Save Bend Green Space, a group of four Bend neighborhood associations, released a survey on May 11 that asks how people use the area and gauges interest in converting a portion of Deschutes South Canyon into a park. Pahlisch Homes is seeking to purchase the property from Central Oregon Irrigation District to eventually develop.
- Courtesy of Save Bend Green Space
- A map of Central Oregon Irrigation District's 140-acre parcel south of the Old Mill District.
The survey lays out two paths to maintain the area as a park: a ballot measure from Bend Park and Recreation Department that would raise the $10 million asking price or raising the money themselves and ceding the property to BPRD.
"I was pleasantly surprised to see how many people had taken this survey. So far, I would say maybe 90% of the people are enthusiastic about trying to save it as a natural open space park," said Judy Clinton, a member of the Save Bend Green Space steering committee. "At some point, we will probably present this to the City Council and to the Bend Parks and Rec board."
COID and Pahlisch have negotiated the terms of the sale of the 80-acre parcel for years. COID will keep about 60 adjacent acres where it operates a power station and piped canal. SBGS' concern is that development would diminish the town's largest remaining piece of undeveloped land.
"We've got to preserve some of our best open spaces, and that's why we want to try to save this," Clinton said. "We were thinking of it as another Shevlin Park, in the center of town with access for all of Bend."
Most of the 80 acres can't be developed as housing until 2034, or if COID stops operating its hydro facility, under a view easement held by the Mount Bachelor Village Homeowners Association. Just a 9-acre parcel, dubbed "the tongue," in the northern edge of the property bordering Brookswood Boulevard, can be developed before then.
"If they want to put dense housing up on the tongue, that's perfectly acceptable, but there are constraints there. There are lots of other places in Bend that I think are more suitable for affordable housing. This area is so unique. It is one of the last largest open spaces available in Bend along the river," Clinton said, though later clarified "acceptable" is in regard to legality and not SBGS's preference.
COID started negotiations to sell the property five years ago, saying it became too expensive to manage the area after encampments started popping up. It's in the process of drawing property lines to create a sellable parcel.
"We need to have a lot line adjustment that has a parcel that equals 80 acres that is encompassed by these new lot lines," said Craig Horrell, managing director of COID. "We don't have a sellable lot, per se, for our agreement with Pahlisch, so we are moving the lot line to accommodate the sale."
BPRD Executive Director Don Horton said a bond measure could only happen if talks between COID and Pahlisch fall through. The park district operates three trails on the property, and Horton doubts that those trails will go away if a sale is finalized.
"There are other smaller trails that are scattered throughout the site that we don't have legal rights to, but those three primary trials that are in there, we already have the legal right to use those, and we don't see that going away," Horton said. "Regardless of what happens here it's going to end up with long-term use of that property very much similar to how it's being used today."
COID is a quasi-municipal organization and can pursue the sale of private land, Horrell said. The land itself has restrictions that could deter overdevelopment.
"There's lots of restrictions. You have the water overlay zone, you have significant rock outcroppings that the City protects. All of the land from the top of the bluff down to the river will remain open down to the trails; the trails will all remain, the easements that COID has with the parks district will remain," Horrell said. "When we interviewed Pahlisch Homes we made it very clear that that needed to be a component of their master plan."
The survey closes on May 31. Horrell said lot lines need to be finalized before the sale can be finalized.