News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Working behind the scenes on Sisters Vision project

The 2018 Vision Project was undertaken to help provide clear, positive direction for the future of the community. What is happening to fulfill the vision crafted out of community input?

At a recent City Council workshop, Emme Shoup, the City’s Assistant Engagement and Program Coordinator, provided the first formal Vision Implementation Team (VIT) update.

Following the January 2019 adoption of the Vision and Action Plan by the City Council and other key partner agencies, the VIT was formed in July 2019. Their purpose is to collaborate on Vision progress, identify and dissolve barriers, identify funding for project implementation, and annually update the Vision Action Plan to reflect completed projects, provide progress reports on those action items underway, and identify upcoming projects for the next year.

The foundation of the Vision Plan consists of four focus areas: Livable Sisters, Prosperous Sisters, Connected Sisters, and Resilient Sisters. Each focus area has five strategies identified to support the focus area. The rubber hits the road with implementation of the 114 (and counting) action items which are carried out through community-led action overseen by the VIT.

The easiest way to understand the process is to dissect the work supporting one of the four focus areas — Resilient Sisters. One of the key projects designed to support a Resilient Sisters is wildfire preparedness, which is a county-wide issue. Steps already taken or underway include the creation by Deschutes County, in March 2020, of the Wildfire Mitigation Advisory Committee (WMAC) which developed recommendations on three key issues related to updating the County’s wildfire hazard map, adopting new state wildfire-mitigation building standards, and developing and adopting new land-use standards.

Those recommendations, the result of nine committee meetings in 2019/20, were presented to the Oregon State Legislature. The results reflect the collaborative work of representatives from Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District, Deschutes County, City of Sisters, Knott Landfill, Deschutes County District Forester, Project Wildfire, WMAC, and DLCD.

The County was awarded a Department of Land Conservation and Development grant for active forest management education through community outreach, which is ongoing.

In addition to the fall and spring free yard debris pickups in Sisters, the County increased the number of fire-free yard debris disposal dates at the County landfills from two to nine days as a way to increase wildfire mitigation. In 2020, roughly twice as much yard debris was collected as in 2019.

As a result of Deschutes County’s participation in the 2020 Oregon Legislative session on the Governor’s Council on Wildfire Response, the City of Sisters, Deschutes County, and state agencies anticipate updates to city and county building and land-use codes to mitigate fire danger.

Wildfire preparedness is only one key project supporting a Resilient Sisters. The five strategy areas are: public safety; disaster preparedness; equity and affordability; health and wellness; and social services.

Three projects have been completed, one of which was creating, in the winter of 2019, an inventory of age specific facilities and programs in Sisters, which will inform several other projects.

There are 12 ongoing and upcoming projects identified to support creating a Resilient Sisters. One of those projects includes Deschutes County, with the City of Sisters, conducting a needs, opportunities, and barriers assessment with local healthcare providers in order to begin establishing a comprehensive urgent-care center in Sisters to accommodate growing population and increasing numbers of tourists (on hold due to COVID-19).

The second project is aimed at improving communications connectivity and infrastructure (broadband, internet) with special attention to underserved areas of Sisters Country. Projected in 2021, AT&T will determine the location for a communications tower.

The Vision Plan is more than a document created to sit on a shelf. It is intended to be an evolving road map, directing development of programs for the benefit of the residents of all of Sisters Country. Much of the information contained in the Vision Plan will inform the work on the current Comprehensive Plan update.


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