Mirror Pond response drying up

June 28, 2013
Mirror Pond response drying up

Steering committee urges public to register preference for landmark future

By Hillary Borrud

The man overseeing the process, Mirror Pond project manager Jim Figurski, said this week he is concerned that too few people are filling out the questionnaire. Silt has been accumulating in the pond since it was last dredged in 1984, and mudflats are building up in this section of the Deschutes River.

“The more (participants), the more comfortable decision-makers will be using whatever that information from the questionnaire tells them," Figurski said. “If we have a limited sample, it would generally make people more nervous to rely on a limited sample."

Meanwhile, only 20-30 people have attended each public meeting on the four final alternatives for Mirror Pond, and Figurski said some of them are repeat attendees.

One reason for low turnout could be that many residents do not realize this is a new questionnaire, and it deals with the four latest proposals for Mirror Pond. The Mirror Pond Steering Committee, which is tasked with helping to chart the future of this section of the river, asked the community to complete a different questionnaire in February.

“Something we were hearing is, people hadn’t realized there was a second questionnaire out there," Figurski said.

The last day the questionnaire will be available at www.mirrorpondbend.com is July 12. Figurski will present the results to the City Council and Bend Park & Recreation District Board of Directors at a July 16 joint public meeting at the park district office.

“They may or may not come to any conclusion at that meeting," Figurski said. “But at least it will begin that discussion of where do we go next."

As of Monday, people had completed approximately 210 questionnaires, Figurski wrote in an email. By the same point in the previous questionnaire process, roughly four times as many people had completed questionnaires. Figurski said 10-15 people had been filling out a questionnaire each day, then the number of participants jumped after a public meeting and media coverage earlier this week. By Thursday afternoon, more than 300 people completed the questionnaire.

Nearly 1,900 people ultimately completed the previous online questionnaire, and they were evenly divided on whether the city should maintain the pond or return the Deschutes to a free-flowing river. Results of these questionnaires are not scientific, because the questionnaire participants opt into the process by visiting the mirrorpondbend.com website and electing to complete the 18-item questionnaire. By contrast, statistically valid surveys use random samplings to gauge sentiments.

Park District board Chairman Scott Asla said he hopes as many people as possible will share their views using the questionnaire.

“It’s really important for people to understand they have a say," Asla said.

Asla has already completed the questionnaire, and he said a key question is whether people want to remove the Newport Avenue Dam that created the pond. Pacific Power owns the dam.

“The options aren’t that dissimilar because a lot depends on what happens with that dam, and a lot of that is out of our control," Asla said.

The latest questionnaire starts out similarly to the first one, with questions about where participants live and how long they have resided in the area. Then, the questionnaire provides information about the cost, permitting regulations and other issues for each of the four visions.

As people go through images of how the Deschutes River would look under each of the four alternatives, the questionnaire asks them to state whether each option is attractive and whether it would improve recreation opportunities. The questionnaire also asks if people believe each option would improve water quality and habitat, benefit the city’s economy, and be worth the cost, Figurski said.

Finally, the questionnaire asks people to rank the options and state whether they would like to remove the Newport Avenue Dam.

“We are still engaged in conversations with Pacific Power, and they are still in the position of wanting to hear the results of this questionnaire at least and see, is there a public mandate for one direction or another," Figurski said. “Then they can look at their plans and respond accordingly."

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

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