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Small town celebrates big accomplishments


The small community of Echo, located 20 miles west of Pendleton in northeast Oregon, goes all out to catch your eye. And it works.
Echo, Oregon

From the beautiful flower baskets hanging below vintage light posts, to the unique circular planters with old bicycles and whimsical figures amid colorful blooms, the downtown view says “welcome” in a big way.

All along Main Street, which also serves as Oregon 320, and on numerous side streets, visitors discover early 1900s architecture, inviting pocket parks, decorated storefronts with friendly merchants, vintage-style drinking fountains and even an iron horse-head hitching post.

Creating this idyllic vision has been a work in process. And, while there is still more to do, city officials and residents spent a few hours on June 13 celebrating the completion of their most recent downtown project.
“This project was the result of an ODOT Transportation Growth Management planning grant followed by primary funding from a Federal Transportation Enhancement grant administered by the Oregon Department of Transportation,” said Echo City Manager Diane Berry.
Berry has worked with the city for the past three decades and is extremely proud of the improvements the community has made. She is especially thankful for the hard work put in by numerous partners, including ODOT staff.
“We have a really good relationship with ODOT Eastern Oregon Region,” Berry said, commending the efforts of ODOT planners Cheryl Jarvis-Smith and Patrick Knight, Transportation Enhancement Program Coordinator Pat Fisher, Local Agency Liaison Mike Barry, Project Leader Tim Rynearson and many others.
Transportation Enhancement dollars, combined with donations and other funding sources, paid for sidewalk upgrades that included bulb-outs, ADA ramps and brick pavers, street lights and those very cool circular planter/benches. Additional rectangular planters were also installed at very “down to earth” prices — make that six feet down, as the city purchased ready-made concrete coffin vaults for planter boxes at a fraction of the cost quoted to fabricate similar units. Those savings helped pay for some of the aesthetic improvements, raising the spirits of the community.
Berry said the community improvements are already attracting new businesses to town. An antique store and pub have moved in, plus a local vineyard has opened a wine shop and tasting room in one of the city’s historic buildings.
“They could have easily had the tasting room at their vineyard, but chose to locate downtown,” Berry said.
“This is a great example of what Transportation Enhancement projects can do,” Fisher said. “This project brings together transportation enhancement and economic development.”
Without the funding support from ODOT and others, plus donated items and dedicated citizen volunteers, Berry figures her town might look the same as it did thirty years ago.

 City of Echo sign

“Not much to attract folks to town other than the history buffs,” Berry said, highlighting the numerous historic buildings and connection to the Oregon Trail.

“This project has really awakened the town,” said Echo Mayor Richard Winter, giving special thanks to Berry for her decades of public service and creativity. “Echo is such an incredible town, so loving.” And now, even more beautiful!
For more information, contact Tom Strandberg, ODOT Eastern Oregon public information officer.