Lately I have been pondering the difference in cities where people want to live and visit and places that are just rather blah. Last summer, I took my family on a road trip to Texas. We pulled our RV and stayed in RV parks on the way there and back. We went to a number of National Parks, visited family and had a fantastic time. We saw plenty of great country but I must admit, once I got home it was a good reminder how special Prineville actually is. I know that many of us (including myself) don’t necessarily look at Prineville as a destination or even as a place that folks would want to vacation; to us who live here it’s just home. It’s comfortable, it’s a place where you run into your friends at the grocery store, it’s an everybody knows everybody kind of town. It’s still a place that when it really matters, we all pull together and help those who are struggling, and we show up and celebrate each other’s successes because we all had a little part to play in it.
This is why we like it here, but the word is getting out and others are realizing that this little community is quite a nice place to live! I had a call this morning from a lady who wanted to make reservations at the Crook County RV Park. The reason she and her husband are coming here is to meet up with a realtor. They have visited in the past and fell in love with this little town. She described driving down off the grade for the first time and looking at paradise. If there is anything I have heard from folks visiting from out of town, it’s “Everybody is so friendly here.” Prineville is friendly, and I hope that never changes. But whether you like it or not, Prineville is growing and to a certain degree we have an opportunity to decide what our town is going look like down the road. There are some things that make a community more desirable than others and I would like for you to imagine with me what Prineville could look like twenty years from now.
There could be tight grids of housing units locked in with little yards, strip malls with payday lending and convenience stores on every corner, concrete industrial buildings with prison looking fences keeping everyone out, bumper to bumper traffic with a sea of red lights, noisy sirens and police speeding off at all hours of the night. You don’t see kids on bikes because it’s too dangerous to ride anywhere. If you have ever lived in a large city, you can relate to this possibility. These are the sights and sounds of my early childhood. You had to leave the big city in order to enjoy the quiet beauty of nature. But does it have to be this way? Could we make decisions today that could keep the small town feel in tact? I think there are examples of communities that have been successful at this, but it doesn’t happen by accident. It takes vision and leadership on the part of those who are elected, and it takes willingness on the part of the people to vote positive change into existence.
Imagine a larger Prineville with a comprehensive off-street trail system where you can safely ride your bike or walk and get to where you need to go without feeling like you are going to get run over. The roads through the housing developments wind and curve around, and you don’t have to go far to find a quiet neighborhood park to sit and read and watch the kids play on the playground. You don’t even have to drive downtown to go out for dinner; you can simply walk and dine out on the outdoor patio that looks out over the park. You can schedule into your day some exercise with a water aerobics class at the indoor pool, or simply peddle out your stress on the elliptical and watch the Canada Geese fly over. You can plan out your family reunion and rent the big pavilion out along the Crooked River. You can sign the kids up for interesting educational classes and also for some good summer fun. You can meet up with friends at the community center and play some cards before you head off to watch the a movie in the park. Speaking of which, we have three movies in the parks starting this summer! July 28 in the Old Stryker Field, August 24 at the Prineville Pool, and September 7, back in Stryker.
This is the kind of community I want Prineville to continue to grow into in the next twenty years. At the rate things are happening now, we need to get real motivated and get some things in place or we might miss a valuable window of time. Here at Crook County Parks and Recreation District, we are desperately trying to make as much headway as we can in creating the kind of community that I just described, but the truth is we are maxed out. Our taxable boundaries no longer reflect the growing population, and if some foundational changes are not made soon, we will not be able to keep up with the growth. In the coming months, we are asking you, the people of Crook County, to let your voice be heard as far as what you want for parks and recreation services now and in the future. Please give some input as we wrestle with what we want Prineville and Crook County to look like twenty years from now. We want to hear from you.