For those keeping score on this year’s legislative session, check a win for hikers and bikers who want a bridge to easily access Forest Service trails near Bend.
House Bill 4029 would have banned a footbridge over the Deschutes River just south of town. The bill died in committee when the Legislature adjourned.
Raise your hand if you think the Legislature should have never been debating a local matter. Raise your hand if you wonder why legislators can submit bills without having to attach their names to them.
But even if your hand is raised, there are questions about the bridge that need to be answered. At least two things should happen.
The Bend Park & Recreation District should follow through on a study to analyze the impacts of the bridge. Opponents claim the bridge would bring maladies and misery to the river, wildlife and the nearby river trails. Is that true? And what about the benefits of the bridge? Fewer people would need to drive to reach Forest Service trails. Building a bridge could help build a healthy appreciation for the wonders of the outdoors.
Candidates for state representative should also be forthcoming about their positions on the bridge. Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, and Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, backed a bridge ban. They are leaving their posts — Buehler is running for governor and Whisnant is stepping down. Do candidates want the state to dictate what can and can’t happen or do they want a local resolution? Do they think the bridge should be built?
So much of the debate about the bridge was about the Oregon’s Scenic Waterways Act. That act and its rules aimed for a balance in protection and access. Conservation and recreation don’t have to be mutually exclusive.