At first glance, Troy Field is not terribly impressive—a flat field surrounded by chain link fence. But it is an invaluable space for many residents. On most days, there is at least some activity there: someone tossing a tennis ball to a golden retriever, or a soccer team practicing. Largely informal, but occasionally the space is used by organizations like the Boys & Girls Club.
Yet, although Troy Field has become an informal front yard for the City of Bend, it is actually owned by the Bend La-Pine School District—and now it is considering it "surplus property." Not actively utilized by the school district, the logic goes that they could liquidate the property into much-needed cash. Though the school board has not yet indicated whether there is any specific interest in the field, it is prime territory, and it has valued the property at $2.6 million; funds from the eventual sale are expected to be put toward building new schools.
But not everyone agrees that selling the property is in the best public interest—or at least without a much more robust public discussion or without a master plan for preserving public space in the downtown area.
On Sunday afternoon, a group of local activists gathered at the public library, a block away from Troy Field on NW Wall, and collected signatures. Ultimately, the group is hoping to push the pause button on the planned sale.
The rationale is that the space is a de facto public park—and its loss not only could wipe out a centrally located "park," but also could change the tenor of downtown if sold to a developer for high-rise condos.
(There is an additional concern linked to the possibility of contamination from the former Troy Laundry site, which sat adjacent to Troy Field. Now a parking lot, that space is required by Department of Environmental Quality to remain covered in asphalt to contain the chemicals below. The ground beneath Troy Field has apparently never been tested, and some argue that until it is, there can be no confidence that it is safe to tear up.)
Both sides have valid arguments that the space holds public benefit—on one side, that the sale could help fund more schools, while on the coin's flip side, that the sale of Troy Field could also eliminate a space that has long, if not formally, been enjoyed by the public.
We certainly don't fault the school district for looking for means to generate more funding for schools. And we don't fault the activists for wanting to maintain public space in the downtown area. Our concern is that the overall plan for downtown Bend is being approached piecemeal. Yes, this debate is much larger than a plot of turf.
For example, the pending sale of Troy Field has raised questions about the future of Heritage Square—a concept that originated some 15 years ago and envisioned a green space in the parking lot currently adjacent to City Hall that would create a sort of town square.
Sure, this could and would be a great solution—essentially moving and upgrading the public space from Troy Field to across the street. But if this conclusion is reached, it has been done as a scramble for a solution instead of a more complete plan for the future of downtown.
Moreover, all this conversation is happening as Bend Park & Recreation moves through a public input process regarding the future of Mirror Pond, and a related redevelopment of downtown. Yet, there has been little to no public process around the future of Troy Field, and how that might be connected to other downtown development efforts.
Two of the most important tenets of effective city planning are consistency and foresight; neither seems apparent in the decision-making process here.Take our poll to share your thoughts about the future of Troy Field here.