In the beginning - actually in 1969 - there was Sunriver, and a couple of years later there was Black Butte Ranch.
And Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch attracted thousands of tourists, and that created jobs and brought millions of dollars into Central Oregon, and that was very good. And when the Oregon Legislature looked at Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch and all those tourist dollars it said: "We need to loosen up the state land use law to allow more places like Sunriver and Black Butte Ranch, because the economies of rural areas like Central Oregon are really hurting and they could help a lot."
And so a peculiar animal unique to Oregon - the "destination resort" - was created, and the legislature decreed that destination resorts could be located outside of urban areas in places that otherwise would be reserved for farms or forests.
But the destination resort loophole turned out to be wide enough to drive an 18-wheeler through, and as time went on "destination resorts" began to look less and less like resorts and more and more like expensive residential communities built around golf courses.
And for a bunch of reasons - traffic, pollution, consumption of water and other resources, loss of open space, destruction of wildlife habitat - that was not so good.
At long last, the state Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) is trying to do something to reverse the trend. It's come up with a series of recommendations aimed at increasing protection for wildlife and water and ensuring that destination resorts remain at least somewhat true to their nominal "resort" designation.
The DLCD definitely has the right idea. If destination resort development trashes the natural environment that draws people to Central Oregon in the first place, that obviously isn't going to help tourism in the long run. And rural economies will benefit more, not less, by requiring destination resorts to be resorts instead of sagebrush subdivisions. A resort that draws visitors year-round generates more dollars and creates more permanent jobs than a development like Pronghorn, which contains mainly second or third or fourth homes that their affluent owners might occupy only a few weeks each year.
"We think that [the DLCD's] concept is a strong step in the right direction, albeit one that is unlikely to address all of the problems associated with resorts," said Erik Kancler, executive director of the land-use watchdog group Central Oregon LandWatch. "Of course, it's how this gets implemented in law that's important."
There's the rub. Thanks to the clout of the development and construction lobby, the legislature in the past has been more eager to make destination resort development easier than to restrain it. But with Democrats in control of both houses - and likely to increase their control in the November election - there just might be a realistic shot at reform in the next session, especially if Gov. Ted Kulongoski throws his weight behind it.
In the meantime, here's a provisional GLASS SLIPPER to the DLCD for trying to do the right thing.