Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, and others have argued that the Bend Park & Recreation District’s plan for a footbridge over the Deschutes River south of Bend should be slowed down or stopped.
But a new survey of park district residents, most of whom are Buehler’s constituents, indicates widespread support for trail development and footbridge completion.
Trails are at or near the top of the list of most-used, most-wanted offerings, according to the survey conducted for the district by ETC Institute of Kansas. The survey was completed in January through March as part of the district’s effort at public outreach as it updates its comprehensive plan. That was before the discussion about the bridge became an issue in the Oregon Legislature.
The survey had a margin of error of about 4.25 percent, with a 95 percent level of confidence. The district got more than 500 responses.
Among other things, the survey found:
• Gravel or natural trails and paved trails are the top two park district amenities a majority of households visit most often. Moreover, about 85 percent of survey respondents say they have used either type of trail in the past 12 months.
• A majority of respondents also said soft- and hard-surface trails are the most important facilities the district has.
• More than half of respondents were “very supportive” of completing a footbridge to connect trails on both sides of the river, and another 18 percent were somewhat supportive.
The survey and its findings should make a couple of things clear.
The notion that a footbridge and trail connectivity are not important to district residents is laughable. There is community support for the idea.
Buehler has written that he wants more vetting of a potential footbridge. But it’s not like the park district can do whatever it wants. It would have to get permission from the Forest Service before doing anything, as the proposed bridge would be sited on federal land. The federal government would complete an extensive environmental review to ensure a footbridge would not damage the environment or the area’s scenic quality.
The park district remains popular in Bend, in no small part, because it’s sensitive to what the community wants from it. Buehler should learn from that idea.