BEND, Ore. - The National Park Service has gone along with a state historic preservation planner’s recommendation and rejected a bid to add downtown Bend’s century-old Troy Field to the National Register of Historic Places.
Residents around town offered mixed feelings about the often-vacant spot of green on Wednesday.
“The spot is really nice as far as a big green field, but it doesn’t seem super useful. So, it’s often empty,” Rick Lee said.
“It’s a pretty important piece of town. Building condos or something here is just going to be outrageous," Bill Smith said.
The federal historian who turned thumbs-down also proposed an option that could succeed: to instead expand the current listing of the original Bend High School across the street – now the school district’s headquarters – to include the green space across Bond Street.
The proposed nomination was sent to the agency in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, but with a split opinion on whether it should be approved for listing.
Christine Curran, deputy state historic preservation officer, had written in her submission that she believed the nomination "does not make the case for the property's significance" under the criteria for "entertainment-recreation facilities."
That was at odds with the recommendation of listing voiced in February by the Oregon State Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation.
Curran wrote, "This nomination lacks a historic context for the property's area of significance," and said the play field, owned by the Bend-La Pine Schools, "has few character-defining features."
In Monday's notice from National Register Historian Lisa Deline agreed with Curran that the site is not individually eligible as proposed.
"The nomination lacks a recreational context and comparative analysis of recreational facilities at the local level," Deline wrote.
"The current nomination discusses the site as used by the community, for a variety of activities, over a long historic time period, with no particular argument as to why the property is significant,” she added.
However, Deline added, “Since this site was used by the surrounding neighborhood, and in particular, the high school as their athletic field, amending the Bend High School nomination to expand the property boundary … may be an approach to consider.”
However, she wrote, such a proposal would fall under a different National Register criterion, so “additional research, evaluation and documentation would be needed to develop a local educational context and to evaluate the educational role Bend High School played in the community. Discussion of the athletic curriculum, including the school district’s purchase of Troy Field in 1937, would be part of this significance argument.”
In a cover letter to Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Mikalson, Ian Johnson, associate deputy state historic preservation officer, said the original nomination could be rewritten and resubmitted at any time to address concerns regarding the field’s individual eligibility for listing.
However, Johnson also noted the option laid out by the federal historian and said that would require a new process and review by the Bend Historic Landmarks Commission and state Advisory Committee on Historic Preservation. Johnson said the next submission deadline for new nominations is Nov. 1, and the submission could go before the state panel next February.
Still some would like to the the lot put to a functional use. “I’m keen to see Bend grow and if that means an old baseball field gets turned into something else or something new, I’m pro that idea," Lee said.
The school district had proposed to sell the space to a hotel developer, using the nearly $2 million to help build new schools. That came after the school district turned down two city offers of half or less that amount. The Bend Park and Rec District did not make an offer for the property.
But a required zoning change ran into heavy opposition and was rejected.
The school district confirmed earlier this year it had let a real estate agent's contract expire on Jan. 31, and said the property was not on the market, with all options still on the table for the future.
Despite a public campaign to "save Troy Field" as an historic green space, the school district had objected to the proposed National Register listing.