast becoming a distant memory before my eyes.
Amidst all the uproar over the campus the west side continues to change all by itself, more crowded with cars and people than it has ever been. Another tidal wave of change looms with expansion of Northwest Crossing, a new school, the Simpson Avenue ice rink, the Colorado Street Safe Passage (Bend Whitewater Park) project and development in the upper Mill area. These changes will occur regardless of where the university locates, and they will bring more cars, more traffic and more crowding.
It’s tempting to blame others for these changes. We could blame the city itself for shamelessly promoting its virtues. The same can be said of Visit Bend, the Bend Chamber of Commerce and other tourism bureaus. We might include EDCO and their incessant quest for economic development in Central Oregon. Let’s not forget the unlimited supply of realtors in Bend and their constant promotion of the “Bend lifestyle.”
Those are easy and satisfying targets, but blaming them is neither fair nor sufficient. An honest assessment requires us to point the finger squarely at ourselves for boasting of Bend to our friends, families, business partners and Twitter followers. Most of us moved here from somewhere else, anonymously adding to the number on the road signs. West-side traffic results in part from our own decisions to drive everywhere (myself included).
No matter where the university chose to locate, the west side of Bend was always going to attract crowds, traffic and the same young people about which some residents are concerned. The 1950s-era development model of strip malls and parking lots that characterize much of the east side holds little appeal to younger generations than the more pedestrian-friendly west side. Cool things can be found on Bend’s east side, but the west side offers a greater concentration across the venue spectrum. People of all ages naturally want to be here.
It’s a natural reaction to hold tightly to perceptions of how things were when we came to know a place.
An alternative is to be a part of shaping change so that Bend continues to be a great place to live, albeit different from the Bend we remember. OSU-Cascades will be one of many entities to influence Bend.
As an employee at OSU-Cascades, I believe the university has a greater opportunity to leverage positive changes on the west side than any other potential developer. The nature of that change will largely rest on the degree to which the university and community can work together on a shared vision from this point forward.
Let’s get started.
— Matt Shinderman is an instructor at OSU-Cascades. This opinion is his own and not that of OSU-Cascades.