Letter to the Editor: Protect the River

January 8, 2019
Letter to the Editor: Protect the River

The Bulletin’s Dec. 27 footbridge editorial missed the point of Mary Orton’s report to Bend Park & Recreation District. At their Dec. 18 board meeting, she challenged Bend parks to include the many and varied voices working to preserve the wild and scenic character of the Upper Deschutes River, in balance with recreation. Can Bend parks embrace both points of view?

The no-new-bridges rule resulted from a collaborative process, with signers of the Upper Deschutes Management Plan that include Deschutes County (the proposed bridge location), irrigation districts, the Warm Springs tribe, Deschutes National Forest, Oregon’s governor and several state and federal agencies. This breadth of support shows that the Deschutes River is a treasured resource for all of Oregon’s citizens and visitors. River protections have helped Bend’s recreation and visitor economy to thrive. It needs continuing protection.

The exact needs for the footbridge are suspect. The existing river trail from Bend to Sunriver could be improved (Haul Road Trail connecting to Deschutes River Trail). If the goal is reducing car trips, why put the bridge outside Bend, in an unimproved county area? If better east-side Bend access is needed, then a bridge in the city limits, with underpasses at Bend Parkway and trails connecting the bridge might serve Bend better.

Does Bend parks have the courage to engage the broader community, to balance wild Deschutes River protection with recreation opportunities? Time will tell, but widespread resistance to the current bridge plan will not go away. A better plan is needed.

Michael Eisele

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