ADRIAN – Not long ago, the Adrian Antelopes played their autumn home football games at night under the big lights at the high school.

Those lights, though, dimmed.

Then they quit working.

 “The lights were so old they don’t make them anymore so we can’t replace them,” said Adrian resident Nickie Shira.

Shira, who works as a science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) coordinator through the Malheur Education Service District, said Adrian suffered another blow after the severe winter two years ago destroyed the local market.

“A lot of folks got their groceries there and not having a grocery store in town has been tough on some members of our community,” said Shira.

Shira said the absence of the lights, the loss of the market and concerns about public safety underscored a growing perception by many community members that the rural town was in decline.

So a group of local residents decided to band together and make a change. In February, Adrian 2040 formed and held its first meeting. Shira, the spokesperson for the group, said it is an informal coalition of concerned residents who want to make a difference.

“We are working to unite and build our community. We are better together,” said Shira.

Shira said Adrian isn’t in serious decline but the town exhibits a unique atmosphere that should be safeguarded.

“We have a strong community that wants to improve things,” said Shira.

The ultimate goal of the group, and the basis for its name, is a healthy and growing Adrian community by 2040.

“We love our community and we want it to continue to be a great place. But we knew we needed to start some action. If we want Adrian to be a great place in 20 years then we need to start doing that now,” said Shira.

One of the first tasks the group completed was to send out a survey the to community in the spring to get input. The survey was delivered to residents that live within the Adrian School District boundary.

“Some of the things that came up as far as concerns was safety in Adrian,” said Shira.

With that information, Shira said the group contacted the sheriff’s office to help coordinate a neighborhood watch program.

One new initiative prompted by the survey, Shira said, was a citywide clean-up slated for Saturday at 10 a.m. Volunteers are asked to form up at the Two Rivers Community Park.

Another event sponsored by Adrian 2040 will be a barbecue and movie night at Two Rivers Community Park Friday.

The event kicks off at 8 p.m. said Shira, and the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office will do the grilling.

Sheriff Brian Wolfe said the barbecue is one of the important volunteer activities of his office.

“It certainly won’t be the first time we have helped out with community events, whether it is food or presents,” said Wolfe.

Wolfe said the Adrian 2040 group is on the right track.

“They’re concerned about the quality of life in Adrian and they are concerned about Adrian dying out and so they’re taking proactive steps to maintain their way of life,” said Wolfe.

Shira said the group also is working with the Ford Family Foundation regarding grants to help with future community-building efforts. An Adrian 2040 committee, she said, is also working with the school district to replace the football field lights.

Shira said Adrian High School student Sadie Speelman is helping with the effort as part of her senior project.

Shira said Adrian 2040 is also reaching out to local organizations and civic leaders to collect suggestions.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.