Building a bridge is harder than it looks.
The nonprofit Connect Bend is renewing its efforts to bring about a footbridge crossing a portion of the Deschutes River in southern Bend, connecting the river trail from Tumalo State Park to Sunriver.
On Tuesday, the group launched a new campaign to rally support, hoping to gather 10,000 signatures on a petition backing the bridge construction on the portion of the river near River Bend Dr.
Nearly nine years ago in 2012, a bond measure was passed in Bend to provide funds for the project.
Efforts in Salem to ban the bridge failed in 2018, but ultimately the Bend Park and Rec Board of Directors (BPRD) had to forego the project after they were unable to get approval.
“It wasn’t going to be possible in the short-term to get the approval to build the bridge because the Forest Service owns certain parts of the land, and the other people who own the land did not want to build,” former board member Ted Schoenborn said.
“The land that’s in the Forest Service is in a ‘Wild & Scenic Rivers Designation’, and the land that’s inside the city limits is privately owned, and not publicly owned.”
Now, Connect Bend seeks to bring the issue back to light.
“We feel that if we don’t come out and say that we want this, and make it clear to BPRD and agencies involved and to the city council…if we don’t come out and say that we want it, then who knows when anything is going to happen,” one of the nonprofit’s board members Brent Stinski said.
He believes the project would provide massive benefits for the area.
“There’s 15,000 people in the affected area who won’t be going through Reed Market Road every time they want to get to the Deschutes National Forest,” Stinski said.
“This is an idea and a concept that has been in existence for over 20 years,” Schoenborn added. “To complete the Deschutes River Trail from Tumalo State Park basically to Benham Falls…the idea is that you could have a bike, hike trail all the way along the river.”
BPRD voted back in 2019 to strike the project from their five-year Capital Improvement Plan and 10-year System Development Charge list until “such a time that the district, other agencies, and the broad community share a vision on how to proceed.”
The full verbiage of that resolution can be found on pages 33-36 of the agenda below from February 19, 2019.Board-Report-2.19.2019-Web-2
Schoenborn was a board member at the time that decision was made.
“It didn’t mean that Bend Parks didn’t think the bridge was an appropriate thing to do, it just meant they realized well, we’re not going to be able to do it in the next five years…so let’s make sure the money is allocated effectively for other things,” he said.
BPRD’s Julie Brown told Central Oregon Daily News on Tuesday, “A bridge project is complex and would need support from other public agencies, environmental organizations and the community before BPRD would consider revisiting the topic.”
Stinski believes now is the right time to bring up this issue again.
“It’s been voted for, it’s been paid for,” he said. “So we have to use symbolic gestures to show that we haven’t forgotten, and we want to see this and think it’s the right thing for Bend.”
Connect Bend has welcomed the following community members onto its Advisory Board:
David Blair Executive Director, Worthy Garden Club
Josh Brungardt COO, UAV Factory
Brady Fuller Former Board of Directors, BPRD
Jim Gross Owner, Bend Radio Group
Krystian Jamieson Owner, Jaymovision
Erik Lukens Former Editor, Bend Bulletin
Conrad Marquard Owner, WAVE Hydration
Dennis Oliphant Former CEO at Sun Country Raft Tours
Kent Reynolds Local author, biking professional
Ted Schoenborn Former Board of Directors, BPRD
Steve Shunk Environmentalist, Author, Ecologist
Carson Storch Professional Mountain Biker, Red Bull
For more information about Connect Bend’s efforts, visit their website at https://www.connect-bend.org.