La Pine making changes for the better

Streetlights and beautification plans come to life

"Re-inventing the wheel" in La Pine

BEND, Ore. - La Pine is expected to get a state letter soon that officially makes the small south county town a city.

La Pine voters chose to incorporate in 2006, but it officially became Oregon's newest city with approval of its charter in June 2011, and they're making a lot of changes to fit the new label.

"We got a real issue with people speeding through our community," said Steve Hasson, the new city manager. "We are trying to do traffic-calming and a whole host of traffic calming solutions. This driver feedback sign is one of them. You see your speed that tells you you're supposed to be doing 35 (mph) but what are you really doing."

Slowing down is exactly what La Pine city officials, including Hasson, hope people will do.

A traffic signal might not seem like much, but to community leaders, it's just one of several projects they think will change the town's image.

"With all of the traffic that goes through this town, you've got to imagine how unsafe that could be," said La Pine Mayor Ken Mulenex.

La Pine partnered with ODOT to remodel the main street, Highway 97, from five lanes to three lanes, and it added crosswalks to other parts of town.

Officials say the city of La Pine is so new it still has that new-city smell, and the sky's the limit for its potential.

"Here we are, a city that got incorporated in 2006," Mulenex said. "We got to almost reinvent the wheel."

If there's one thing a city needs, according to Mulenex, it's streetlights. Just a few years ago, the city installed new lights, and recently approved several more.

"It really has changed -- people are out walking more," Mulenex said. "They feel safer about it."

It's all part of sprucing up La Pine's landscape.

"We've planted some fruit trees here," Hasson said. "And we are going to do these random acts of beautification as one of the many strategies we have to making La Pine a very interesting place to shop and invest."

The 400 feet of new landscaping is right in front of the Bi-Mart.

Before it was incorporated, La Pine relied on the county to provide many services, but Hasson says Deschutes County is not intended to be in the urban renewal business.

"At some point, that disconnect got strong enough that people said, 'Okay we need to create our own manifest destiny,'" Hasson said. "And that's where we are now, in the early stages of our own manifest destiny."

The new La Pine slogan is "Small Town -- Bright Future."

NewsChannel 21 will focus on some of the details of that bright future coming up in Part 2 of this special report onTuesday evening.

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