Make the McKenzie Connection!

60-Mile Main Street?

Planning program adopted in other areas

Does your community have a “Main Street?” If you live in Walterville or Finn Rock, the answer to that question would probably be different than one that comes to mind for folks in Blue River. Is Highway 126 a roadway that unites towns that compose an overall McKenzie community? That’s a concept behind a series of meetings scheduled to kick off later this month at the Vida McKenzie Community Center (VMCC).

Many McKenzie River residents have been involved in post-fire recovery efforts for over two and a half years. This week, the physical result of some of that work was celebrated with the ribbon cutting at the VMCC. Soon, there will be other ceremonies to the east—the dedication of the Blue River Fire Station, followed by the completion of the rebuilds of the O’Brien Memorial Library and the McKenzie River Clinic.

Initially modeled on a national program, the Main Street approach was adopted by some of Oregon’s smaller cities interested in preserving and strengthening their downtowns. In 2021, Oregon Main Street (OMS) convened a group to develop a Rural Regional Main Street program, which was successfully launched by the Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce in Gilliam, Sherman, and Wheeler Counties. It started with one community and expanded to eight over the next year and nine communities by 2023.

“Before implementing the Rural Regional Main Street Program, our frontier rural communities faced numerous challenges,” according to K’Lynn Lane, executive director of the Oregon Frontier Chamber of Commerce. “The towns had been struggling with economic decline, vacant storefronts, and a diminishing sense of community. The Main Street program brought about a wave of positive changes that have significantly revitalized the region’s spirit and economy.”

After learning about the program, representatives from Locals Helping Locals, the VMCC, and the McKenzie River Chamber of Commerce began researching the process to see if something similar might work here. The result was scheduling a Friday, April 26th meeting to see if people think an “Oregon Main Street” approach would be workable in this area.

Rural Development Initiatives will facilitate the session at the Vida McKenzie Community Center from 3 to 4:30 P.m. It is open to area residents interested in discussing ways to strengthen the regional economy. People planning to attend should email a note to [email protected].


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