Artificial turf is not for everyone, but its installation near the river in Bend shouldn’t become the donnybrook at the Deschutes. The city’s planning commission should allow the turf.
Jackie and Ray Hayworth live on Riverfront Street, next to the pedestrian bridge to Columbia Park. Anyone who has crossed that bridge has likely seen their pickleball court and maybe spotted the fake grass. The Hayworths installed rock and fake grass after people and dogs tromping back and forth to the river wore down the real grass and turned the area more into mud. Artificial turf and rock are a durable alternative.
But Bend has something known as the water overlay zone. Its purpose is to “conserve and enhance the natural resource values of areas along the Deschutes River and Tumalo Creek within the city.” It does so, in part, by promoting the preservation and restoration of native riparian vegetation. And city staff have determined that installing turf and rock is not acceptable.
Among the criticisms leveled by staff are that the turf is green in the winter. That’s true, but the city has also made a push to reduce lawn watering and encourage xeriscaping, landscape styles that requires little or no irrigation. Artificial turf is one way to accomplish that goal.
City staff pointed out how turf and rock create a less permeable surface — even though the turf has holes in it for water to seep through. The city also worries about chemical runoff from the artificial turf, citing a study done of another form of turf. Nothing like comparing apples and oranges. And if the city is really concerned about runoff, why hasn’t it done a thing about the city pipes that collect runoff from city streets and dump it into the Deschutes River?
There’s very little natural about the Deschutes River as it flows through the heart of Bend. Docks jut out into the river. Bridges cross it. Artificial turf is just as natural as the kayaks, paddleboards, chairs and tables that line the shore. Allow it.