While we blissfully enjoy all that Drake Park and Mirror Pond offer to our community, your park and recreation district is quietly working to inalterably change it from the iconic pond that is the face of Bend, to a wetland complete with narrow river, cattails, reeds and sloping banks.
I recently attended a “community outreach” event hosted by Jim Figurski, the project manager for the “Mirror Pond Visioning Project.” He presented four options, one of which included dredging the pond and otherwise leaving it alone. He then spent our time explaining why that won’t work — too expensive, too much mud, too much trucking, too short-lived and the dam is too old. It became apparent that a “natural” river is viewed by the district as the only sensible choice, with wetlands and natural vegetation making up the greatly expanded banks adjoining Drake Park.
It quickly became obvious that the unintended consequences of the destruction of Mirror Pond have not been considered. Figurski opined that mosquitoes would not be a problem in the newly formed wetlands because the cattails would blow in the wind, drowning the mosquito eggs.
Though much time and money has been spent controlling ducks and geese, the audience was assured that the profusion of nesting areas resulting in more water fowl would not be a problem because the birds’ line of sight to the water would be obscured by the vegetation along the river bank, making them too nervous to use the lawn. He dismissed the idea of people and animals swimming, saying it is against city ordinances. The danger of children traveling through the underbrush and into the river unobserved was not discussed. Nor were ticks and the threat of disease posed by mosquitoes.
He focused on the age of the dam. He sang the praises of a natural river, ignoring the fact that there are two dams just downstream of the power company dam that would prevent the river from being “natural,” even if the dam were removed. The silt that would fill the downstream dam if the first were removed was clearly not considered.
When asked why the questionnaire sent out to residents did not request a preference as to whether to keep the park as it is, he replied that, like a doctor, the park district could not make a decision until first identifying the symptoms. Apparently the district, like a doctor, will decide what is wrong and make a decision as to how best to treat it. He rejected the idea of a vote, saying the people get to decide whether to vote money for parks but the district decides how to spend it.
I must confess a bias. I have occupied an office across from Mirror Pond for the past 30 years, watching people walk along the river, play and picnic on the lawns, and fish, swim and float in the quiet waters. Visitors are quick to assure me how lucky I am to have a view of the beautiful place that makes Bend so special.
I hunt, fish and enjoy the natural rivers with which we are blessed. The Deschutes flows naturally for hundreds of miles, from Wickiup to the Bill Healy Bridge, from Bend to Billy Chinook and on to the Columbia. The continued maintenance of our beautiful pond in the heart of Bend is not too much to ask. You can visit the parks district website at www.mirrorpondbend.com. If you do not act, Mirror Pond, as we know it, will be history.