January 6, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Restoring river’s path might be best Mirror Pond solution

Jan 06, 2011

January 6, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Restoring river’s path might be best Mirror Pond solution

Restoring river’s path might be best Mirror Pond solution

By Tim Galvin / Bulletin guest columnist

Published: January 06. 2011 4:00AM PST

What to do with Mirror Pond?

It’s no surprise, really: The Bend community remains mired in the muck over how to pay for the dredging of Mirror Pond (“Fixing Mirror Pond demands a new look, officials say,” The Bulletin, Dec. 26). After all, who wants to pony up the $5 million or so to dig out Mirror Pond, especially knowing that the process will likely have to be repeated, at an ever-escalating cost, in another 20 years or so?

One nearby landowner and the Bend Park and Recreation District even had to pay this fall to harvest the weeds that thrive in the silt of Mirror Pond — a short-term measure to address a problem gone seriously awry (The Bulletin, Oct. 25).

So why not consider a permanent fix? More to the point, why not consider restoring the Deschutes River to its natural channel and flow as it meanders through Bend?

Sure, lots of folks have weighed in with the view that, given Mirror Pond’s “iconic” status, it must be dredged and restored. Surprisingly, even The Bulletin, when it comes to Mirror Pond, seems quick to abandon the paper’s regular demands for government austerity and caution, calling Mirror Pond a “staple of postcards.” “There’s no need to study anything ... Rather than dithering, studying, and fussing ~ (city) councilors should concentrate on the real issue at hand: finding the money to fix the pond as soon as possible, nothing more (The Bulletin, Dec. 28, 2007).”

Seriously?

In this period of dwindling budget coffers, shouldn’t we set aside sentiment and ask some much harder questions before taxpayers are asked to dredge up more funds? For example, do the economic benefits of restoring Mirror Pond outweigh the costs? And just what are those economic benefits, and who receives them?

Perhaps more telling are those who receive the economic benefits willing to pay the costs of regular dredging? If not, why should taxpayers in general be on the hook for these costs?

Why not instead restore the Deschutes River to its natural channel and flow through Bend — at least as “natural” as the present managed river system would allow? Imagine a future in which the current mud flats of a silted Mirror Pond are replaced — permanently — by an expanded green space in Drake Park. A larger central park at the heart of Bend would better accommodate a range of civic activities, from farmers markets to concerts to bike paths.

What’s more, some of the same planning and conservation expertise that was applied so admirably to riparian restoration near the Old Mill District could be adopted with equal benefit to a renewed Deschutes River along an expanded Drake Park. Yes, preserving icons is important. Yet is there anything more iconic to our region than the major river that defines it?

Perhaps there are several good reasons — more than just sentimental — against re-establishing the Deschutes’ original path through Bend. But what are they? And are those technical or cost considerations more insurmountable than the challenge of dredging Mirror Pond every generation? Some apparently blame other causes such as irregular releases from Wickiup for the sediment buildup in Mirror Pound (The Bulletin, Dec. 26), but that overlooks the much more fundamental fact that where there’s a dam, there will likely be sediment gathering behind it.

Restoring the Deschutes to a near natural state in Bend would also require money, of course. But it seems that both public and private funds are much more readily available for projects that seek to restore nature’s work in a lasting way.

For numerous examples, see www.tu.org/press-room/trout-magazine. Let’s finish this job, once and for all, and put the problem behind us.

Finally, there may be another benefit to a permanent solution: The absence of mud and stagnant water just might make Drake Park less inviting to resident Canada geese.

Tim Galvin lives in Bend.

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