▶️ The Great Outdoors: ‘Good Dog’ has new access points to protect streambanks


Here’s a Bend-centric problem: People playing with their dogs in the river, trampling riparian vegetation and eroding the streambanks. It’s happening at Good Dog, a well-loved off-leash area a few miles up the Deschutes River from Bend.

But there’s a project to restore the riverbank while continuing to provide access to the water for dogs and their people.

“It’s a tricky balance what we are pushing for. It’s a really popular site,” said Darek Staab, Pacific Northwest Education Coordinator for Trout Unlimited. “We want to allow plenty of access to the river and places where we can recreate and have our dogs with us, but not see some of the vegetation loss and losing important plants and riverbank health, whether it’s for water quality or fish habitat or songbirds or other species that live along the river.” 

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A portion of the Rimrock Trail Restoration Project that dog owners will notice is installation of split-rail fences to channel their four-legged friends’ access to the river.

It looks successful. The dogs are still having a blast. 

“Yeah, I think it’s an adjustment for folks to see some of the differences. But with the signs of springs, it’s exciting to see the vegetation coming back and then see it have a chance to survive,” Staab said. “For me right now, the greenery and a location like this and seeing the chance of this place continuing to thrive, it does give me hope. I think we’ll measure success in a couple of years in the way that it works for folks and hopefully the habitat will remain intact. We are hopeful at this point.” 

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Years in the making, the project was run through a National Environmental Policy Act review. There was lots of public input including from DogPac, an organization that champions off-leash areas. 

And now the work to protect the riverbank is being done by a diverse group of agencies and organizations including the Deschutes National Forest, Trout Unlimited, the Deschutes Trails Coalition with funding from Visit Bend and the Bend Sustainability Fund.

“We talked to the crew that was down here and they explained what they are trying to do,” said Kristina Maugg of Bend, who brought three dogs to the river. “Basically, rejuvenate because we’ve all been using this whole space. They are just taking off certain spots and keeping us to one space. I don’t think anyone really notices a difference in terms of use. We love the fact that they are rejuvenating certain parts of it.”

“Most of the feedback… there’s just a lot of curiosity,” said Justin Ewer, Trails Manager for the Deschutes National Forest. “There is some concern among folks, are they going to be able to continue coming and enjoying this place and bring their dogs to water? Usually when we have that conversation, we explain we are looking to protect the resource you enjoy and provide access. You see folks put it together and feel pretty good about it at that point.” 

What dogs and dog owners will find when they visit the river at Good Dog are “defined access points,” that were getting shredded by dogs racing up and down the steep bank to retrieve balls and sticks thrown into the river by their well-meaning humans. 

“What we’ve done is we’ve allowed two access points that have been improved for getting in and out of the water. Then we’ve protected some of the riverbank, trying to keep the riverbank healthy,” Staab explained. “The fencing is to discourage the additional spread of trails that could grow from that site because on this side of the fence the vegetation is intact. We want to keep it that way and try to maintain as much as the riverbank in that location as we can. The slope has quite a bit of wood to catch some of the rainfall to catch the erosion that was occurring there. There’s a carefully designed trail that goes down to the bottom.” 

The project includes about two miles of streambank and large sections of trail between the river and the trailhead. 

“With all the use in this area, there’s been a proliferation of unauthorized trails that happened over time. We actually added some official trails to the system. We added about 5.5- trail miles. We are also doing some work in a few places to decommission some trails that weren’t sustainable from a resource point of view. Ones that go straight up and down the hill that are funneling sediment right into the river, things like that,” Ewer said. 

Another positive of the riverbank restoration and trail work is improved signage. It is much easier to navigate with clearly marked trails, distances and directions to help dog owners and other visitors to the areas plan loops and return routes to their starting point.

“I love dogs. I think many of us do in Central Oregon. They are a part of our families and our lifestyle,” Staab said. “I think it’s a matter of how we can enjoy our time with dogs but also make sure we don’t lose the wildlife and some of the habitat that we share with other species. I think that’s the balance we are striving for.”


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