A glimpse at major Bend park projects

Simpson Avenue ice rink construction to start in fall; development of nature park starts next spring

By Elon Glucklich / The Bulletin / @EGlucklich

The $29 million Bend Park & Recreation District bond passed in 2012 laid the groundwork for more than three dozen trail, river, sports and event projects to cement Bend’s status as an outdoor destination.

Two of the biggest proposals came into focus this week.

Park district officials made public their updated construction plans for an ice skating rink and recreation pavilion on Southwest Simpson Avenue, and their plans to develop a 184-acre nature park just north of Awbrey Butte.

At a meeting with park and recreation board members Tuesday, Jim Figurski, district landscape architect and project manager, said ice rink construction could start as soon as October.

The district submitted a formal site plan to the city of Bend last week and plans to meet with the City Council next month to talk about permits and other requirements.

Figurski gave some of the most detailed descriptions of the ice rink to date. The plans on file include a concession area with “a broad menu,” he said, changing rooms, 120 to 150 lockers and a Zamboni storage area. The building construction cost is up to $7.8 million, compared with $7.3 million in March. But the project’s overall cost, which includes site improvements beyond the actual ice rink, fell from $13 million in March to about $10.6 million today, Figurski said.

Outside of the rink, the district plans to landscape and put a rock garden in the east side of the lot, while adding a fire pit and benches to the west side.

The lower overall cost hinges on the district not having to replace the Simpson Avenue and Columbia Street intersection with a roundabout — a proposal that was in previous plans at a roughly $2.5 million cost.

An October start date could have the rink open to the public in November 2015, but dates for major projects can always change.

“At least three large (construction) firms are very interested in the project,” Figurski told board members Tuesday. “We’re working with the city weekly to coordinate (upcoming) meetings.”

About four miles north of the planned ice rink, a bond project would convert land between Awbrey Butte and Tumalo State Park into a massive nature reserve, called Riley Ranch.

The parks and recreation department bought 122 acres at the Gopher Gulch park property in 2010, land north of the butte that’s currently closed to the public, according to Figurski. The district has purchased about 60 acres in the surrounding area since the 2012 bond passed.

The plan Figurski unveiled Tuesday shows a 184-acre area with various terrains running along the Deschutes River, including rocky canyons, under cliffs and meadowlands.

Park officials have been meeting with a citizen advisory group, and are still deciding between two proposals: One would create multiple trails and an access road into part of the park, at an estimated $4.8 million cost. A more modest proposal would add fewer trails, with a price tag around $2.9 million.

“It’s a unique place, not just in terms of its environment, but within the park district’s inventory,” Figurski said of Riley Ranch, adding the district could start with the cheaper proposal and work toward the larger one in following years.

Work could start next spring, and district officials say it’s too early to pin down a timeline.

Riley Ranch will likely be off-limits to dogs, bicycles and large groups.

“People will be going there to really enjoy the solitude, enjoy the wildlife and cultural resources,” Figurski said.

Other major projects funded by the 2012 bond include a whitewater park and safe passage for river floaters at the Colorado Avenue dam. Work on the $7.3 million project might start next month and wrap up sometime next year.

The district also plans to fill in roughly 11 missing sections of the Deschutes River Trail, which winds through Bend.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, eglucklich@bendbulletin.com