For the past 20 years, the pace of change in the Southeast Bend neighborhood has been slow, at least by Bend standards.
The next 20 seem likely to be anything but.
The most rural corner of Bend and the second-least populous of the city’s 13 recognized neighborhoods — tiny Old Bend takes the No. 1 spot — Southeast Bend contains the largest tracts of still-undeveloped land in the city. The area is almost entirely devoid of commercial development aside from a handful of businesses on the far south end of Third Street. Subdivisions such as Woodside Ranch and Mountain High were largely built before the area was annexed into the city in the 1990s.
The city’s recently approved urban growth boundary expansion is heavily weighted toward the city’s southeast, adding even more developable land to the area.
Two properties that will come in to the city as part of the UGB expansion butt up against Southeast Bend, one tucked in between U.S. Highway 97 and China Hat Road and Knott roads, and one about a mile east, from the corner of 15th Street and Knott Road eastward to where Knott turns north to become 27th Street.
Bill Galaway, chairman of the neighborhood association, said if done right, the UGB expansion will be a “big boon” for southeast Bend. But that’s also a big if.
Galaway and others with the association said their primary concern is that existing streets aren’t able to handle the additional traffic that will come as the area fills in. New roads serving new developments would be depositing drivers on to older, undersized roads, he said, unless the city commits to bringing those older roads up to a similar standard.
Primary routes like Knott Road, Murphy Road, Brosterhous Road and Country Club Drive haven’t been significantly improved since the area was brought in to the city. Gallaway cited a city streets inventory that examined the city as four roughly equal sized quarters — southeast being everything east of Third Street and south of U.S. Highway 20 — and found 45 percent of the streets that rated 50 or lower on a 100-point pavement condition index are in southeast Bend.
Knott Road is a particular concern for Mitch Meyer, a member of the association board along with his wife, Dana. Noisy freight trucks traveling south of Bend on highways 20 and 97 often use Knott as a bypass route, he said, and its not uncommon to see stretches of fence along Knott Road wiped out by inattentive or intoxicated drivers.
Dana Meyer said safety along Knott Road is so poor that when it was Bike to School day at her daughter’s school, she had to drive her and her bike to a different neighborhood so she could participate. She said she’s interested in what happens at the corner of 15th Street and Knott Road, which the city has designated as a preferred site for commercial development serving the immediate neighborhood.
Something like a satellite library branch or a small grocery store located there would be a big hit with neighborhood residents, Dana Meyer said, and many would walk or bike there if they felt they could do so safely.
“I’d like to see some of the same kind of love down here as you’ve seen in other parts of town,” she said.
The first major amenity likely to touch down in Southeast is a roughly 40-acre park just south of where Murphy Road will eventually come across the railroad tracks. The Bend Park & Recreation District is scheduled to start construction of the new park next year.
Association board member Kathleen Martin is more guarded about the changes that could be on the way.
A former Forest Service employee, Martin spent much of her working career living in isolated places. The Bend she moved to in 1999 was the big city to her, with things like a modern hospital and grocery stores nearer than a few hours away, but still a quiet place where you could see the stars at night.
“I guess we were naive in thinking it would always stay at 39,000 people,” Martin said.
Galaway said the need to improve the road system will be that much more pressing if Bend-La Pine Schools’ May bond measure prevails, setting the school district on a course to build a new high school in Southeast Bend.
“The city needs to do a bond measure to improve the roads, and they need to go big,” Galaway said. “The problem is, the school district is probably going to beat them to it, and the city is a very slow-moving operation.”
The challenge of getting the whole city to back an expensive street improvements package is one of the reasons association supports the city moving to a ward system, in which city councilors would represent a defined geographic area. All seven members of the council are currently elected at large, and in recent years, the makeup of the council has been tilted sharply toward residents of the city’s west side.
— Reporter: 541-383-0387, email@example.com