Expanding Drake Park by filling a portion of Mirror Pond would be a costly undertaking, members of the Bend Park & Recreation District board learned Tuesday.
With the future of both a proposed dredging and the more than 100-year-old dam at the north end of the pond unknown, the district is aiming to move ahead with its plan to rehabilitate the eastern bank of the pond and complete a section of the Deschutes River Trail from Galveston Avenue through to Portland Avenue. These proposals have frequently called for partially filling in the “bay” between the footbridge and Coyner Point, a shallow and slow-moving corner of Mirror Pond.
Tuesday, park district Executive Director Don Horton put the estimated cost of bank improvements in Drake Park and construction of the trail at $7.5 million, including $1.4 million to transform a sliver of the now-submerged bay into dry park land.
That $1.4 million estimate is based on trucking away any sediment pulled from the edge of the pond and replacing it with fill dirt from elsewhere, adding only about a half acre of dry land to Drake Park. For the last few years, most discussions of dredging the pond have proposed reusing pond sediment on site, reducing disposal costs and allowing for a slight expansion of the park grounds.
Lon Mikkelsen, a consultant working with the park district, told the board additional measures would need to be taken to shore up the soil if the district attempted to use sediment pulled from the bottom of the pond, adding another $2 million to $3 million to the project.
Mikkelsen said the sediment does not drain well, and could create an unusually squishy corner of the park if re-used above the waterline.
“It would be like Jell-O out there for quite some time,” he said.
Horton cautioned that the design process is not complete, and that more precise cost estimates should be ready by December.
The district’s proposal includes replacing the aging rock wall along the eastern bank of the pond with combinations of rocks, logs, and planted areas. The size of the beach near Galveston Avenue would be doubled, and a new elevated boardwalk would run from near Coyner Point to Newport Avenue.
District board members praised the concepts presented Tuesday for the trails, boardwalk, pond overlooks and landscaping, but did not weigh in on whether filling a portion of the pond should remain part of the proposal.
The trail and bank alterations would both be money well spent, said board member Ted Schoenborn, regardless of whether the dam remains in place or the proposed dredging is ever completed.
PacifiCorp, the company that owns the aging dam, now says it intends to leave the dam in place, but has in the recent past said it is no longer interested in operating the facility.
Board member Brady Fuller said if the district filled a portion of the pond and the dam were to go away, the district could be left with an unsightly retaining wall that would no longer be hidden beneath the water or serve any function in the park.
The push to dredge the pond is now largely being led by Mirror Pond Solutions, a partnership formed by two Bend businessmen who bought the land beneath the pond for the purpose of moving the long-discussed dredging proposal forward.
Mirror Pond Solutions has begun lining up the permits it would need to dredge the pond, but so far has secured no financial commitments from the park district, the city of Bend or PacifiCorp. The most recent estimate of what it would cost to dredge the pond pegged the price tag at $6.7 million.
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