By Monicia Warner

The Bulletin

The Bend Park & Recreation District is receiving a $371,150 grant, which will be used to improve McKay Park on the Deschutes River.

“These are lottery funds that the state does grants for,” Michelle Healy , the park district’s director of planning and development, said Wednesday. “It was the right project at the right time. It’s showing us adapting with the change in recreation for the local community.”

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Commission awarded the grant, which will provide half the $742,300 needed for the park’s new projects.

McKay Park is one of nine parks in the state to receive a portion of $2.3 million in local government grant funding for park enhancements. Bend Park & Rec received grants in 2012 and 2010 for the acquisition and development of Miller’s Landing across from McKay Park.

The grant will pay for several new features at McKay Park, including better beach accessibility, two viewing areas for spectators, improved connections from the park to the pedestrian bridge, and vegetation and fencing for improved water quality and habitat restoration, Healy said.

These enhancements are intended to support the Colorado Dam Safe Passage, a $7.5 million park district project to provide a safe route for boaters and tubers at the dam, and add habitat and whitewater channels on the river.

“With the Colorado Dam (project), we expect the use of McKay is going to change a little bit — people accessing the river, people spectating,” Healy said. “Work on McKay won’t really start until the tail end of the Colorado project because we’re going to be building our way out and putting the park back together again.”

The district is required to match grants by 50 percent and will use bond funds and system development charges to pay for its share of the McKay work..

Preliminary designs for the park are still in the works, and there are also plans to implement upgraded, energy-efficient lighting, add restrooms and changing rooms, renovate the plaza to accommodate larger events and work with the city to provide a loading zone and install angled parking along the park frontage area, according to Chelsea Schneider, a district landscape architect.

“Over the next two years, people are going to see stuff happening in that area,” Healy said. “What we hope is it’s not start, stop, start, stop, and that we can get in there and get it all done so we’re not disrupting people over and over again.”

Schneider said the design will replace the existing portable restrooms with a changing room. There will be an overlook directly off the pedestrian bridge and a lower elevation viewing area on the east side of McKay Park. Access to the beach will connect the downstream end of the existing beach to the proposed angled parking area.

McKay Park improvements are scheduled to begin next summer and be completed by summer 2016.

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