During his long tenure as head of the Bend Metro Parks and Recreation District, it was said of the late Vince Genna that he, "never met a ballfield he didn't like." But Genna was more than just a ball sports guy as he held a long term vision for a walking/biking trail that would go along the Deschutes River from south of Bend through town and then north to Tumalo.
In dedicating the part of the original River Trail section that starts at the end of the First Street in 1989, Genna spoke of his dream of a trail that would connect north-to-south and vice-versa.
This past Tuesday a key link in Genna's dream trail was dedicated and, albeit 1,500-feet long, it's a beauty.
The section of trail begins with a new ADA compliant ramp coming down off the sidewalk on NW Portland Avenue into Pioneer Park. From there it heads due north on pavers through the park and along the First Street Rapids to the new Davis Park and the base of the rapids.
Davis Park is being created on the yet undeveloped property donated to Parks and Rec in 2006 by the late real estate developer, Jay Audia.
Eventually, a bridge will be built from Davis Park across the river to connect with the First Street section of the River Trail.
The new trail, besides having a wonderful paver surface, except for the short dirt section in Davis Park, is interesting in how it's constructed around the condominium units at the Riverside Motel. To get through a narrow gap between the condos and the river's edge, the trail designers had the construction team build a cantilevered platform that extends out over the river. The result is dramatic and makes the trail more interesting to ride and walk.
And those who walk or ride along the trail will come in close contact with the condo owners who, in the spirit of civic involvement, welcomed the trail to their backyards.
In fact, Parks went out of their way to include input on the project from not only the condo owners but property owners on the west side of the First Street Rapids.
With an eye on the historical significance of Pioneer Park, the 1928 monument to the pioneers who crossed the river at that location in the 1850s has been embedded in a large chunk of lava rock and now is at eye instead of ground level.
There's some debate on whether or not the pioneers did actually cross the river at what is now Pioneer Park. Suffice to say, research shows that pioneers did indeed cross there for a period of time, but later all crossing traffic moved upriver to what is now the Old Mill District.
Hopefully, this new portion of trail will eventually lead to the complete fulfillment of Genna's River Trail dream.