Connecting Communities One Step At A Time

As we pass through each state, we will summarize the community success stories we encounter and post them here on

Oregon Community Success Stories


Oregon’s Bottle Bill passed in 1971 as the first of its kind in the United States. Former Oregon State Legislator Paul Hanneman, who drafted the original bill in 1969, shared that the bill’s original intent was to clean up the bottles and cans people would litter about; it only later became instrumental in increased recycling rates. While many states have bottle clean-up or recycling programs, only 10 states plus Guam have passed bottle bills.  There have been attempts to pass a national bottle bill but with little success, and states would do well to move forward on their own program.

The Beach Bill passed the Oregon Legislature in 1967, four years before the bottle bill.  This legislation was the first of its kind and established public ownership of Oregon’s beaches.  The bill built upon a law form 1913 passed by the Oregon Legislature that declared all coastal beaches in Oregon a state highway.  Today, the Oregon beaches remain open to the public and are one of the state’s greatest tourist attractions.

Warm Springs, OR:

The town of Warm Springs is the seat of the Reservation, made up of Paiute, Warm Springs and Wasco Indian Tribes. A Tribal Council comprised of tribal representatives is charged with community decision making.  Using their “tribal strength” in decision making gives everyone a chance to talk “ in the old long-house village tradition” produces very successful results in Warm Springs.  Community members and leaders stressed the importance of preserving their cultural heritage and natural resources.

The Warm Springs K-8 Academy opened its doors this fall after a two-year process with strong support from the Tribal Council. The school was jointly funded through federal grants and a local bond (passed on a second attempt). The Academy strives to strengthen ties to native tribal culture, but also serves a practical purpose to reduce commuting time to nearby Madras and provide a safe, community-invested place that encourages children to stay in and graduate from school.

Winning state and federal approval and funds for a state-of-the-art Water-mixing Cooling System aims to reverse the fish die-off from river warming caused by regional dams. This technology is being tested on Lake Billy Chinook and at the Pelton and Round Butte Dams.  These and other measures are focused on preserving the reservation’s air, water and land for future generations.

Prineville, OR:

The Police Department has been leading the way on several community programs in Prineville.  A few years ago, a standing mailbox was acquired from the post office and installed in front of the police station as red medication and drug drop-off mailbox. This allows people to responsibly dispose of unneeded medications or drugs.  After a few years they have collected over one ton of medications and just last year enough medication was dropped off to cover the surface of two football fields.

Over time, many homes in the town had accumulated large amounts of trash and excess items.  In partnership with a local garbage company (donating a dumpster), Habitat for Humanity (donating a trailer), the county (discounting dumping fees), and many neighborhood and police volunteers (donating their time), the station organized neighborhood garbage clean-up days. Neighborhoods quickly became cleaner, safer and more pleasing places to inhabit.

The police station practices indirect crime reduction techniques including changing the timing of sprinklers in the city park and trimming bushes to expose areas where people would congregate to drink or do drugs.  These small changes helped make parks safer and drug free zones.

Prineville is in the center of a region known for its extreme fire danger.  This summer was one of the worst on record for Oregon and Washington.  The Prineville fire department has become a regional leader in fire fighting training programs offered to early- and mid-career individuals.  This not only capitalizes on a regional need by creating jobs for locals, but also meets an important challenge head on – protecting the region’s people and natural resources.

John Day, OR:

The Malheur National Forest contains 1.7 million acres in the Blue Mountains of Eastern Oregon.  For decades, there was disagreement on how to utilize the forest’s many natural resources.  Faced with an environmental stalemate, a stalled economy, and the growing threat of catastrophic wildfire, local citizens formed a collaborative group to seek a new approach to forest management and problem solving.  The Blue Mountains Forest Partners, comprised of loggers, foresters, environmentalists, government officials, and private landowners, put aside their considerable differences to focus on forest and community health.  The agreements made over the past eight years have formed the foundation for large landscape improvement projects now being implemented across the national forest.

Once mired in costly litigation, the Malheur Forest is now at the forefront of an accelerated restoration program that aims to make the forest more resilient to fire and disease while also supporting the economy of hard-hit, remote communities.  Government, environmental and industry representatives credit the citizen collaboratives (now two of them) for that turnaround.  In addition, John Day’s last operating sawmill, destined for closure just two years ago, has begun hiring people to add a second shift while also exploring new renewable biomass projects.  Other local companies are hiring workers to perform forest work, including tree thinning, planting, watershed restoration, and fire fuels removal.

Nyssa / Adrian, OR:

The Adrian High School’s Glean team provides a way for students to engage with their local farming community.  Specifically, students volunteer to pick up potatoes and onions left on the fields after the harvesters have passed through.  This extra food, which would have otherwise rotted in the fields, is then donated to local food banks and neighboring towns.