On June 9, the Bend Park & Recreation District was forced to close its new Whitewater Park due to safety concerns. The park, meant to offer a safe passage for recreational floaters as well as a fun zone for more advanced whitewater enthusiasts, was expected to be a huge draw for the area—so a rapid closure for safety issues was not ideal.
Less than a week before the closure, a Portland firm hired by BPRD was in the midst of a telephone survey of 402 Bend residents, working to "track the awareness, perceptions, and priorities of Bend residents in regards to parks and recreation services," according to the subsequent report.
What the survey found: 68 percent of people surveyed found BPRD's role in making Bend a tourist destination to be a priority. To put that in perspective, winning an election with 60 percent of the votes is generally considered a huge win—so in light of the problems with the Whitewater Park, a 68 percent "approval rating" for steering Bend parks as tourist destinations is high.
The survey was happening—and residents were expressing their majority approval—at the same time as complaints were rolling into the BPRD offices. That's a sign that Bend residents still believe in the new role parks is playing as part of an overall push to make Bend a tourist destination.
Still, the survey was commissioned just before the actual closure of Whitewater Park—which causes some concern over what the numbers would look like should the survey happen today. The Whitewater Park was opened once again this past week, with better waves in the whitewater channel and a safer passage in the passageway channel.
Other interesting statistics from the BPRD report: 90 percent of people surveyed were "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with the parks and recreation services in Bend. Of the people who reported not being satisfied, the main reasons for dissatisfaction were too much money spent on parks, and money being "wasted or mismanaged." When broken down by demographic, 100 percent of people age 18 to 34 said they're "very" or "somewhat" satisfied with BPRD.
Also of interest: When asked whether parks are providing a good value for the tax dollar, 74 percent of survey respondents agreed that Bend's recreation services are providing a good value, and 68 percent agreed that Bend's parks and trails offer a good value. Compare that to the 47 percent of respondents who agreed that K-12 public schools are offering a good value, and the 10 percent of respondents who think the street repair and maintenance services offer good value, and it's clear that residents still place a lot of faith in our parks department. They might not know how BPRD is structured (just 44 percent of respondents correctly identified BPRD as an agency that's separate from the City of Bend), but overall, our community supports its parks and their expanding role.
For an "approval rating" that's pretty high, the Bend Park & Recreation District gets the Glass Slipper.