Overview: 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 approximately 8,400 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.
Legislative Action Status: The 2017 Oregon Legislature is currently considering House Bill 2027-A-4 that would prohibit the development of any new bridges (i.e., South UGB Bridge) over the Deschutes River between Sunriver and the COID canal intake (approximately one-mile downstream of the Bend Urban Growth Boundary (UGB). It would also specify a possible location 520 ft. upstream for a pedestrian bridge, which is federal land on both sides of the river.
The Board of Directors submitted testimony opposing HB 2027A to the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources on May 9, 2017.
Ted Schoenborn, chair of the District’s Board of Directors, submitted a letter opposing HB 2027 on April 17, 2017, before it was approved by the House of Representatives.
Where is the proposed bridge location?
Out of the original five conceptual bridge locations initially considered, the preferred bridge location was identified as Option C which 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). Bridge Option 3 was endorsed 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 as agreed upon by the CAC is the one shown as Option 3 on the map above. This location is on federal land that occurs on both sides of the river just south of the Urban Growth Boundary. The other four bridge options are no longer being considered by the District.
Where is the proposed trail located that would connect to the new bridge?
The trail option also endorsed by the District’s Board of Directors on May 2 is identified as Trail Option 3c. The trail route utilizes the existing public trails in Elk Meadow at RiverRim and then transitions to private property before connecting to bridge Option 3. This alignment was also recommended by the CAC after being submitted to the committee by the property owner as his preferred 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, was closed by the consultant team, ETC Institute (ETC) 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.
The survey included one question to better gauge public support for building a bridge across the Deschutes River at the South UGB. While the fully tabulated survey results will not be available until later in June, ETC tallied the results of the bridge question at the District’s request in time for the May 2, 2017 Board meeting.
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. Fifteen percent were neutral. This priority faired similar to support for “develop new trails and connect existing trails” at 83% support; “fix up and repair older neighborhood and community parks” at 74%; “purchase land to preserve open space/natural areas” at 74%; and, “complete trails along irrigation canals” at 69%. ETC 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.
Is there an alternative solution to the legislative action?
From the start, the District could have sought a legislative remedy to lift the restrictions in the Oregon Scenic Waterway rules against the development of a bridge across the Upper Deschutes River. The District elected instead to work within the rulemaking processes administered by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD).
Over the past several months, the District has been working as part of an OPRD process involving a committee (Upper Deschutes Advisory Group – UDAG) of agency representatives and citizens formed by OPRD to discuss the possible reconsideration of rules that govern the Upper Deschutes Community River section of the Oregon Scenic Waterway. One of the issues that came to light in this process is the uncertainty around the location of a proposed bridge connection.
However, now that legislation has been introduced, the District has few options but to try to inform legislators about the project.
How could the District acquire property rights if a bridge were possible?
The District’s preference is, and has always been to negotiate 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. There is some misinformation in the community about our intentions on this project. 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.
In this particular South UGB location, the bridge site recently endorsed by the Board is located wholly on federal land just south of the UGB and we also have a signed Letter of Intent (LOI) with the primary landowner to negotiate for the trail right-of-way needed on his property to connect with the bridge. The landowner provided and continues to support a trail alignment that has now been endorsed by the Board as well.
The only time that the District has considered using Eminent Domain was to aid in completing the Larkspur Trail when there was a lone property owner unwilling to negotiate. Oregon Department of Transportation filed for condemnation on behalf of BPRD and then we successfully negotiated with the landowner and came to an agreement before it went to condemnation court.
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.
Additional background information:
- 2015 South UGB Bridge and Trail Option Presentation
- 2015 South UGB Trail-Bridge Summary and Staff Recommendation for CAC Meeting #4 (4-9-15)
- 2015 South UGB Trail-Bridge Analysis (4-9-15)
- 2014 Questionnaire Results
- 2014 Questionnaire Comments
- 2014 Questionnaire Issue Summary
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. The CAC evaluated five conceptual bridge and eight trail options, as well as the public input. At their last meeting on April 9, 2015 the CAC selected Bridge Option 3 and Trail Option 3C (shown in the sidebar to the right) as their preferred bridge and trail locations to move forward and conduct further engineering and environmental evaluations. That information was presented to the BPRD Board who chose to not take action pending a resolution of issues that arose concerning limitations on uses within the Oregon State Scenic Waterway which would ultimately impact the CAC’s preferred trail and bridge location recommendation.
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.
As a result, OPRD began a limited review of the administrative provisions within its Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP) covering the lowest section of the Upper Deschutes State Scenic Waterway. The “River Community” scenic waterway section, designated by Oregon voters via Measure 7 in 1988 (the rest of the Upper Deschutes upstream from the Bend UGB to Wickiup Reservoir was designated in 1987), starts one mile north of Bend’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) at the COID canal intake then extends upstream to the Bend UGB.
The current OPRD staff review does not focus on any one aspect of management and will not change any rules, but will consider how well the administrative provisions work within the Bend Urban Growth Boundary. In addition to OPRD staff, an advisory group—the Upper Deschutes Advisory Group (UDAG)—assisted with the review, and included: city, county, and federal officials, BPRD, neighborhood associations along the scenic waterway, residents and recreation advocates interested in both river and land-based recreation. OPRD hired Community Solutions of Central Oregon, a Bend nonprofit, to facilitate the meetings and the review. The nonprofit also collected broader public thoughts about rules along the lower section of the waterway through a web-based crowd sourcing initiative as well as a series of public forums designed to engage homeowners directly.
More information about the review is online at http://www.oregon.gov/oprd/Pages/upper-deschutes-scenic-waterway.aspx. The review will result in a report to OPRD Director Lisa Sumption by May 8, 2017. After receiving the report, Director Sumption will decide whether a new round of formal rule making will start.
The current review is being managed solely by OPRD staff, and you can contact Central Oregon Solutions directly via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Southwest Bend neighborhoods west of Brookswood Blvd.
Footbridge – $ 800,240
Trails – $ 137,229
Trailhead Parking – $ 253,074
Funding Source: BPRD Bond Measure 9-86
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 email@example.com.