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River planning efforts begin with survey, focus group

February 10, 2020

The Bend Park and Recreation District is planning for recreational access and riparian habitat restoration at parks along the Deschutes River and public input is welcomed as the year-and-a-half planning effort begins.

Bend Park and Recreation District has 16 parks along the Deschutes River, which include numerous access points to facilitate play in the water. Approximately 250,000 people floated through the Bend Whitewater Park in summer 2019. In a recent parks and recreation survey, residents indicated that access to the river is still a top need.

An online survey (English and Spanish languages) is open now for residents to share more information about what types of access is desired, where recreational access and habitat restoration may occur, and which locations are priorities.

BPRD staff completed an inventory and assessment of riverbank conditions on district property as a precursor to the river access and riparian habitat restoration plan. This assessment summarized conditions and identified opportunities for restoration and improved river access. Staff also studied recreational use at its 16 river parks. Staff found that in addition to the 25 designated access points, users have created 80 additional access points.

As part of this project, the district will evaluate the existing access points and identify opportunities to improve and consolidate access points. As such, there is the potential for closure of some existing access points.

“All this use has the potential to cause impacts such as riparian area trampling and bank erosion,” said Sarah Bodo, district planner and project manager.  “In order to reverse the trend of damaged vegetation and erosion, the district will take a look at improving and consolidating access for these areas.”

BPRD received a grant for technical assistance from the National Park Service, Rivers and Trails Conservation Assistance program (NPS-RTCA) for the completion of the plan. Together with NPS-RTCA, the district planning team is meeting with representatives from local recreational and environmental organizations and agencies to seek their input. In addition, community members will be invited to provide input through surveys, open houses, community events and district board meetings.

Two current district projects are underway within the defined geographic area of the plan. The Drake Park bank repair and trail extension project and Riverbend South restoration project are not directly included in the river plan; however, they will be taken into consideration when developing and prioritizing projects for the plan.

The plan will identify and prioritize future projects. The district anticipates these projects will be constructed over a 10-year time horizon. Funding for the projects will likely be a combination of district general funds and grants.

For more information about the river access and habitat restoration plan or to sign up for email updates, visit Deschutes River Access and Habitat Restoration Plan project.