The Bend Park & Recreation District will take another step toward adopting a plan that guides park and trail access over the next decade and beyond.

During a meeting Tuesday evening, the park district’s board will review projects that have a chance to be part of its upcoming comprehensive plan, which was last updated in 2012. The approximately 50 projects listed for inclusion range from trail improvements and neighborhood park developments, to longer-term projects, such as the expansion of Pioneer Park and a possible addition of a plaza and urban park space near City Hall.

“This is a very broad brush-stroke at the future,” said Quinn Keever, park planner for the district.

Keever said the projects were collected from a variety of sources including more than 17,000 public comments from residents. From there, district staffers prioritized projects from high to low priority, based on how they each fit with the district’s views on density, access and leveraging existing assets and opportunities.

Nathan Hovekamp, park district board chair, said adding more trails emerged as the most popular request from the community. Consequently, trails dominate the list of high-priority projects, including paths alongside canals managed by Central Oregon, North Unit and Tumalo irrigation districts. Keever said those projects would formalize those unofficial trails and add amenities to pathways that are currently being used by local residents already.

“They allow the public to use them, but (the current trails) could be taken away at any time,” she said.

Hovekamp said the additional trails reflect the district’s long-term vision for trails to become vital transportation corridors through Bend as the city becomes denser.

Along the same lines, Keever added that the park district incorporated a sophisticated mapping approach to determine future locations for neighborhood parks that will be added to the comprehensive plan. The new system looks at the time it takes for Bend residents to walk to nearby parks, rather than the simple distance, to determine where parks will be needed.

“As Bend densifies, people won’t be able to just hop in their cars,” Keever said.

The district identified 30 areas of the city where more neighborhood parks are needed, primarily in Southeast Bend, and recently expanded portions of the city’s urban growth boundary.

“They’re predominantly on the outskirts of town,” Keever said.

Hovekamp added that the park district will look for parcels that become available in those areas. Going forward, he said the district has to strike a balance between reacting to development, and proactively identifying new areas of the city that could see development in the future.

“As Bend has this tremendous growth rate, we’re finding we need to be particularly vigilant about neighborhood parks,” he said.

The conversation will also include longer-term projects, including the possible expansion of the recently-opened Riley Ranch Nature Reserve and Pioneer Park, though those projects were deemed lower-priority.

“That future phase of Riley Ranch is something that’s really going to interest me,” Hovekamp said.

Additional projects, including an effort to add a plaza near Bend’s city hall, have been discussed for a while, but have yet to get much traction.

Keever said the park district is aiming to finalize a draft of the comprehensive plan in May, when the board will review it and incorporate additional public input. The final plan is slated for July.

—Reporter: 541-617-7818, shamway@bendbulletin.com

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