Bend Park & Recreation District got the OK from the city of Bend planning commission to build and improve trails around Mirror Pond, though one commissioner still has doubts about the number of trees slated to be removed.
This fall, construction of $6.6 million worth of projects will begin in and around Drake Park and Pacific Park. The goal is to improve banks and trails that have deteriorated over time, which has generated safety and environmental issues.
Projects include new paved trails and retaining walls, repairing an existing trail and adding new boardwalks with lighting.
Also planned is an underpass beneath the Newport Avenue Bridge, which will connect the Deschutes River Trail so walkers and bikers don’t have to use side streets to get back on the trail. A new parking lot at Pacific Park will also be built.
The concept was generally supported by the commission, which voted 6-1 in favor of the project on Monday. But Commissioner Scott Winters voted against it over a concern that several commissioners shared when they first heard about the project: The number of trees that will be removed along the waterfront.
“I feel like we are taking out these special moments in Drake Park to put in a large asphalt path,” Winters said Monday.
In January, the planning commission put the project on pause, over concerns that too many trees will be removed. Thirty-seven trees are slated for removal, though Brian Hudspeth, the construction manager at the park district, says that is a worst-case-scenario estimate.
On Monday, the park district presented an updated tree plan, showing where more than 20 trees would be replanted during construction.
Many commissioners asked whether the park district could change the trail design to go around trees — especially iconic ones that line the waterfront.
“Why does the path have to follow the river?” Winters said. “It seems like you wouldn’t have to take out as many if the path wasn’t along the river.”
Don Horton, the executive director of the park district, said Monday that a team of people, including an arborist, took tree removal into consideration while designing the trails.
“We’re going to lose a few trees along the way, but our commitment to you and the community is while we’re building this, if we can find a way to save some of those trees, we’re going to do it,” Horton said.
Topographical issues, like rock outcroppings jutting out to the water, drove many of the design decisions, Hudspeth said.
The current design is seen as the best balance between preserving trees and adhering to city code to build 10-foot-wide trails that followed standards laid out by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Building a trail by the water is also necessary, Hudspeth said, because no matter where a trail is built, that is where people will go.
“If they want to walk around the river, they’re going to walk around the river,” Hudspeth said.