A nonprofit community group called Connect Bend is seeking to advance a proposed pedestrian bridge over the Deschutes River on the south side of Bend. The project has been deprioritized by Bend Park and Recreation District amid pushback from adjacent homeowners and the environmental group Oregon Wild.
- Courtesy Connect Bend
- The proposed footbridge would cross in this area, expanding pedestrian access to the Deschutes National Forest Recreation area.
Voters approved the project by a margin of 52.11% to 47.89% in a 2012 bond measure that also funded the Bend Whitewater Park and The Pavilion skating rink. The proposed bridge would complete the Deschutes River Trail from Tumalo State Park to Sunriver.
"There's no good reason this footbridge hasn't been built already," said Ted Schoenborn, a retired BPRD board member and advisor to Connect Bend, in a press release on Oct. 20. "Just special interests and red tape. We voted for this. We paid for it. We need to go ahead."
Two bills sought to ban the project in 2017 and 2018, both failing in the Oregon Senate. Opponents say the bridge could disturb that portion of the Deschutes, which is protected as a Wild and Scenic River. Those aiming to build within a quarter-mile of Wild and Scenic River banks must notify the governing statewide body and meet river-specific guidelines. At a 2015 public hearing on the project most opponents were adjacent landowners worried about vandalism and increased foot traffic near their homes.
"Environmentally, this is a positive for the Bend area," said Larry Waters, a board member, career public works director, and head of Connect Bend's environmental outreach effort. "The areas near the proposed site are beaten down. They need care and management. This project enables us to do that work."
Connect Bend's petition is seeking 10,000 signatures to pressure BPRD to resume work on the bridge, claiming it would reduce traffic and connect more people to the outdoors. At the time of publication over 1,800 people have signed on.
"Up to 15,000 people in southern Bend do not have direct access to these outdoor areas," said Brett Stinski, a board member of Connect Bend. "There are no parks in the Deschutes River Woods. One simple project would improve the lives of a lot of people."