By BROOKE SNAVELY
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
A popular river access point at Columbia Park near downtown Bend is closed with signs and fencing.
According to The Bend Park & Recreation District, the closure is due to safety concerns to prevent erosion of the riverbank.
The Columbia Park river access was installed in 2010 as a kayak put-in location.
It has been overused ever since as a take out, a dog park and a swimming hole, resulting in erosion of the river bank.
There’s also the problem of people jumping off the Columbia Bridge, which is a prohibited activity.
“Those folks are jumping off the bridge and then coming out at that access. Over time, especially the last couple of years, we’ve really seen this degradation happening along that section to the point that we are about to lose the trail,” said Sasha Sulia, Bend Parks operations supervisor.
Portions of the new fence were repeatedly torn down the day it was installed and had to be repaired.
Central Oregon Daily news witnessed several people hopping the fence the first day it was in place.
Public reaction to the closure is mixed.
“We usually come in with our little floats and swim down to the next bridge but we saw the big fence up,” said Julia Payton of Bend. “I think it’s a good idea because there are a lot of kids that hang out here and it tends to be kind of a crowded area.”
Helen Carter, who lives two blocks away, said she hiked over Monday night with a stand-up paddleboard and encountered the fence that was “put up overnight. It was kind of a slap in the face.”
“We’ll just have to find a different spot because obviously they put that fence up, we won’t go down there,” said Mia Sigel of Bend. “We’ll go to Miller’s Landing. That’s just right up the river.”
“It’s really important people respect that fence. We noticed just yesterday that people are trying to tear it down,” Sulia said. “I understand that there’s frustration about losing a river access. It’s the last thing we want to do but it’s really important. This fence is going to be up for a little while until that process is done.”
The Columbia Park river access closure is scheduled to remain in effect until completion of a study of river access throughout downtown Bend.
The catch is that study isn’t scheduled for completion and adoption until summer of 2021 which means this site could be closed for more than a year.