$87 million slated in Bend Park & Rec upgrades

By Elon Glucklich The Bulletin
Published Mar 25, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Mar 25, 2014 at 12:20PM

The plans are ambitious, and the dollar figures are eye-popping.

In the next several years, Bend Park & Recreation District plans to spend $87 million on more than three dozen projects across the city, building an ice rink, creating a safe passage and whitewater recreation area through the Colorado Avenue Dam, constructing new nature trails, renovating ball fields and buying land to map out the parks of Bend’s future.

“This is probably the most robust program the (parks) district has taken on,” Michelle Healy, the park district director of strategic planning and design, said Monday.

The park district updates its long-range planning list each year, offering rough timelines and cost estimates for capital improvement projects.

But the new list, released earlier this month, is notable for the variety of projects, their price tags and where the money’s coming from.

The new capital improvement plan covers a variety of projects, made up of parks, trails and recreation facilities. Some are small projects — repair work at Juniper Swim & Fitness Center, or new bleachers at Ponderosa Park.

But nearly half are valued at $1 million or more. Towering over them all is the $11.3 million ice skating rink and recreation pavilion planned on Southwest Simpson Avenue and funded by a $29 million park district bond voters approved in 2012.

The capital improvement documents show most of the Simpson pavilion construction planned between July 1 and June 30, 2015, with the final work being done before in the following fiscal year.

“We’re anticipating being done by the fall of 2015 or winter 2016,” Healy said, though she said all dates are tentative and construction plans could change.

The other major bond project is a $7.3 million reconfiguration of the dam at the Colorado Avenue Bridge. The project would create a safe passage for inner-tubers to float through in the summer, offer a channel for fish to pass through and install underwater hydraulics to create rapids near the bridge for kayakers.

The bond is paying for most of the safe passage work at the Colorado Dam, which runs next to Colorado Avenue as it crosses the Deschutes River. But Bend Paddle Trail Alliance is kicking in $900,000. The organization has already raised more than $600,000 and hopes to raise the rest this summer, said Justin Rae, who’s heading the alliance’s fundraising efforts.

Healy said the Colorado Avenue Dam safe passage work could start later this summer, and hopefully wrap up by the end of summer 2015.

The park district also wants to use $4 million in bond funds to complete roughly 11 missing sections of the Deschutes River Trail as it winds through Bend. Much of the funding would go toward buying land where trail extensions are needed.

The district is in the early stages of negotiations with landowners, so it’s difficult to say when those trail improvements would eventually be made, Healy said.

Of the total $87 million in planned projects, $34.6 million comes from system development charges — fees collected by the city of Bend on new construction projects, which fund street, sewer and park upgrades. About $21.6 million comes from the 2012 bond, $11.3 million comes from property tax revenue and $19.5 million comes from private donations and partnerships with businesses.

More than $27 million of the total project funds will finance a slew of park improvements and land purchases for new parks, the capital improvement notes show. Those include a plan to purchase Discovery Park, a 34-acre planned park in NorthWest Crossing’s ongoing expansion, for $1.9 million.

The district also wants to spend $3.7 million from the 2012 bond to buy land in southeast Bend, possibly around the Southeast 15th Street and Brosterhous Road areas. The district would then spend as much as $8.8 million from its system development charges to build a large new park over the next five years.

“We have a parks plan where we target areas within Bend that are maybe a bit deficient in the number of neighborhood parks,” Healy said.

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

ORIG 03/24/2014 Ryan Brennecke / The Bulletin Andy Hogan, an employee with Banyan Builders, works on sanding lumber to be used in the new dugouts while working in front of the new restroom currently under construction at Pine Nursery Park on Monday.
Ryan Brennecke / The Bulletin file photo Discovery Park in NorthWest Crossing.
Courtesy Bend Park & Recreation District Artistís rendering of the planned Simpson pavilion.