Completing the Deschutes River Trail with a connection to the U.S. Forest Service public land at the south boundary of Bend has been envisioned by the community for decades. This area of the river is subject to Oregon Scenic Waterway rules protecting the aesthetic, scenic, fish and wildlife, scientific and recreation features.
The downstream section and the central Bend section of the Deschutes River Trail are near complete and provide valuable recreation and transportation for the community. This completion and connectivity goal is referenced in several public planning documents dating back to the 1980s, including in the Bend Park and Recreation District’s Trails Master Plan, the City of Bend’s Transportation System Plan, and the Deschutes River Trail Action Plan.
In District surveys, residents have always placed a high priority on urban recreational trails that provide close-to-home recreation opportunities by connecting neighborhoods to parks, the river and other destinations. Community members have also consistently ranked the acquisition of land along the Deschutes River and access to the river very high.
The District would like to extend the Deschutes River Trail from the eastside of the river through this area to a new footbridge offering bike/pedestrian access to the Deschutes National Forest and trails that extend to Sunriver. New public trails would also link to the Cinder Cone Natural Area Park (aka “Sunset Hill”) and Elk Meadow in the RiverRim neighborhood. Potential trailhead parking accessed via Buck Canyon Road is also part of the considerations. A trail connection could improve access to public land on the westside of the river for residents in the neighborhoods on the eastside of the river who must travel six miles around the Old Mill District to access the area currently.
Where is the proposed bridge location?
The preferred bridge location connects the east and west sides of the river using public Forest Service property that extends across the river in this location just south of the Bend Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). This location was approved by the District’s Board of Directors on May 2, 2017.
I’ve heard other location possibilities. What about those?
Other possible locations for the bridge were considered at one time. At the request of the U.S. Forest Service to perform some preliminary bridge site analysis, BPRD formed a 22-member Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) that evaluated several trail options and five bridge alternatives in 2014. The preferred bridge location is shown on the map.
Where is the proposed trail located that would connect to the new bridge?
The trail alignment also endorsed by the District’s Board of Directors in 2017 is shown on the map. The trail route uses the existing public trails in Elk Meadow at RiverRim and then transitions to private property before connecting to the proposed bridge. The private property owner signed a letter of intent in 2017 for this trail alignment.
What data shows the community supports a bridge and trail?
A statistically valid needs assessment survey, conducted as a part of the current District comprehensive plan project, occurred in in April 2017. The survey of 532 District residents included a broad range of questions to help gauge citizen needs and preferences for the park and recreation system in Bend over the next 10 years.
Voters in Bend approved a bond-funded project in 2012 to connect the communities of Tumalo and Sunriver via the Deschutes River Trail, and a recent community survey included one question to better gauge public support for building a bridge across the Deschutes River at the South UGB.
Results of the survey indicated that 72% of the respondents were “very supportive” or “somewhat supportive” and 14% were “not supportive” or “not at all supportive” of completing a footbridge crossing over the Deschutes River. The research firm also cross tabulated the results against which quadrant (North, South, East, West) of the District the respondent resided. The results indicate there is no significant difference in the level of support (for or against) among the four quadrants.
How could the District acquire property rights if a bridge were possible?
The District negotiates property acquisitions in good faith. Like many special districts and government agencies in Oregon and elsewhere, the District has the legal authority to use the power of Eminent Domain (aka, condemnation). However, to date the District has never exercised the use of condemnation. Only the Board can authorize condemnation proceedings and there has been no direction from them to use Eminent Domain for this or any other segment of the Deschutes River Trail.
Background: BPRD has been working since the early 1980s to develop a continuous Deschutes River Trail within Bend, with the intent of ultimately connecting it north to Tumalo State Park and south to Sunriver. Various segments have been completed on both sides of the river, but several gaps remain. One such gap is on the east side of the river that would connect the southwest Bend neighborhoods and surrounding areas across the Deschutes River to the Deschutes National Forest and the existing Deschutes River Trail. A new footbridge in this general location has been identified in various City of Bend and District planning documents since 1995.
Since the passage of the BPRD bond measure 9-86 in 2012, BPRD worked on an initial evaluation of the feasibility of associated trail connections, potential trailhead parking, and installing a new footbridge over the river near the southwest corner of the Bend City Limits/Urban Growth Boundary.
Public comments were gathered during an initial project open house held in 2014 and from a direct mail questionnaire sent to over 800 residents. BPRD also established a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) that met several times to establish a set of agreed-upon selection criteria to evaluate conceptual trail and bridge locations.
BPRD worked with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) staff and reached out to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Commission to address the Oregon Scenic Waterway prohibition on new bridges and requested that the commission amend the State Scenic Waterway Rule to not allow footbridges in a specific location, but allow property owners the ability to request to build bicycle/pedestrian bridges across the scenic waterway.
In 2016, the Commission declined to amend the rule and instead directed OPRD staff to conduct a formal review of the issue. That review was completed in 2017 and the decision was made to not reopen the rule.
Location: Southwest Bend neighborhoods west of Brookswood Blvd.
Construction: To be determined
Estimated Completion: To be determined
Contact: If you have questions or comments regarding the South UGB segment of the Deschutes River Trail, please feel free to contact: Michelle Healy, Director of Planning and Park Services, (541) 706-6113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.