▶️ Oregon State Marine Board tours Deschutes River access points

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The agency that regulates access to Oregon’s rivers and lakes is holding its first in-person meeting in two years in Bend.

Central Oregon Daily News caught up with the Oregon State Marine Board as it considers requests for money to improve public access.

The board is meeting in Bend on Thursday to decide the fate of a dozen grant requests to build things like boat ramps and canoe access points.

The Bend Park and Recreation District is seeking $50,000 to improve access to the Deschutes River in downtown Bend.

Marine board members took a walking tour of Riverbend, Miller’s Landing and McKay Parks to get a first-hand look at existing conditions of river access points, and to better understand Bend Parks’ grant request to improve them.

“To be able to go some place that has actually applied for a grant and put some eyes on it, it kind of helps to make sense out of it,” said Val Early, Oregon State Marine Board Chair. “Then you can see what it is they are asking for. Pictures generally don’t do it justice. We saw a lot of pictures for Miller’s Landing but still, unless you see it in person, it doesn’t have the impact.”

In a heavily used section of river frontage at Miller’s Landing, Bend Park and Rec landscape architect Ian Isaacson explained how the area was opened back up because it is such a popular location for locals to access the river.

However, its popularity is causing serious erosion of the river bank. 

“We are excited. Tomorrow they’ll be considering our waterway access grant application. We requested funding to help inform the feasibility and conceptual designs of improvements to McKay, Miller’s Landing and Columbia river access points,” said Rachel Colton, Bend Park & Rec Park Planner.

If the grant request is approved, Bend Parks will use the funds to collect data of how many people use and how they use river access points, and then design improvements that will be made available for public comment this fall.

“About two months ago I went to a ribbon cutting to one of the first projects that got water access money,” said Laura Jackson, Oregon State Marine Board Vice Chair. “To actually see a kayaker in his boat using this very specialized, disability-friendly launch is really cool. This is why I do this.”

Among many improvements Bend Park and Recreation District would like to make is to improve river access at Riverbend Park.

The park has a wide beach but it is steep and the surface is uneven.

That makes it hard for people with disabilities to use.

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