A large metal "tree," with copper "leaves" engraved with the names of donors, once hung proudly at Bend's 12-year-old Senior Center, as thanks to the many who helped make the new facility a reality.
It was a reminder of generous donations collected by the United Senior Citizens of Bend to help pay for the facility.
But since the center opened in 2000, the group says Parks and Rec eliminated or changed programs at the heart of its mission -- so much so that the group moved its free meals program back to its former, smaller space at what's now called Bend's Community Center.
"It's what we've done for years," said the group's executive director, Virginia Reddick. "We were kind of stifled for a few years, but we're starting all over, and seeking ways to get back as much as we can to what we did before."
USCB is seeking a $1 million payment from Bend Parks and Rec, money it claims it raised as contribution for a new center after their old center outgrew the needs of local seniors.
USCB's attorney, Bill Buchanan, said, "They went into a partnership to expand the services provided by USCB to low-income seniors in our community."
But the parks district says it was shocked by the demand and that USCB did not raise anywhere near the amount of funds it's now seeking in payment.
"There was about $300,000 total in cash" donated by the group, said park district Executive Director Don Horton.
Horton also says the park district has always held up its end of the deal.
"The purpose of the relationship, to begin with, was for the city of Bend, the park and recreation district and the United Senior Citizens of Bend to build a senior center, and we've done that," he said. "And we continue to offer very similar programs that we did the day it was opened."
Buchanan says both organizations applied for grants to expand the social programs USCB wanted, but that over the years, their mission of providing free meals, health care and entertainment were squeezed out to make more room for younger and more active seniors -- and paying programs.
"The park district has turned more into a fee-for-service type organization, or pay to play," Buchanan said.
But Horton said any changes have been born out of changing demographics and needs of Bend's senior population
"The baby boomers are coming of age," he said, "and the type of recreation they enjoy is different."
Aldine Thornton and her husband come to the senior center nearly every day.
" It gets me up and going every morning," she said.
Horton says the center provides the services and classes it's always promised.
"Under state law, a park and recreation district can only provide park and recreation programs," he said.
Buchanan thinks otherwise.
"I have yet to be convinced that there is anything in the park district's mission that precludes them from serving those important people in our society," the attorney said.
Although Horton said recreation is a focal point at the center, seniors' health programs were not eliminated, noting the center still provides services like foot clinics and health screenings several times a month.
Members of the senior group plan to attend Tuesday night's park board meeting to discuss the dispute.