After months of public hearings and appeals, Deschutes County is moving closer to a compromise on a proposed bike park immediately to the east of Bend’s urban growth boundary.
On Wednesday, the Deschutes County Commission discussed options for a controversial Bend Park & Recreation District expansion to Big Sky Park, an existing park at Hamby and Neff roads, about a quarter-mile east of Bend’s UGB. Commissioners Tammy Baney and Tony DeBone expressed interest in overruling conditions imposed in August by a Deschutes County hearings officer that the park district had appealed, while still being sensitive to concerns from neighbors about lighting and noise from organized cyclocross races.
“What I would not want to see is that this turns into a ballpark,” Baney said during the meeting.
The centerpiece of the 49-acre expansion proposed by the park district is a bike park that includes facilities for cyclocross riders and other users. After a series of restrictions imposed by the hearings officer limited where the park district could build trails and hold events — which prompted the park district’s appeal — the district and the county began trying to find middle ground.
“We didn’t set out to make anybody mad,” said Brian Hudspeth, development manager for the park district.
Big Sky Park, which occupies about 96 acres on land zoned for farm use, was approved as a youth sports complex in 1991. Following a series of upgrades that began in the early 2000s, the park hosts large sporting events and provides space on Bend’s east side for football, lacrosse, soccer practices, among other high school sports.
The park features a BMX bike track, which will be left alone under the current proposal. Hudspeth said the size and location of the park would make it a good fit for additional cycling amenities.
In a revision to Big Sky Park’s master plan last year, the park district proposed 250 additional parking spaces and a large expansion on the northern edge of the park, which would include a dog park and a mix of multi-use trails and slope-style trails for cyclists of all ages and skill levels.
In a decision near the end of August, a Deschutes County hearings officer approved the proposal, but added stipulations requiring fencing and prohibiting the park district from holding large events in parts of the park, installing permanent amplified sound systems and building trails within 250 feet of the edge of the park.
The park district then appealed the decision, criticizing its “excessively broad” definition of organized events and a set of conditions that Hudspeth said didn’t meet the county’s rules for harmonious development.
After a three-hour public hearing in October when the commissioners heard from residents on all sides of the debate, the park district proposed an alternate set of rules earlier this month. The new rules included limiting the number of mid-sized events to 25 per year and keeping event headquarters and spectator areas at least 500 feet away from park boundaries.
While several details, including parking lot lighting, still need to be ironed out, Baney and DeBone expressed support for many of the compromises, including allowing for portable amplified sound systems that could be used during certain events. Baney added that she wanted to see the event organizers embrace a good-neighbor ethos, working with residents to help mitigate sound impacts.
“I certainly hope that’s the culture of this particular park,” Baney said.
County planners intend to incorporate the feedback from commissioners into a more formal decision, likely by the end of the year. If there are no more delays, Hudspeth said he expects the park district to break ground on the expansion by next autumn. If all goes according to plan, the new bike park could be open to the public by 2020.
“It’s gonna be an awesome park when it’s done,” Hudspeth said.
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