Despite regular pronouncements that Bend is, or will be, in the running to attract big name employers who will pay a living wage or better, it's nothing more than a public relations smokescreen. Not even Juniper Ridge, that fabled business wonderland of the future, will alter the fact that Bend and Central Oregon are not that attractive a relocation place to many businesses.
Like it or not Bend and Central Oregon will always have, apart from the medical field and governmental concerns, a strong tourism-based economy. Tourists and tourism dollars are what keep a great many people here employed.
So I n the interest of fostering tourim, the creation of a safe passage for all type of boaters, tubers and floaters along with some whitewater play features for kayakers, at the Colorado Street dam seems a no-brainer decision.
Making the river safe at the location where several floaters have died and at least a half a dozen are rescued annually makes sense. Adding the whitewater play features is a value added. You want to see what other cities have done with whitewater parks and features? Take a look at Reno, Nevada's Truckee River Whitewater Park. That park has proven to be an unqualified financial success attracting national and regional competitions as well as thousands of visitors to the city.
Then there's Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Golden Colorado. Both towns have found that offering a whitewater run is their local river is a moneymaker.
For the really big picture, look at what Mecklenburg County, North Carolina has created in Charlotte with the U.S. National Whitewater Center.
The USNWC is amazing venue and has helped spawn interest in all sorts of other outdoor sports in the region all of which combine to help drive tourism.
Getting back to Bend, once the already popular Farewell Bend Park to Drake Park float is made continuous without a mandatory portage, it would be an even bigger attraction than it is now.
But what will make the plan that's been laid out to the public by the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District board of directors, is the man who designed the project: Gary Lacy.
Lacy is a principle in Recreation Engineering and Planning of Boulder, Colorado. REP is at the forefront of river whitewater park design and development and I think the reason is that Lacy, while often labeled a consultant, is the furthest thing from one. He's a hardheaded realist.
You won't hear Lacy talk about "paradigm shifts" or "thinking out of the box" or any of expensive consultant claptrap. No, Lacy simply knows what he's doing and is in fact so lacking is consultant-speak and consultant-flash, that he puts some people off.
He and his group deliver good projects. I know, I visited several on an extended trip to Colorado and saw the life his whitewater parks had pumped into communities. And while those projects may be labeled as being all about whitewater paddling, they are popular with swimmers, tubers, and surprise, fishermen.
Fisherman, in particular, love the whitewater parks and play areas because they create aerated water and fish cover. Rivers like the Yampa in Steamboat Springs have seen a revival of their local trout fishery with the advent of the stretch of whitewater features on the river.
Trusting in the proposed Colorado Street project's designer and his ability to deliver, knowing that anything that helps tourism in good for Bend, and making use of one of our greatest natural assets in a good way all makes sense.
The revamping of the Colorado Street dam and bridge and the addition of a safe passage fro floaters and whitewater features is a solid investment in Bend's future.