If you go

What: Rockridge Park opening celebration

Where: 20885 Egypt Drive

When: Oct. 14, 1 to 3 p.m.

Bend’s newest park is open in the northeast part of town, and residents and visitors are already riding its bike trails, carving lines at its skatepark and scrambling over its nature-based playgrounds.

The Bend Park & Recreation District will host an opening celebration at Rockridge Park, on Egypt Drive just south of Lava Ridge Elementary School, on Oct. 14. Park district employees are making several final small fixes, but the park is open to the public, and a couple dozen children and adults used it midday Friday.

From the parking lot off Egypt Drive, one of the first things visitors will see is a nature play area, complete with rocks to scramble over, tree stumps to hop on and a pump to draw water into a trough.

Standing juniper trees complete the natural look, and a downed juniper provides a more natural obstacle to climb on or around. The area features an array of talk tubes, which allow pairs of kids to talk into one and figure out where the sound will come out.

“It’s like a playground constructed with more natural elements — stone and wood and water,” construction manager Jason Powell said. “It’s really basic. However the kids want to approach it, and play is up to them.”

The nature play area is the first of its kind in Bend, but something similar is likely at future parks, district spokeswoman Julie Brown said. It lets children be more creative in finding ways to play than more traditional playgrounds.

“The nature play is a good example of how we’re going to be thinking about play areas moving forward,” Brown said.

The park includes two mountain bike courses targeted at children with beginning and intermediate skills. Each short loop contains several obstacles, including log skinnies (narrow sections of log to balance on), boardwalks and armored trail sections (bumpy strips of rock or concrete). Beginners’ obstacles are kept at ground level, while the intermediate bikers can ride a little off the ground.

The bike courses let riders choose between obstacles, so they can opt to go over a log skinny on one loop and a boardwalk on the next.

“Even though it’s a short single loop, there’s a bunch of different alternatives here,” Powell said.

The bike paths, as well as a half-mile gravel fitness path and an accessible paved path, loop around some natural rock outcroppings.

“We tried to preserve as much of the natural features as we could,” Powell said.

Before the park was built, neighbors had established paths through the vacant land by walking or driving four-wheelers, and park district employees are trying to restore those unofficial trails with native plants. Sections of the park between the new trails are now roped off while the new vegetation grows, but by fall 2018, the park should look like those old trails were never there, Powell said.

The fitness trail and paved path loop over to the other side of the park, which is a more typical neighborhood park with a standard playground, restroom, grassy field and tables. The lighting and irrigation system in this part of the park is powered by solar panels.

The park district aims to have a small neighborhood park within a half-mile of all Bend homes so residents can easily walk to a park. Prior to Rockridge Park’s completion, the closest park was Boyd Park, near 18th Street and Empire Avenue.

Because the area in northeast Bend is underserved by parks, the district chose to make Rockridge both a neighborhood park and a community park, which is seen as more of a destination, Brown said.

It cost $3.6 million and was paid for with system development charges, the fees developers pay on new construction to cover the costs of new demand on Bend’s utilities, roads and parks.

Trails continue past the neighborhood section to a disc golf course, which contains nine baskets with two paved stones serving as tees for each basket. Holes run parallel to the paths in some places, so disc golfers are unlikely to lose their discs on the trails.

“Even though you don’t see a lot out here, there’s a lot going on in a very small space,” Powell said.

The paved path ends at a lunarscape skatepark, so described because its flowing, bumpy surface could resemble the moon when viewed from above. The skatepark is about 10,000 square feet, and several skaters — and children sliding down the curves — were out Friday afternoon.

Melissa Cunningham, 43, traveled from Portland to skateboard at Rockridge Park on Friday. Cunningham has skated since 1986, and she said the skatepark’s designer, ­Evergreen Skateparks, has such a good reputation that she took off work Friday to travel to Bend and try out the new park.

“As a skater, you’re looking for variety,” she said. “You’ve skated all the parks in town, and you’re looking for something new.”

Although Rockridge Park just opened, Bend resident Kevin Flanagan, 26, was skateboarding for the third time on the new skatepark. Flanagan, who’s skateboarded since he was 8, said Bend is “progressively getting better and better” for skaters, and he likes the skatepark at Rockridge.

“It’s very flowy,” he said. “It’s kind of like you have an endless line, if there’s not too many people.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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