There’s no fix yet for a parking quagmire at Harper Bridge that has residents concerned about pedestrian safety on Spring River Road, but county commissioners say they are confident they’ll find a solution before people start using the river this summer.
The Harper Bridge boat ramp in southern Deschutes County has long been a popular launching point for river floaters, and on some summer days more than 100 cars can line both sides of the road near the bridge.
“When people are loading and unloading all their floaty toys, that 10-person whatever-it-is is a target for people driving,” Sunriver Police Lt. Michael Womer told the Deschutes County Commission on Wednesday. “It’s like a video game.”
On Wednesday, the county commissioners heard several possible solutions, including a parking ban near the launch, creating dedicated paved or gravel parking areas and allowing a loading zone without parking.
Commissioners Patti Adair and Phil Henderson said they needed more time to think about the options. Commissioner Tony DeBone said he’d enthusiastically support a roughly $210,000 option proposed by the county roads department that would widen the road to add 25 marked parallel parking spots on each side and add buffered, painted bike lanes. Parking outside of the marked spots would be prohibited.
DeBone said he’s heard about issues at Harper Bridge since he was elected eight years ago, and no progress has yet been made. He said he’s wanted to move forward with the road-widening project since commissioners first heard about it almost six months ago.
He stressed the project isn’t a permanent long-term solution for problems at Harper Bridge, but it could help immediately. Dean Richardson, who lives near the Big River Boating Site, urged county commissioners to think about immediate and long-term fixes at other launching points as floating the river becomes more popular.
“Harper Bridge needs an immediate fix, but we really need to look at the big picture for public safety,” Richardson said. “If we’re going to allow people to float on the river, we have to come up with ways to make it safe.”
Paving some of the gravel for marked parking spaces won’t fix safety issues at Harper Bridge, said Chris Doty, director of the county’s roads department.
“We’re not saying it’s making it safe,” Doty said. “We’re saying it’s making it safer. By no means are we happy with the safety aspect of it.”
Adair said she was concerned about allowing parking on both sides of the road. Toddlers could still dart out between parked cars and be hit, she said.
“The plan was cutting the parking in half, but it wasn’t making it safe,” she said. “I still worry that this isn’t win-win. It’s lose-lose”
The Sunriver Chamber of Commerce favors shutting down all parking on Spring River Road, chamber President John Holland said. But some who live near the launch point said they favored the paved parking option.
Robert Bennington, whose company Bennington Properties manages short-term rentals in the Sunriver area, said banning parking near Harper Bridge will just make issues worse at other launch sites. He compared a parking ban to attempting to plug a hole.
“Plugging a hole is just going to be like plugging a toilet,” he said. “It’s going to overflow, and it’s going to cause a mess when it does overflow.”
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