On Sunday afternoon, botanical artist Jeanne Debons flipped through her ‘field book’, naming each bit of hand-painted nature as she went.
“This is Oregon grape,” she said. “Oregon sunshine, spruce.”
The plants are significant, she explained, because of their presence in Downtown Bend’s Worrell Park, where she and a group of community members had gathered.
On the first day of spring, they hoped to raise awareness about a plan by Deschutes County Commissioners to transform the slice of earth into a 64-space parking lot to help resolve space issues in the area.
Construction on the $2.5 million plan is set to begin within six months to a year.
Donna Owens heard about the plans around a year ago from an article in The Bulletin.
“I got involved and asked a lot of questions and realized, this is an existing park,” she said. “This was designated 25 years ago by our county commission to be a park, not to be a parking lot.”
She gestured to a couple of other areas where more parking could be built nearby, but at a higher expense.
“This is a lot of money for not a lot of parking, and a forever-gone park,” Owens said.
The group of concerned citizens has been seeking to build public support for the park through writing letters to local media and encouraging people to write to county commissioners.
Owens said she believed between 75 and 100 letters had been sent to commissioners so far.
Sunday’s event gave attendees the chance to learn more about the park’s offerings, including a clue hunt where participants could spot the ‘signs of spring’ throughout the space.
There was also a petition available to sign, and snacks were laid out on a table.
The crowd later in the afternoon was sparse, but around 30 people attended throughout the day, including Bend City Councilor Barb Campbell.
Debons offered some greeting cards featuring her art on the front to those who completed the clue hunt.
“If you look around in this area, there’s nothing quite like this particular park,” she said. “It’s elevated, it’s of a unique geology.
“The vegetation that’s here is unique, and it allows people that are here in town to come and be away from town in just a little bit.”
The group plans to host an ‘art in the park’ event on Earth Day, as well as a celebration of the park’s history on May 20.