District will design trails

February 5, 2014
District will design trails

Bend park district plans river trail connections

By Hillary Borrud / @hborrud

The Bend Park & Recreation District boasts on its website that the Deschutes River Trail gives people “nearly uninterrupted access to the beautiful waterway that is the heart of the community.” But there are still some places where the trail ends abruptly and people have to turn around or cut through a parking lot .

The park district is about to begin a major project to fix these breaks in the trail. The board of directors recently voted to sign a contract for up to $479,000 with Omaha, Neb.-based HDR, Inc., to spend the next 18 months designing new sections of the trail. HDR, Inc., is the same firm that designed the city of Bend’s $66.5 million Bridge Creek water project and completed the design and other work on the $30 million city transportation bond.

Voters narrowly approved the design and construction of the park district’s trail connections as part of a $29 million park district bond measure in November 2012. Once the project is complete, the Deschutes River Trail will seamlessly connect from the Deschutes National Forest south of Bend to Tumalo State Park north of the city.

“Hopefully the public will be able to start seeing results,” Park and Trail Planner Steve Jorgensen said at a recent park board meeting.

Downtown Bend is one of the areas where the river trail ends abruptly, at parking lots and streets. People continue walking through those areas, but even some of the trail along Mirror Pond — behind the Pine Tavern, Bend Brewing Company and other businesses — is privately owned, and the park district does not currently have an easement, Jorgensen wrote in an email.

“It’s pretty unimproved, if any of you have been down there,” Jorgensen said at a recent park district board meeting. “It’s not really a nice trail at all, as well as not being technically open to the public.”

Jorgensen said district Executive Director Don Horton is talking to property owners to the north and south of Newport Avenue bridge about acquiring land for the trail. Horton did not return a call for comment on Tuesday. HDR will work to design a route for the trail through the many properties in the area, including past the PacifiCorp substation next to the Mirror Pond dam.

The trail design project will also include a preliminary look at options for Northwest Riverfront Street, where the trail runs between Drake Park and Miller’s Landing Park. “The sidewalks are very substandard” and lack curb ramps, Jorgensen said. One option might be to redesign the street with more room for pedestrians and cyclists, but Jorgensen said this would cost more than the district has budgeted so staff might look for grants to pay for most of this section.

The trail extension plan also includes sections on the north and south ends of the city.

When the park district placed signs explaining the bond measure along trails in fall 2012, the signs showed an extension of the river trail through what is now called Riley Ranch Nature Reserve, along the east side of the river on the north end of the city. Now, park planners say this might be too steep of a location for many trail users. Although they will still build a foot bridge and river trail connection to the nature reserve, they are also investigating options for an alternative river trail section on the west side of the river. Jim Figurski is the project manager for the 122-acre Riley Ranch Nature Reserve.

“There are significant landscape obstacles — steep cliffs and talus fields — that would make a riverfront trail difficult (in Riley Ranch Nature Reserve),” Figurski said.

Jorgensen said the Archie Briggs Canyon trail, down to the planned footbridge that will connect to Riley Ranch, might not be appropriate for cyclists and some other trail users.

“Archie Briggs Canyon is going to be a very difficult and steep trail,” Jorgensen said.

At the southern city limits, HDR will design a trailhead parking lot, potentially off Buck Canyon Road, and a trail and footbridge across the river to the Deschutes National Forest. There was a plan for parking and a trail in a proposed housing development, but that project is currently on appeal at the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals, Jorgensen said.

“We really wouldn’t be able to do anything, even if we had a valid design right now,” Jorgensen said. In the meantime, the district can design an alternative option to cross the river, Jorgensen said.

The first part of the trail extension project under construction might be in Pacific Park, just south of Northwest Portland Avenue. Currently, a trail runs right along the river’s edge by the old park district administration building, and Jorgensen said the district will probably move the trail back from the river.

The actual cost of the HDR trail design contract might be just more than $300,000, according to a park district document. The cost could increase to $428,000 if the district decides to have HDR complete more work, such as an environmental assessment for a bridge planned south of Bend. The $470,000 cap on the design contract includes 10 percent in contingency for potential cost increases.

Meanwhile, park district employees are designing some sections of the trail in-house. The park district budgeted a total of $2.7 million to design and build the river trail extensions in its five-year capital improvement project budget, according to a district document.

— Reporter: 541-617-7829, hborrud@bendbulletin.com

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