The footbridges in Drake Park and the Old Mill District are crowded with spectators when the Deschutes River fills with floaters and racers, and even greater crowds will likely want a similar perspective when the new Colorado Avenue Dam Project brings whitewater rafting events to town.
That fact alone argues for a full replacement of the Colorado footbridge, whether in its current location or slightly downstream. Options for a viewing platform or no bridge don’t satisfy.
The Bend Park & Recreation District sought public input at open houses Wednesday, offering four options: no bridge, a viewing platform, a full bridge at its current location, or a full bridge 150 feet downstream connecting McKay Park with Miller’s Landing.
The project, one of many made possible by a $29 million bond issue approved by voters in November, will create three paths in the river at Colorado Avenue, one for fish, one for whitewater rafters, and one for floaters. The existing footbridge must be removed, and plans originally called for a replacement in the same location, built to accommodate needed ice-removal equipment. Discovery of other ways to handle the ice allowed the district to consider a less-expensive bridge and the possibility of moving it or not building it at all.
The downstream location would allow the new bridge to be built before the old one is demolished, said district Executive Director Don Horton, and give trail users less disruption from activities in the river. It would provide a connection between the popular McKay Park and the new Miller’s Landing park on the opposite bank of the river. And Horton said it would be close enough to provide good views of whitewater competitions.
Members of the Bend Paddle Trails Alliance, many of whom attended the open houses, prefer building the bridge in its current location. They said crowds would end up spilling onto the Colorado Avenue roadway if the footbridge were moved downstream.
That’s a convincing argument, and keeping the bridge where it is also serves the many walkers and runners who use it today. Most critical, however, is that a full footbridge be built, not just a platform or no replacement at all.