Editorial: Policy protects parks by limiting commercial use

As more people head to Bend’s parks as the weather warms, they won’t confront a growing number of vendors. That’s thanks to a new policy from the Bend Park & Recreation District about business use of parks.

That’s good news for those, like us, who want parks to be an oasis from the commercialism that dominates so much of our lives.

Jan Taylor, the community relations manager for the park district, said she has received a growing number of requests from vendors who want to operate in the parks, but reaction from the public has been consistently in favor of limiting commercialism.

The philosophy of the district, she said, is to make the parks available for a whole array of experiences, but not to allow an expansion of vendors.

Vendors are already permitted at public events such as the July 4 celebrations or Munch & Music events. The district also contracts with Sun Country Tours to rent safe floating devices and provide free kid life jackets and education about water safety. As floating has increased in recent years, Taylor said the district determined the need for such services, and it costs less to contract for them. The public will continue to be able to rent park shelters and reserve space for a variety of uses, including business-related efforts, with certain restrictions.

The big change in the new policy concerns businesses that use parks for activities such as fitness classes, which will be required to register, show they have insurance and pay a modest fee that varies depending on the amount of time and number of people involved. Those provisions take effect at the end of June, but the district expects to be flexible as it learns what works and what doesn’t, and then make adjustments to the policy if needed.

Taylor also said the district hopes to encourage fitness classes and other such activities to use some of its less-frequented locations rather than focusing on the busiest ones such as Drake and Farewell Bend parks. And the new registration will allow the district to notify them when a planned event conflicts with their usual use.

Vendors will still be able to set up on private property or city rights of way near parks, but the district’s policy does well to preserve the natural oasis of its parks for all visitors.