Can our cities save us? That was the topic of my most recent Huffington Post column, which discussed the rise of cities and the striving to make them sustainable, and which was largely influenced by our month-long stay in Bend, Oregon, this past spring. (I’ve been wanting to write about our trip for some time; sorry for the delay!)

Surrounded by snow-capped mountains and miles of wilderness, Bend certainly isn’t a city in the concrete jungle sense, nor does it have the population heft of a megacity like Los Angeles (or even a smaller city like Portland). But it is a city: self-contained, densely populated in many areas, and largely reliant on its local economy. Bend is also a true vision for America’s future; a model for how we can reshape the landscape away from suburban sprawl and toward small, sustainable cities. Take a look:

The super cool eco-modern home we rented from Lavabelles Vacation Rentals (adorable eco toddler not included)

Folks kayaking down the sparkling Deschutes River, which runs through the city (in the lazy days of summer — i.e., now! — a favorite pastime is floating down the river in tubes)

Looking down on the city from Pilot Butte State Park

Homemade organic yogurt, granola, and ocean rolls at The Sparrow Bakery

People cycle everywhere; even the bread is delivered by bike

Cute hubby hiking in Bend’s Shevlin Park (site of opening photo as well). Bend is a hiker’s dream — there are 56 miles of trails maintained by the city alone, many of which connect to USFS trails

Our hard-earned post-hike refreshment, taken to-go from 10 Barrel Brewing in a refillable growler (there are 10 local craft breweries)

Another in-city trail (this one leads to one of Bend’s ubiquitous playgrounds)

Our next-door chicken

The people-powered Cycle Pub

Our favorite sustainable food cart: Spork (Photo via Facebook)

Grass-finished rib eye from ultra-local sustainable butcher Primal Cuts (photo via Facebook; I only had their house-made chicken sausages, but they were the best I’ve ever had)

A local/organic produce stand within walking distance of our house

Purchased there: locally grown asparagus and chard

Can we move here, please?

Oh, and lest you think Bend is some hippy dippy environmentalist mecca that could never exist in the real America, you couldn’t be more wrong: When I would ask locals we met about everyday life there, they almost always remarked on how conservative the town actually is. (“If you want liberal, go to Portland or Eugene,” went the refrain.) Conservative — as in, to conserve. Which, by the way, is something that 4 in 5 Americans believe is patriotic to do, according to a new poll.

–Jennifer Grayson

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4 Responses to “A city that could save us: Bend, OR”

  1. Karen Says:

    Great Article Jenny! Looks like an amazing place, if that slab of rib eye was only kosher..imagine a grass fed kosher steak…my Izzy would be in heaven!!!
    Love,
    Karen

  2. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    Thanks, hon! Great business idea, though! Maybe you guys should become ranchers in your spare time! :-) Have you seen http://kolfoods.com/?

  3. Keri Johns Says:

    I live 20 minutes from Bend and you chose all my favorite places! We often do girls’ weekends at the Lavabelles because we already live in the greatest area so why travel far? It is a great place to live, but there is another refrain heard often here: If you move to Bend you need to be rich already or able to telecommute. Jobs are not plenty.

  4. Jennifer Grayson Says:

    We did hear that about the job situation. Although I heard that things are starting to get better? We did meet a lot of people who were either freelancers or involved in the tourism industry.

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