It was a birthday they didn’t want to forget.
A group of community members gathered at Worrell Park in Bend on Saturday for its 25th birthday, another chance for them to speak out against a plan to flatten the park and turn it into a parking lot.
The plan has the vote of two of three Deschutes County Commissioners. Patti Adair, the lone commissioner against the plan, spoke at the birthday event.
“I know once it’s flattened, we can never re-create it,” Adair said. “It has a lot of boulders, a lot of trees, it’s really something incredibly unique in Downtown Bend. Please, can we keep it?”
She called the park a ‘little piece of heaven’, saying she hoped they could get just one more vote from another commissioner to save the park.
Folks also heard from geologist Derek Loeb, who gave background on how the little hill in the center of town came to be.
He said it was important to save the park “not just because it’s a unique geologic feature, but because it’s an important reminder that we live in a volcanically active area.”
Historian Vanessa Ivey also spoke about the park’s history and how the piece of earth has “withstood more than 100 years of community growth and development.”
“Today, Deschutes County and Bend continue to be places people want to be a part of,” Ivey said. “We are a destination for recreation, quality of life and opportunities. Development is ongoing. But like the people of Bend in 1920, and the officials of Deschutes County in 1997, we can choose what that development looks like. What we grow is a reflection of what we value. This rough-cut gem created from a force of nature is not just a reminder of what the landscape looked like over a thousand years ago. This pocket of park is also a reflection of the people who live here. What they assess as important for their community, for this moment, as we plan for the future. Examples left for those who follow.”
Teen leaders of the Green Leadership Coalition also took the microphone. The group’s co-leader, Olive Nye, shared part of a testimony that she plans to read before Deschutes County Commissioners.
“Worrell’s natural high desert portrait contrasts that of other parks with manicured landscapes,” Nye said. “For this reason, Worrell is an important educational resource for people to learn about the natural Central Oregon ecosystem.”
“This decision affects not only our generation, but those to come,” she continued. “We want our children to find joy in the same places we did when we grew up, and flattening this park will take away another sacred place where kids can see marmots, watch butterflies pollinate, and learn about native tree species.”
Small groups of students from the coalition will take turns sharing testimonies about the park during upcoming commissioner’s meetings.
A number of events have taken place at Worrell Park over the past several months, in an effort from supporters to prove its value to the community.