University of Oregon students bring fresh ideas to La Pine

First published in the on September, 18, 2018. Eight months after a program brought more than 100 University of Oregon students to La Pine to help chart its future, the Central Oregon city has dozens of new ideas that could become future projects.

“It was a tremendous experience, and it’s going to help shape the future of La Pine in a very positive way,” said Cory Misley, La Pine city manager.

On Thursday, the University of Oregon and the city plan a joint celebration marking the end of the university’s Sustainable City Year Program, an interdisciplinary program that regularly brings students to a different Oregon city. The event will highlight results from the 11 projects that came out of the program, which range from designs for a new transit center that incorporate passive heating and cooling, to design standards that give the stores along La Pine’s nascent downtown a more cohesive look and feel.

Program manager Megan Banks said the students, who were mostly seniors and graduate students, had a chance to work directly with city staff on projects, simulating a more professional environment than what they would otherwise encounter in a classroom.

“The students work harder and are more focused when they have an actual client,” Banks said.

Misley, the city manager, said La Pine gets the benefit of detailed research on a variety of long-term projects that a small city staff might not be able to tackle on its own. La Pine incorporated in 2007 and lacks some of the infrastructure, from bike lanes to design standards for downtown buildings, that larger cities have had in place for decades. Misley said the students helped bridge those gaps for city staffers.

“It allowed a lot to get put on the table without staff having to research every little thing,” Misley said.

While the Sustainable City Year Program has worked with a mix of cities, ranging from Salem to Redmond, La Pine, with a population of about 1,800 people, was by far the smallest city the program has worked with. Banks said having a smaller community helped the students focus on projects that helped connect the city with the rest of the region.

“They were able to consider all of southern Deschutes County,” Banks said.

For example, a class that focused on cycling and pedestrian access created a series of proposals for trails extending through the city, several of which connect with established trails in other parts of Central Oregon, said Katie Fields, communications associate for the program.

The projects varied in scale and focus, from creating a public relations campaign for the city, to helping the city’s senior center plan for the future. Misley said some of the proposals dovetailed with existing city priorities, including a project that created design standards for existing buildings, which he said complements work the city was doing for new and proposed downtown buildings.

Perhaps the most ambitious result of the partnership was a set of passive heating and cooling standards for a proposed new transit center in the city. Fields said the proposal would save energy for the building, making use of a climate that’s very different from what students would encounter in Eugene. She added that students completed the work as part of an independent study after the class ended.

While workers are currently busy building sidewalks around the edges of the proposed site, Misley said the city is still working on the design of the building. Still, he said he hopes the city can break ground on the site next summer.

Banks said the weather made travel between Eugene and La Pine a challenge at times during the winter, but added that the city was able to make accommodations. Overall, she said students were happy to make the trip.

“Students love to get out of Eugene,” Banks said. “La Pine was somewhere new for them.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, [email protected]