Park district gets OK for nature reserve NW of Bend

November 18, 2015
Park district gets OK for nature reserve NW of Bend

Permit and site plan can be appealed to Deschutes County Commission

By Ted Shorack / The Bulletin

The Deschutes County Planning Commission approved a permit and site plan Monday for the Riley Ranch Nature Reserve northwest of Bend city limits.

The 184-acre property was purchased by the Bend Park & Recreation District over a three-year period beginning in 2010 with funding from a bond and system development charges. Construction is expected to begin next year.

A Deschutes County hearings officer recommended last month that the planning commission deny the permit and plan because of minimum setbacks for a proposed pedestrian and maintenance bridge across the Deschutes River.

The planning commission adopted some recommendations and findings by the hearings officer but disagreed about the required setbacks and the bridge.

During the decision-making process, some nearby property owners stated the park district wasn’t adequately addressing parking and traffic impacts.

The planning commission decision can be appealed within the next 12 days to Deschutes County commissioners, who could decide whether to review the approved permit and site plan.

The park district plans to convert the former Gopher Gulch ranch property into a regional park that focuses on the natural landscape with trails, canyon overlooks and information kiosks.

Jim Figurski, the park district’s landscape architect, said Tuesday he was pleased by the planning commission’s decision and the step forward in the process as designs are finalized for the park.

“We are moving forward with design and construction documents on the rest of the site,” Figurski said. “We have about 90 percent of the bridge drawn.”

The proposed bridge would be located on the northern end of the property where the park district plans to eventually extend the Deschutes River Trail and a trail connection to Tumalo State Park.

The county hearings officer decided the bridge should be classified as a structure under county code, which requires minimum setbacks.

The planning commission chose in favor of the park district and treated the bridge as a “driveway and walkway” in its decision, which does not require property line setbacks in county code.

“The intent of the bridge is to provide future pedestrian access and it also would allow us emergency and maintenance access to the lower canyon,” Figurski said.

A bridge was built by past owners at the same site. Without the bridge, Figurski said the park district would need to create a road down to the bottom of the canyon from the east side of the river. A dirt road exists on the west side.

“We just didn’t want to make that kind of scar on the landscape,” said Figurski.

The public will be able to access the future park on Glen Vista Road. Nearby property owners were concerned with traffic safety and congestion at the intersection of Glen Vista and O.B. Riley roads.

The hearings officer was concerned that improving the line of sight so drivers can stop safely at the intersection couldn’t be done without cooperation from property owners. The changes would include removing tree branches and other vegetation so drivers can react and stop in time for one another and potential hazards.

Russ Grayson, a city of Bend engineer, told the planning commission last month that the standard could be met for improving the line of sight for drivers by removing vegetation within the city’s right of way.

The planning commission decided the minimum sight distance standard would “ensure that access to the park at the intersection … will promote safety.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820,

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