Thursday, March 19, 2015

City Council Votes 4-3 to Support Mirror Pond Redevelopment Plan

Posted By on Thu, Mar 19, 2015 at 11:46 AM

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Lat night, City Council narrowly voted to support a plan put forth by the Mirror Pond Ad Hoc Committee and recently approved by the Bend Park & Recreation District Board, to replace the failing dam with a more natural feature that would maintain Mirror Pond. The proposal's success relies on a public-private partnership and investment by developers into the surrounding area. 

Now that the plan has the approval of Council, Rep. Knute Buehler (R-Bend) can move forward with a bill seeking $5 million from Oregon Lottery funds to help kickstart the project. He introduced the bill, HB 3283, on Tuesday.

“The Mirror Pond proposal will restore the river to a more natural flow, create more recreational options, and open the area for economic development and improvement of public parks," Buehler said in a release today. “While there are other short-term solutions that would clean up sediment in Mirror Pond, this is the only solution that presents a long lasting vision for our community, one that will pass on a better Bend for our children and grandchildren."

The Mirror Pond Ad-Hoc Committee unveiled its Mirror Pond and Downtown Redevelopment Concept last November to addressing the failing Newport Dam and the local landmark that is Mirror Pond. In the interest of avoiding taxing residents directly for the project, the committee drew a plan that involves selling or renting publicly owned land to private developers to generate revenue. It also sought to balance public opinion. In surveys, local residents were evenly split between two options—keeping the dam (and saving Mirror Pond) and letting the Deschutes River run free.

"How do you bring those two polarizing opinions together?" Horton asked at the November unveiling. To that end, the proposal would replace the dam with a cascading rock structure that allows safe fish passage while maintaining Mirror Pond's water levels. It also includes plans to build out portions of the river bank where sediment frequently gets deposited.

However, support for the plan is far from unanimous. In addition to the Council's 4-3 decision—with Mayor Jim Clinton, and councilors Nathan Boddie and Barb Campbell dissenting—a number of local residents are protesting the proposal, and the bill, arguing that there may be better uses of public funds, and that questions remain about both the projects environmental sustainability and financial feasibility.

What do you think should be done about Mirror Pond? Take our poll and sound off in the comments.

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