The Bend Park & Recreation District and Bend-La Pine Schools are looking at a unique approach to developing sports fields near a west-side middle school.

On Tuesday, the park district’s board approved an agreement with the school district, allowing the park district to develop and maintain athletic fields on a 4.5-acre parcel owned by Bend-La Pine Schools near Pacific Crest Middle School, off of NW Skyliners Road.

The partnership gives the district a chance to develop fields for soccer and lacrosse practices in a quadrant of town where developable space is at a premium while giving the school district the flexibility to use the fields if it needs them in the future, according to Michelle Healy, planning and park services director for the park district.

“They had a resource, we had a need, and I think it’s going to be a real benefit for everyone,” Healy said.

During the meeting, board member Ted Schoenborn praised Healy for navigating a challenging arrangement.

“It looks like a perfectly fair arrangement,” Schoenborn said. “But I’m sure that wasn’t easy.”

Mike Tiller, executive director of facilities for Bend-La Pine, said the school district originally acquired the parcel as part of a larger acquisition in 2014, though the district didn’t have a use for additional fields in the area at that time. Consequently, the 4.5-acre parcel has not been developed.

While the park district and the school district have often worked together, neither Healy nor Tiller could recall an arrangement in which one entity developed the other’s land. Still, Tiller said the school district never considered selling the parcel, concluding that it may well need the space in the future.

From the park district’s perspective, the agreement gives it space to develop needed athletic fields in a corner of town where development and the rising cost of land has made it difficult to find land that’s suitable for fields. While many park district resources favor the western half of the city, Healy said a lot of the district’s athletic fields are in east Bend, in areas like Pine Nursery Park and Big Sky Park. She added that this can be a challenge for west-side parents.

“What we’ve heard from people is that they’d much prefer not to travel and put extra vehicle miles on their cars,” Healy said.

The arrangement calls for the park district to develop two multipurpose athletic fields on the parcel, which Healy suggested could be used for the district’s lacrosse and soccer programs.

The park district will also pay to handle mowing, seeding and other maintenance on the fields, while the surrounding schools, including Pacific Crest, Summit High School and William E. Miller Elementary School, will be able to use the fields during the school day, according to Tiller.

“I just think it’s a good fit for the whole community,” he said.

The park district’s recently approved capital improvement plan, which runs from 2019 to 2023, includes $2 million allocated to the fields, and Healy said the cost of maintenance and development should fall within that budget.

The agreement runs for 20 years, and if the school district determines it needs the fields before then, it has the option to suggest other fields for community use, or to reimburse the park district for development costs.

Healy added that the district is planning to hire a designer later this summer, and construction will begin in 2019.

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

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