2021 brings renewed hope for many residents of Sisters Country, even as some of our friends and neighbors continue to feel the compounding effects of the coronavirus on livelihoods and local business, food security, housing, and, of course, health.

It may all feel overwhelming at times, but each of us can do something to continue to make Sisters Country a community where all can thrive. The Sisters Country Vision was originally undertaken in 2018 and facilitated a community conversation that helped identify clear, positive directions for the future, and engaged local organizations, businesses and residents in putting the community vision into action. The Sisters Country Vision has continued to serve as a unifying project, bringing together a group of local leaders and residents committed to collaborating and directing resources to the 20 Vision Strategies.

Supporting the Vision’s goals to be a more prosperous, livable, resilient, and connected Sisters Country in 2021 has never been more urgent in response to the stressors of the past year. In 2021, the Vision Implementation Team (VIT) members have prioritized projects improving broadband access, offering new platforms to connect virtually, exploring new and expanded transportation options, conserving and expanding outdoor recreation resources and trails, and bringing new medical care options to Sisters Country.

Broadband expansion to underserved areas has been taken on by Sisters Country Economic Development (SCED), the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), and other regional partners, who are currently supporting area needs assessments and exploring grant options for improved service.

Thanks to Citizens4Community (C4C) and VIT members’ collaboration with the Community Website Partnership, the Sisters Country Community Connects Website serves as a bilingual, virtual, one-stop-shop hub where residents can learn more about local organizations and resources, find opportunities to volunteer in the community, see upcoming events and encourage local economic activity.

Deschutes County Commissioner Patti Adair has taken the lead in exploring options for a new urgent care center, or other opportunities to provide on-demand medical care to residents.

“We do believe it is an important part of the visioning project to implement this medical urgent-care facility in Sisters,” shared Adair.

Age Friendly Sisters Country’s STARS Transportation Program received a grant from the VIT to support their work, providing Sisters Country residents free rides to medical appointments located in other parts of the region. Vision Implementation Team partner Cascades East Transit is also halfway through an optimization study for alternative options for on-demand transportation in Sisters Country and throughout Central Oregon.

The past year has brought a whole new appreciation and demand for accessible outdoor recreation, which has never felt more important to quality of life! Deschutes County, USFS, and the City of Sisters — all members of the VIT — have celebrated progress on expanded recreational trail systems and local greenspace goals in 2020 and have exciting projects in the works for 2021.

The county adopted a new rural trails system plan, including a conceptual implementation strategy to begin in 2021, which includes new trail systems in Sisters Country. USFS completed several notable trail upgrade projects on the Petersen Ridge Trail System in 2020. This year, they will focus on implementing the Central Cascades Wilderness Strategy, which aims to improve visitor experience on trails in the Three Sisters, Mt. Washington, and Mt. Jefferson wilderness areas. District Ranger Ian Reid also says they will complete Phase One of the Green Ridge Trail reroute, restoring the section of trail damaged from fire suppression activities during 2020 Green Ridge Fire. Sisters Country residents can help identify needs and gaps in the trails system around Sisters, identify areas unsuitable for new trail construction, and prioritize new trail ideas in USFS’s upcoming 2021 Trails Master Planning Community Kick-off meeting.

These projects represent just a small portion of the VIT’s 2021 priorities, which also include the adoption of new fire-resistant building codes, new County Transportation Plan Update, new public-art development, new youth leadership and recreation programs and more. Thanks to all our VIT members and many community partners who have continued to work so diligently to address immediate community needs and provide support through collaboration and coordination.

To learn more about the Sisters Country Vision, please visit www.sistersvision.org.