Bend Mayor Jim Clinton apparently surprised City Manager Eric King with his public suggestion that the city pick up at least part of the tab to assure the future of Mirror Pond. That, in turn, surprised us, though it appears King was less surprised by the suggestion itself than by who made it. The pond, after all, is the signature feature not only of Drake Park, but of the city as a whole.

Replacing the Pacific Power dam that created the pond may not be cheap, but it must be done. And the Bend Park & Recreation District alone should not be expected to pick up the tab. Some estimates put the initial cost at a relatively low $3.7 million, but the price tag actually could be substantially higher.

Meanwhile, those who suggest that the Deschutes River north of the Colorado dam should be allowed to return to its “natural” state are living in a fool’s paradise. The river on either side of that dam is far from free-flowing, and it’s difficult to imagine that it ever will be. Consider:

Just above the Pacific Power dam lies the Colorado Avenue dam. The park district will begin work there this summer to improve safety and provide a space for whitewater sports enthusiasts, work that will further artificially change the flow of the river there.

Going south, the Deschutes is drawn down at both Wickiup and Crane Prairie reservoirs to provide water for the summer agricultural irrigation.

That’s not all. North of Mirror Pond, and still inside the city, lies the North Unit Irrigation District canal dam, which allows the Jefferson County irrigation district to pull water from the river. Further north are the Round Butte and Pelton dams in Jefferson County. Each one changes the flow of the river in one way or another.

One need only walk through Drake Park this time of year to see how important Mirror Pond is to the city. Because that is so, the city and the park district should extend their current collaboration on the dam to one that includes joint financial responsibility for its future.