A year ago, Bend voters narrowly approved a $29 million bond measure to fund parks projects across the city. While some of these projects—which include an $11 million ice rink and recreation center, a whitewater park and various improvements to the Deschutes River Trail System—are not due to be completed until 2016, excitement is already building about how this money will make Bend more, well, Bend, bumping up the level of the city's recreational offerings, both in the splash time of summer and the snow globe winter months.
Simpson Avenue Site and Pavilion (ice skating, sports courts, and concerts)
More than a third of the bond's funds (a healthy $11.35 million) are earmarked for the development of a multi-use pavilion on the former Mt. Bachelor Park 'n' Ride lot—and current ghost land—at SW Columbia Street and SW Simpson Avenue. The open-air, covered space will feature a seasonal ice-skating rink, athletic courts, and a venue for concerts and other events. It will be the first ice rink in Bend proper since Juniper Park tore down its outdoor rink in 2004 to make way for the swimming and fitness complex. Since then, those looking to practice their triple Sochow or pickup hockey game—or simply enjoy the magical feeling of gliding across the ice—have had to travel out of town to rinks maintained by Seventh Mountain Resort, the Village at Sunriver, or Redmond Parks and Recreation. And none of these is a full-size rink suitable for ice hockey. While many of the rinks offer programs that teach hockey skills, the nearest full size rink is in Klamath Falls. Instead, Bend has an established roller hockey scene that holds matches at Juniper Park's indoor rink.
"We are excited for our community to have access to a new facility. It is truly needed," Seventh Mountain Recreation Manager Christopher Smith says, adding that their rink sees as many as 18,000 visitors each season, about 70 percent of them locals. "We offer a completely different experience," Smith points out. "I look forward to opportunities associated with any pursuit of recreational growth in Central Oregon."
A little over $7 million will go toward the construction of the new facility, while the remaining funds will support on and off-site improvements, including $900,000 for a roundabout at SW Simpson Avenue and SW Colorado Avenue and other traffic-related upgrades.
Specific costs estimates for the project are not yet available, despite expectations the figures would be released in October. No plan drawings are available yet, and landscape architect Jim Figurski says he expects cost estimates will be ready sometime in November or December. Initial descriptions of the project highlighted the Park and Recreation District's partnership with Oregon State University-Cascades, which, at the time of the bond's passage a year ago, was expecting to move into the neighborhood. In light of the university's recently announced plans to plant itself on Bend's west side, the focus of the collaboration has shifted. Bend Parks and Recreation Director Matt Mercer says possible recreational activities for "non-ice season" include drop-in and programmed court sports such as basketball, volleyball, pickleball and tennis; youth day/sports camps; athletic tournaments; community events and private rentals.
Colorado Dam Safe Passage (safe passage for fish and tubers; whitewater park for kayakers)
The parks bond has perks for sun lovers as well as snow bunnies. Despite its un-sexy name, the Colorado Dam Safe Passage promises a Bend-friendly trifecta: natural habitat restoration; a safe path to float the river; and the first whitewater park on the west coast. The $7.35 million project is a collaboration between Bend Parks and Rec and the Band Paddle Trail Alliance that, at its completion, will be eight years in the making. The project will trisect the portion of the Deschutes River that passes under Colorado Avenue, creating three distinct channels: a protected portion for wildlife that is off-limits to people and, especially, dogs; a safe passage area for fish and tubers; and a whitewater park with multiple rapids. It also calls for a new pedestrian bridge.
"Right now it looks like we are on track to begin construction next year in late summer or early fall," says BPTA board member Jayson Bowerman. "If everything continues to plan we will be surfing the west coast's first whitewater park in the spring of 2015."
Bowerman says landscape architects are already working on bank improvement designs, hydrology consultants from River Restoration are creating 3-D computer models of the whitewater features, and engineering is designing the associated structures, including the footbridge. He adds that he is hopeful that the Colorado Dam project can serve as an example for future river projects.
"I feel confident," Bowerman says, "that when this [Colorado Dam] project is finished the public will be so stoked on the outcome that the conversation will shift to 'Why aren't we doing this for other spots in Bend?'"
Simpson Avenue Site and Pavilion
Price tag: $11.35 million (all bond-funded) Estimated completion date: Spring 2016 Status: Site and building design underway. Cost estimates expected by November or December.
Colorado Dam Safe Passage
Price tag: $7.35 million ($5.95m from the bond, $900k from Bend Paddle Trail Alliance, $500k from a grant) Estimated completion date: Spring 2015 Status: Design, engineering, and fundraising in the works. Resolution reached on location of new pedestrian bridge. Deschutes River Trails and Parks Price tag: $2.75 million ($2.6m from bond, $150k from a grant)
Estimated completion date: May 2016
Status: District staff is preparing to release a request for quotations for a consultant to lead the process. Land acquisition is also in process.
Land for Southeast Bend Parks Price tag: Not yet released Estimated completion date: May 2016
Status: Larkspur Park expansion purchase closed; an additional 25 acres of land acquisition anticipated.
Pine Nursery Park, Phase II Price tag: $7.58 million ($1.5m from bond, $3.39m from SDCs, $2.6m from partnerships with sports clubs, $100k from reserve fund) Estimated completion date: Summer 2015 (district-funded portion) Status: Construction is underway. Pickleball court is expected to open by Thanksgiving. Riley Ranch Nature Reserve Price tag: $3.74 million ($740k from bond, $3m from SDCs) Estimated completion date: Spring 2016 Status: The request for proposals for master planning and resource management closed last month; a contract for consultant services is expected to be presented to the Parks and Rec board in early November.