City looks at possible future of downtown

The Pilot Rock community took a look at the downtown area and its future at a meeting Wednesday night, examining, among other things, how to make the town more presentable to those passing through on Highway 395. <BR><I>Staff photo by E.J. Harris</i>

Pilot Rock is looking at the future of its downtown.

The community has a lot of ideas, including adding trees and flower pots to make it more presentable, looking at ways to attract businesses and ways to get people passing through on 395 to stop, even if it's just to use the bathroom.

But the community also is trying to put its finger on exactly how to get started.

It took a tentative first step Wednesday night when Vicki Dugger with the Oregon Main Street program and Architect Mark Seder came to a downtown visioning community meeting.

More than 25 people came to the meeting to listen to and discuss ideas for downtown. Seder showed drawings of buildings to fill some of Pilot Rock's empty lots, and Teri Porter, of the city's downtown visioning task force, showed shots of the city with trees and flower pots superimposed to show what a little landscaping would do for the town.

Dugger spent a day and a half in town evaluating the good, the bad and the ugly of what Pilot Rock has to offer people swinging through.

A first step she suggested was coming up with an overall plan for downtown and the city, so the community would know where it's going and development wouldn't happen haphazardly.

"You're looking at very visible changes in your environment, which is absolutely important to do," she said. "My question to you is where is the overall guiding framework in the form of a downtown plan where all of this is kind of held together?"

Dugger said having an overall plan will make it easier to get grant funding.

"Because the funders say, 'OK, where's the overall game plan? Where's the big picture?'" she said. "They need to see that."

She wanted the community to find a way to connect the parks and the areas near Birch Creek, or she suggested working with people like Seder to come up with a design standards so the buildings work together downtown, or strategically locating restrooms, which is something the downtown association wants to have in by the end of the year.

Some people thought putting in the restrooms will be a crucial first step and something tangible the community can see as a first step toward change.

"The starting point I could see," said community member Ken Key, "would be to have the public restroom or maybe a public shower to have people stop here. If they stop, they'll shop. There is no restroom between Stanfield and Emigrant Park - 395 is a major highway going to Reno. We see a lot of people going through here who don't stop. We have to start somewhere, start small. Get 'em to stop."

Other things Dugger suggested included multiple RV parks for overnight or short stays, a community welcome center, even if it's only a rack of brochures and informational pamphlets, and better signage to lead people through town.

She also suggested the community conduct a survey of what everyone does, not only for a job, but on the side or as a hobby. She was amazed at all the bakers in town.

Dugger encouraged people to shop locally but also encouraged shops to cater to people's needs, like staying open later or having lower prices.

"It takes two to tango," she said.

Overall she saw opportunity in Pilot Rock through the use of its strengths, like the Bike Pit and Masonite industrial land, but also through the community's willingness to work toward its goals.

"This is a perfect fit for this community," Dugger said. "You all are a 'get 'er done, we can do it' town. And I love that."

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