SALEM, OR -- Despite this week's decision by Oregon's State Parks and Recreation Department to not change rules preventing a bridge over a section of the Deschutes River designated as a Scenic Waterway, a bill that would also prevent such a span continues to make its way through Salem. Bend Parks and Recreation wants to construct the pedestrian bridge to create a continuous Deschutes River Trail from Sunriver to Tumalo.
Dozens of Central Oregonians traveled to the State Capitol Wednesday to voice their opinions on HB 2027, sponsored by Rep. Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver), which has already passed Oregon's House. The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee held Wednesday's public hearing where Christine Phillips testified that Bend Parks and Rec is bullying her neighbors. "Bend Park and Rec's use of condemnation or eminent domain as a tactic to threaten and intimidate Oregon landowners should be unacceptable in this state. They're good at using innuendo and the press to insult 'rich people who live on the river.' How ironic that good land stewardship, ownership of property and fiscal responsibility, gets summed up as 'rich people being greedy."
Former Bend Mayor Jim Clinton also supports the bill, saying another bridge is unnecessary. "Just a mile downstream from this segment, there already is a trail bridge across the river. So, really what we're talking about here is convenience in this highly sensitive and protected area for people to use a bridge just to get across the river when they apparently are unable to go down just one mile to get on the existing bridge."
Bend Parks and Rec Executive Director Don Horton was the first to speak against the bill. He testified, "The project is a strongly held community desire. A tool in updating the district's comprehensive plan was a statistically valid survey conducted in March and April of this year by ETC Institute indicates that the citizens of Bend favor the bridge, five to one. 72% of the respondents favor or strongly favor the bridge; while only 14% oppose or strongly oppose the bridge." He also addressed the private/public land controversy, "The area that we're looking at locating the bridge is on the US Forest Service property, so we're not talking about it being on private property. We've always felt that a public facility ought to be on public property. And, one side of where the bridge will be located is an off-leash dog area that is 640 acres in size and has more people and off-leash dogs than any other dog park that we have in our community."