Update On Blue River & Fire Recovery
Update Dec 12 2022:
Some of us do not have an easy path to recovery after the fire. Insurance money was far short of the cost to rebuild. We lost homes, precious personal items collected throughout a lifetime (sometimes generational items).
At one community recovery meeting, I listened as a retired couple was looking for help rebuilding after discovering that their insurance shortage wouldn’t cover the full cost of replacing their home. Being at a certain age and on a fixed income – they weren’t able to borrow money to cover the difference. It was heart breaking to hear their story.
Likewise, things can also be hard for business owners and those with commercial property. The common belief is that because they were privileged enough to own a business or commercial property that they don’t deserve empathy or support.
Along with lost homes, irreplaceable heirlooms, photos and emotional items, some of us also lost our jobs and our businesses.
Take our neighbors Rob and Coho Miner, and their amazing U.S Cavalry and American Indian Museum – there’s just no coming back from that loss. No matter what they got form the insurance company – it was not enough to rebuild and most of the lost items are super rare or non-existent. Those rare pieces of history are lost forever.
Those of us who want to rebuild, find ourselves working other jobs to make ends meet while trying to navigate through a complicated process of what to build, meeting new building codes, design issues, budget, financing permitting and so much more. Sometimes its just too much.
Communities need local businesses to provide services to residents, to create jobs for residents and hopefully bring money into the local economy.
Most of us have been huge supporters of community good, donating time, money and other resources to help our community. If we lose them, its more than just the goods or services they provide. It’s also their contributions to the fabric of our community.
Our local business owners need a way to get our businesses and jobs back. Some comments from people have said business owners are greedy, trying to take advantage of everyone. For most of us along the McKenzie River, we just want to be sustainable – we just want to survive!! As owners, we need to make a living wage and be able to pay our employees a living wage. We need to get a return on the savings that we invested in our businesses, we need to not fear losing everything due to a snow storm or economic downturn.
We live and invest in our community because we love it and want to live here.
As many of you may already know, I have been a huge supporter of helping Blue River get better and put the welcome sign out for new businesses. I have been volunteering with McKenzie Community Partnership (formerly known as Blue River Community Development Corporation) for almost 15 years to help solve problems and make Blue River better.
Earlier this year, I was asked to serve as MCP’s Executive Director, (our previous executive director was amazing, yet was commuting from Albany and couldn’t find a house here to relocate – 2 hours commute to work was just not sustainable for her).
Blue River is a special place. I have about 15 years of happy memories living here. I care about our town and want to see it come back to life.
I’ve spent countless hours trying to research and figure out the roadblocks to getting businesses open – especially in our downtown core. I spoken to a number of property owners who have tried to open businesses here during that time.
There are many reasons why Blue River has struggled to get businesses to open:
- Wastewater issues on business lots (can’t get building permits)
- Visibility – lack of highway signage
- Lack of strong business loop
- Empty lots and according to outsiders, a feeling of decay
- Lack of street lights and sidewalks (curb appeal/safety)
One of the key challenges on Blue River Dr (downtown) has been wastewater – the business lots are too small to build on and meet septic guidelines (so owners can’t get building permits.)
As part of fire recovery, Mckenzie Community Partnership advocated with state and county leaders and the State gave us 15 million to put in a community sewer! In addition, the funds will be used to make improvements to our water system and possibly street lights and maybe other improvements like this road.
The sewer project is something many of us in the community have worked on for almost 15 years. Now that finding is in place, the great people volunteering on the board of the Blue River Water District are working with a dedicated team at the county to work on Blue River. We are excited to see how this project will progress.
Rebuilding and adjusting the road might open up some great opportunities for Blue River as a community.
Not only will it provide a safe and easy access point for locals, it will also help create a focused business loop.
- Traffic Flow
- Potential for smarter development of Blue River
- Potential to add workforce housing
- May help improve visibility and traffic flow to support new downtown businesses
- Minimize non-local traffic flows on Blue River Dr between the new road and the High School.
It appears that many of the things that McKenzie Community Partnership (formerly known as Blue River Community Development Corporation) has been pushing for regarding land use rules, are already acceptable by the State and that Lane County just needs to update its code to allow those uses.
MCP is working with state and county leaders to help direct recovery efforts, advocate for the community and coordinate with our other local non-profits, community groups and community centers.
Good things are coming along with some great updates on community visioning. The MCP expects to be working with the county to reach out to property owners to get feedback and make improvements.
As part of this process, I want to hear from you, our neighbors about what’s important to you as Blue River works on recovery and improvement. What would you like to see in our future road map for Blue River and for your property.
However, to heal, to recover and to move forward, we need to find a way to move forward together.
The Blue River is composed of strong people with at times, a wide difference of opinion over what changes are good and what is bad. Change is exciting, but it’s also scary. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on what we might lose instead of what we could gain.
Let’s find common values and advocate together on a general shared vision.
Earth Quest Partners LLC dba McKenzie River Mountain Resort
This is a live draft 12/12/22. To be edited. Please share feedback on how we can improve this post.