Bend Bulletin - Bend park district releases draft plan of Deschutes River access, improvements

The Bend Park & Recreation District released a draft plan Wednesday for consolidating recreational river access points and restoring riparian habitats at parks along the Deschutes River.

The Deschutes River Access and Habitat Restoration Plan draft includes 27 recommended projects to be completed over the next decade at the district’s 16 river parks. The projects are intended to protect the riverbank from foot traffic that causes erosion and damages habitats along the river.

There are 25 designated and nearly 100 undesignated access points to the river within the district’s parks, according to the draft plan.

Undesignated access points illustrate the popularity of river recreation — since at least 2017, over 200,000 people float the river each year, according to the draft plan.

The district began collecting data, identifying projects and planning development for the projects in 2019. An online survey was conducted in 2020 where nearly 1,000 community members provided input about river access.

Public input was critical in identifying projects, according to the draft plan. For example, additional analysis concerning off-leash dog river access areas was conducted after the nonprofit DogPAC raised concerns earlier this year about limiting off-leash areas to one access point at Riverbend Park.

“The planning team strived to incorporate community needs in balancing river access and habitat restoration,” said district Project Manager Sarah Bodo in a statement. “We’re excited to share the draft plan that has shifted and changed in response to previous input.”

Community input will continue to play a critical role moving forward: public review of the draft plan is available online, where community members can provide comments, and multiple community meetings will be held in August where people can share their thoughts with the district before a final plan is adopted in the fall.

A full schedule of events and a project timeline can be found on the park district website.

Funding for the projects will likely come from a combination of grants and district general funds, according to a press release.

Here’s a look at the 27 projects included in the draft plan:

Systemwide

• Increase the amount of educational signs and improve consistency of signs at parks with river access.

• Provide outreach and education with community partners to make river parks more welcoming to all.

• Expand volunteer ambassador programs to include high-use river parks.

• Expand the adopt-a-trail program to support the use of designated trails along the river.

River Rim Park

• Consolidate river access points to one to two designated areas to protect sensitive habitat, and armor sensitive areas to decrease erosion. Improve safety and look at the irrigation system.

• Create a loop trail for visitors and add seating where it is needed.

• Modify the steep trail to improve drainage and increase sustainability.

Farewell Bend Park — South

• Determine which of the 35 river access points should be improved and which should be closed.

• Improve access from the sidewalk on the southeastern side of the Bill Healy Memorial Bridge to the Deschutes River Trail.

Farewell Bend Park — Cedarwood Trailhead

• Formalize the trail leading to the Deschutes River Trail and restore surrounding areas.

Farewell Bend Park — North

• Determine parking needs near Farewell Bend and Riverbend parks through a parking analysis.

• If supported by the parking analysis, change parallel parking to angled parking and create a loading zone.

• Close fence gaps at the picnic shelters to eliminate undesignated river access points and reestablish sensitive habitat.

• Improve existing canoe launch to address erosion.

• Address beach erosion. Explore sand alternatives while also maintaining a portion of sandy areas. Improve beach accessibility.

• Evaluate additional restoration options to enhance existing wetland restoration projects adjacent to the boardwalk to improve conditions for the Oregon spotted frog and other species.

Riverbend Park

• Improve beach accessibility. Add accessible boat launches. Enlarge beach.

• Determine location for permanent off-leash dog water access.

McKay Park

• Plant trees along the floater channel within the fenced area to provide shade.

Miller’s Landing Park

• Close and revegetate the existing downriver access point. Redesign the boardwalk access point for safety and accessibility.

Columbia Park

• Improve accessibility and safety of the existing designated access point and improve bank stability and riparian environment. Close undesignated access point. Improve vegetation in flattened grass areas.

Harmon Park

• Improve stability of dock for easier river access.

First Street Rapids Park — River Left

• Close undesignated access points to protect vegetation and trail.

First Street Rapids Park — River Right

• Consolidate and improve river access points.

Sawyer Park — River Left

• Improve one to two access points. Close access points along the Fisherman’s Trail.

• Improve trail system.

Riley Ranch Nature Reserve

• Create one to two new river access points where there is high use.