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Born in 1868, Prineville started when Barney Prine settled on the banks of the Crooked River and built a blacksmith shop and saloon. The oldest community in Central Oregon, Prineville served as a primary place of trade until 1911, when the Union Pacific and Oregon Trunk Railways extended south from the Columbia River to Bend.
Crook County eclipsed Deschutes County as Oregon's fastest-growing county in 2005, according to population estimates from Portland State University's Population Research Center.
Planning to accommodate this and future expansion includes a proposal recently submitted to the state to increase the size of Prineville’s urban growth boundary (UGB), which will add both residential and industrial sites. The sewer system is also due to expand and the waste treatment system poised to increase capacity.
Cerbone said the industrial sites, mainly near the Prineville airport, are a way of attracting investors who will provide more jobs in the area for local homeowners.
There is another major issue that Prineville (population 8,500) faces due to growth: traffic patterns. To begin with, said Bill Zelenka, planning director for Crook County, the largest population center outside the city, Juniper Canyon, has only one access road.
With 3,000 to 4,000 residents living in this area just southeast of Prineville, the lack of egress could become a crisis in an emergency.
“There is only one road crossing the Crooked River (into and out of town). We need to try to alleviate the situation, which some call the longest cul-de-sac in Oregon,” said Zelenka. “We are looking at another road and bridge as part of our updated plan.”
Then there’s Highway 126, which runs from Redmond to Prineville and funnels all vehicles, both local and commuter traffic, onto the east-west arterial of Third Street. Zelenka said the state is flow working on two projects on the highway west of Prineville but it may require a lot of lobbying to get the funds for future road expansion. “It’ll probably be like Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond. It will be done in pieces until the whole thing is four-lane,” he said.
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The reason more home buyers are looking to Prineville is value for their money. “I looked in Bend and Redmond for a house to buy and you are hard pressed to find anything in the $90,000 to $100,000 range,” said Cerbone. “You can still find many homes in that category here (in Prineville)”
People don’t necessarily head first for Prineville but are quickly finding the cost differential attractive.
How much longer the affordability issue will belong to Prineville is a question no one can answer, but Cerbone said there is a likelihood the planning department will ask for higher systems development charges (SDCS) in the near future,
“We have a fee structure that is lower than many other cities in Oregon,” he said. “We may need to do some adjustment to get fees closer to actual costs.”
However, the biggest cost in home building -land- has stayed fairly low in much of Crook County with the possible exception of Powell Butte, where upscale houses are encroaching on what used to be ranch land.
Cerbone said Prineville is also trying to make sure it preserves its base of farming and ranching, as well as open space in general. “There is plenty of land that is not suitable for agriculture, but that doesn’t mean it should all be built up,” he said.
And the addition of more land to the UGB may keep supply up and costs down, at least in the near term.
Although this western town settled by Barney Prine in 1872 has preserved its image as an authentic cowboy outpost the 21st century is sure to bring it unprecedented growth and some strain on its infrastructure. And Prineville is determined to be ready for it.
Prineville is a town that’s held on to its Western heritage without holding itself back. Nestled in the rimrocks and steeped in Central Oregon history, Prineville is a small town with a style all its own. The kind of style that put a challenging, pro-am 18-hole golf course on the map.
The kind of timeless style reflected in the architecture of an historic courthouse and in the enviable collections at the Bowman Museum. In town you’re likely to stumble on an art and book gallery, a unique antique or gift store, or find yourself at a classic car show.
Prineville is also a town that is embracing growth. Brooks Resources, a development company, is in the midst of plans for IronHorse, a mixed-use community that will include nearly 3,000 different housing units, a school, open spaces, and retail shops. Also on its way is Brasada Ranch, a high-end 1,800 acre community that is being created just miles outside the city. The first phase of the development, which includes more than 200 luxury homesites, has already sold out. The resort will also include a golf course, pool, and additional amenities. The growth is also bringing with it more shops and restaurants to the downtown core for visitors and locals to enjoy.
Prineville also offers the best of country. You’ll feel the spirit of an independent community with pioneer roots in the land –in logging, farming, and ranching. Stop at the chamber of commerce and pick up a series of daytripping maps. The 10 trips through Crook County guide you through spectacular ranching and farming countryside.
And while Prineville’s location is in the high desert, you don’t have to look far to find water activities during the summer. Prineville Reservoir and State Park is a popular spot for swimming, boating and picnicking. The Ochoco Reservoir, just a few miles out of town, offers camping and fishing spots.
Prineville is no stranger to the rodeo. You won’t want to miss the Crooked River Roundup in June. The rodeo always begins with a cattle drive through town and the community is invited to the kickoff bar-b-que. The Crook County Fair is also held annually in Prineville. This year it will take place August 6 through 9.
Crook County is also proud to claim the title as the rock hound capital of Oregon.
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