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Bend Parks Board’s Mirror Pond Play 

The parks board members get this week's glass slipper.

Last week the Bend Parks Board wisely put the breaks on a plan to include a Mirror Pond management study in a proposed November bond request that includes a number of attractive projects, including the completion of the Bend River Trail through some key property acquisitions, the reconstruction of the perilous Colorado Avenue spillway and the construction of a seasonal ice rink on the former site of the Mt. Bachelor Park and Ride lot. The district, which owns much of the land around Mirror Pond in the form of Drake and Harmon parks was under a fair amount of pressure to take the lead on the Mirror Pond project.

We’re glad that they didn’t for several reasons.

First and foremost, the city and its supporters, led by the Mirror Pond Management Committee, have taken a deeply flawed approach to the long-term management of the river, yes, it’s actually a river—not a pond. The city continues to operate under the assumption that the community can and should do everything that it can to preserve Mirror Pond in its “historic” state, which is to say a man-made reflecting pool that serves as a de facto silt dump for the entire upper basin. Of course, the city isn’t the only disappointing actor in this drama. Perhaps the biggest deadbeat is Pacific Power, which has done nothing to accept responsibility for the dam that ought to be at the center of the debate. The company’s Central Oregon representative recently offered, lamely, that it would continue to operate the dam as long as it provided a “benefit” to its customers. Keep in mind that the dam, which may or may not even be providing power at this point, cranks out, at best, enough juice to power a whopping 500 homes.

Whatever you think of the concept of Mirror Pond, maintaining it in the current state is a costly proposition, somewhere on the order of $2 million to $5 million based on estimates for a large-scale dredging project, similar to what the community did three decades ago when the issue last arose (see a pattern here?). Of course, much has changed in that time, including our understanding of natural resources and the role of things like wetlands and floodplains in a healthy ecosystem. But don’t take our word for it—the experts, including Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife staff, say the same thing. The only long-term solution is to remove the dam and restore the river. But that advice has fallen on deaf ears.

Once again instead of listening to the experts and thinking progressively about one of the city’s most important resources, Mirror Pond advocates are trotting out the same tired excuses. “It’s an icon.” “It’s part of Bend’s history.” The same old lines that we’ve heard before and that have contributed to the ongoing gridlock on the issue.

Of course as long as the city and Mirror Pond advocates continue to resist restoration of the river as an option, they’ll continue to find that grant monies and other sources of funding for progressive environmental projects are elusive. Voters ought to take the same approach when the committee rolls out a “fund our dredging” campaign in the fall. In the meantime, we’re giving parks board members the Slipper for not weighing down an important parks’ bond with a loaded Mirror Pond study.

 

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