Bend park district will keep pressing for footbridge

In wake of House vote to ban such a span

BEND, Ore. - (Updating adding trail, bridge map)

This week, the Oregon House voted to block construction of a proposed footbridge over the Deschutes River.

It would have connected from the area of Deschutes River Woods east of the river to the Deschutes River Trail near the Good Dog trail area on the west side.

For years, the Bend Parks and Recreation District has been working on plans to have this bridge built.

But it was dealt a setback when Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, introduced House Bill 2027

The bill blocks construction of a footbridge in an area of the river near Bend's city limits that's designated as a scenic waterway

The House voted unanimously Wednesday to pass the bill and block the bridge; a move that Bend Parks and Rec is not pleased with, but also not surprised by, according to Don Horton, the executive director of BPRD.

"The reason I wasn't surprised was because the bill was introduced at the last minute and went through committee pretty quickly, got to the House floor, and there was no opportunity for people who support the bridge to be heard," Horton said Friday.

Opponents to the bridge say this area is critical to the Oregon spotted frog as well as elk and deer that use the area during winter

But that's an argument Horton disagrees with.

"I think the concern about the environmental issues are unfounded," he said. "We have trails throughout Bend that go through habitat. Here in the Mill District, you can see deer and bald eagles and osprey and beaver and otter. The same species you see in that stretch of the river, you see in the Old Mill District and in the city of Bend.

The bridge is also opposed by some homeowners worried about heavy foot traffic and the impact on views, 

Another issue some Bend residents might be concerned with is that the 2012 bond measure that voters approved was to be spent largely o the whitewater park, The Pavilion and the Deschutes River Trail.

But Horton said it was not specific, and funds were spent on the trail, just not on the bridge.

"The bond money we had to spend within three years, so it went to other sections of the Deschutes River Trail, and this piece will be funded from other sources," he said. 

Whisnant said he wants to continue to enforce the state's existing bridge ban, but he did recognize, through the public process, the prohibition in the bill could be overturned by voters, legislators or the governor and state parks agency.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the park district and others with a stake in the outcome will make their points to lawmakers.

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