BEND, Ore. - (Update: Comments from involved parties)
It’s not often that a new housing development leads to a major expansion of a wooded park and trails on the outskirts of Bend, but The Tree Farm is not your typical subdivision.
The Tree Farm is being developed by Brooks Resources east of Shevlin Park and north of Skyliners Road on Bend’s western edge, with 329 acres of the property to remain as open space.
It was previously owned by the Miller family. According to Kirk Schueler, president of Brooks Resources Corporation, the family wanted to make some of the land open to public use.
"The Miller family, our partners, have owned the land a long time and have maintained it as a tree farm, managing under a forest management plan, since they've owned it," Schueler said Wednesday.
When the family decided to sell the land, Brooks Resources stepped in as a buyer. However, the land use approval that came from Deschutes County required that part of the land remain open space.
All but one of the 50 2-acre home sites, to be developed in cluster fashion, have been sold, and on Tuesday night, the Bend Park and Rec Board approved acquisition of the open space.
"So it was always going to be open space," Schueler said. "It was who was going to manage and maintain it in the condition it is today."
Last year, the park district partnered with the Trust for Public Land to apply for and receive a grant from the Forest Service’s Community Forest Program to acquire the 329-acre Tree Farm open space.
The nonprofit works to make land available for the public's enjoyment, explained TPL representative Nelson Mathews.
"Our goal as an organization is to get people outside, get people enjoying nature, get people opportunities to be healthy, to get outside, ride, bike, run explore, and this is a great example that's going to be close to Bend," Mathews said.
The district will use $156,126 to buy the property, half of the total market value. A required grant match is being provided through donation of the remaining property value from the project developers.
Park district staff said the acquisition of the property is “providing a unique opportunity to expand Shevlin Park,” with the district expecting to close on the property this summer.
"Shevlin Park is iconic in Bend," said Michelle Healy, the district's director of planning and park services. "It's about 640 acres. With the addition of 329 more acres, it nearly brings us to 1,000 acres for the community to enjoy. It provides a buffer to our urban development and provides broader recreational opportunities and it opens up the other side of Shevlin Park to the community.".
The Tree Farm’s trails will connect to Shevlin Park. The community forest property will expand connectivity to the Deschutes National Forest and Shevlin Park with more bike and pedestrian trails.
Under the development agreement, no structures can be built on the open land, possibly excepting parking lots and kiosks, Brooks Resources officials said.
Romy Mortenson, Brooks Resources vice president for sales and marketing, said, "I think that the addition of the acreage to Shevlin Park is not only a bonus for the residents of the Tree Farm, but for the entire community of Bend."
"It's very important to have green space open space and parks in our development," she added.