By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Three soccer fields at Big Sky Park could someday be lit at night, under a master plan approved Tuesday by the Bend Park & Recreation District.

The district board signed off on three master plans Tuesday night, for Big Sky, Juniper Park and the Bend Senior Center, where the district is planning a major renovation that would add a pool and fitness center.

The field lighting — the district currently has just four lighted fields, all at Skyliner Sports Complex — is one of several changes that could be coming to Juniper and Big Sky parks.

The Big Sky plan has two features of interest to cyclists, an expansion of the BMX park to include a pump track and a skills course, and a 1.5-mile loop trail for cyclocross training and racing.

There’s a proposal for an area where RC car owners can drive their vehicles, and a “Naturehood,” a newer concept the district is exploring that designates an area where kids can play with rocks, sticks and other items found in the natural environment.

At Juniper, the plan calls for replacement of the existing playground and restroom, and the construction of a new picnic shelter and a nine-hole disc golf course in a wooded grove in the park’s northeast corner.

In her presentation to the board Tuesday, district landscape architect Chelsea Schneider said foot traffic associated with the disc golf course could help cut down on unspecified illegal activity observed in that corner of the park. Police and park stewards have a difficult time observing and accessing the area due to dense vegetation, she said, adding that the disc golfers proposal would not require the removal of any trees.

Although approval of a master plan does not allocate funding for any of the listed projects, some elements at Big Sky and Juniper could be ready reasonably soon. The cyclocross loop and BMX area expansion at Big Sky, and the disc golf course at Juniper were all proposed and have strong backing by volunteers, said district planning manager Steve Jorgensen, and those volunteer groups could have the go-ahead to start building the projects this spring.

The Big Sky plan also strikes a number of proposals that were included in a 2003 master plan for the park but were never built, including a roller hockey rink, basketball and tennis courts, and an additional softball field.

Jorgensen said the district will be seeking preliminary land use approval for its proposal at Big Sky, where Deschutes County will need to approve both the field lighting and a public address system desired by High Desert BMX.

Initial approval of the district’s plans will make it easier to proceed once the district is ready to start constructing the proposed improvements. The lighted fields could be some years out, he said — the district received similar early approval for lighting at Pine Nursery Park, but has yet to allocate funds or seek permits to install light towers.

Using lights to add a few hours to how long fields are available on any given day makes it easier to guarantee field availability to the teams that use them, Jorgensen said, and at far less cost than building additional fields.

Jorgensen said it’s not uncommon for an item to make it on to a master plan but never actually be built. In some cases, the demand for certain amenities fades before construction begins — many of the same people who were pushing for tennis courts back when the last Big Sky master plan was approved have since moved on to pickleball, Jorgensen said, one of the area’s fastest-growing sports.

“It all comes and goes based on the latest fad,” he said.

Plans for a gymnasium were stripped from the master plan for the Bend Senior Center, which the district is now referring to as “Larkspur Center” to reflect a move toward offering recreation opportunities for residents of all ages. Cutting out the gym brings the overall estimated cost of the Larkspur Center expansion down from $25.6 million to $21.4 million.

District executive director Don Horton said the district’s needs for gym space are largely satisfied by gyms operated by Bend-La Pine Schools, and keeping the gym in the plan would double the district’s debt load.

District board members Brady Fuller and Craig Chenoweth both said they had some reservations about approving the Larkspur Center plan. Chenoweth said he’s concerned about the continued escalation of the cost of the project, while Fuller said the cost would mean the district will not be able to complete other desirable projects.

Chenoweth and Fuller both ultimately voted to OK the project. District staff will be continuing to refine the design over the next several weeks.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387,