On Nov. 28, Bend Park and Recreation District will host an open house-style meeting to present the proposed design for Mirror Pond. But don't get your hopes up, anti-dredgers and pro-dredgers, because that design is not going to touch the topic of silt removal—not even with a mucky 10-foot pole. The Nov. 28 meeting is about the trail construction and bank restoration along Mirror Pond, and won't cover much in the way of dredging.
If you thought dredging had to be completed—or even decided upon—in order to restore the banks of Mirror Pond, or to add trails alongside it, you'd be wrong. Park board members tell us that dredging is beyond the scope of this project—and that's exactly where we think it should stay.
Completing the Deschutes River Trail is something voters voted in favor of when they approved the BPRD bond in 2012. Today, most of the funds from that bond have been spent, and board members say they'll use general funds, if needed, to complete what voters asked for, to remain true to their commitment.
And while a host of surveys, public meetings, editorials, letters to the editor and even social media comments have been put forth, indicating either support or no support for dredging Mirror Pond, thus far, no one has been able to definitively say whether dredging the pond—at this point, at an estimated cost of $6.7 million—is something the wider community wants. From about 2012 to 2015, there was a flurry of activity around resolving this issue.
Then Pacific Power decided it wouldn't sell the Newport Dam, the source of impoundment for Mirror Pond, after all, and the wind seemed to go out of the community's sails around this issue. Lately, the pair who bought the mud underneath the pond, Bill Smith and Todd Taylor, have been attempting to curry favor with local officials, in the hopes of garnering BPRD and City of Bend funds to help pay for dredging. Neither body is equipped to pay.
Were the city, the parks district, or any other agency ready to come to the table and ask the public to pay for yet another bond, our community has a growing list of wants and needs that we feel are more pressing. More important needs include a large performing arts center, community investment in the Central District, a public warming shelter and improvements to our transportation system that would make public transit easier, faster and more accessible to more areas, and more people... just to name a few.
In summary, our public agencies don't have the funds to dredge. The public hasn't come out resoundingly in one camp or the other. The movements to take action on this issue have fallen apart, becoming a source of embarrassment to the community.
So, barring a public vote in which residents can say, democratically, that they wish to A, free the river and return it to its natural state, or B, preserve the state of the pond as it's been for a century and dredge it in order to retain that scene, then the only other option is C, let the Mirror Pond issue stay dead in the water, for now. In this case, we're willing to let sleeping geese lie.