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Forest Service Wants Off-Leash Input: Proposal would expand winter access for dogs 


Bend dog owners who want more access to groomed ski trails will have a chance to share their perspective with the Forest Service and other winter trail users this week at an open house aimed at airing some of the access issues. While there are no official proposals on the table, off-leash proponents lead by Bend-based DogPAC have been pushing the Forest Service to ease restrictions north of the Cascade Lakes Highway in an area that has been off limit to dogs, unless by special permit, since the 1980s and is presently reserved for Nordic skiers.

While dogs are permitted off-leash in other areas of the Deschutes National Forest, including the trail systems around Wanoga and Edison Sno Parks, dog owners must share those trails with snowmobiles, creating the potential for conflict. DogPAC has argued that its members and other dog owners would be better suited to non-motorized trails. They have proposed adding several new miles of groomed trail on the Nordeen plateau, which dog owners would access through the Swampy Lakes Sno Park. The Forest Service has not yet offered an official position on the working proposal. However, it's a sensitive issue with existing trail users because of the limited number of non-motorized trail miles in the winter trail networks closest to Bend. The Central Oregon Nordic Club, which currently maintains the Nordeen Loop as part of the un-groomed trail network, has already submitted a formal statement opposing the change. The Tumalo Langlauf Club, which maintains the groomed network under an agreement with the Forest Service has not yet taken a formal position on DogPAC's initiative.

The open house could be the first step in resolving some of the issues, or solidifying the status quo. The Forest Service has said it is interested in hearing from all users at the open house and hopefully heading off some of the conflicts now, before the start of the winter season.

The open house is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. Thursday night at the Bend Metro Parks and Recreation building, 799 SW Columbia St.

Miller Landing Park Project Gets A Boost

The push to build a new riverfront park in Bend got a boost this week from the Oregon Community Foundation (OCF), which announced that it has pledged $50,000 toward the acquisition of the Miller Landing property. The news brings the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the community at large a step closer to realizing the vision of a new riverfront park just downstream of the Colorado spillway. The TPL identified the Miller Landing property as one of its highest priority acquisitions during a recent survey of community open-space assets. Since that time, it has been working with property owners, which includes the Miller Family (of Miller Lumber fame) and Brooks Resources to purchase the property. Bend Metro Parks and Rec District has already pledged $750,000 toward the acquisition. Both the Trust for Public Land and Oregon State Parks have committed $250,000 toward the roughly $1.7 million asking price. The pledge from OCF brings TPL within $185,000 of its goal, which it must raise before the end of the year according to the terms of the sale agreement with the Miller Family and Brooks Resources. TPL believes that it can reach that mark, but only with the help of local residents, to whom the group is turning to down the fundraising stretch. To donate, go online to tpl.org. To contact the local office, call Kristin Kovalik at 382-2092, or e-mail Kristin.Kovalik@tpl.org

After Abuses, City Likely To Scrap Parking Program The city of Bend is preparing to pull the plug on its downtown parking validation program, again, because of persistent problems with downtown employees and business owners who abuse the system. City staff is proposing to kill the validation program at the end of the calendar year and has already met with the program's chief proponent, the Downtown Bend Business Association (DBBA), to discuss the change.

City staff and DBBA are already kicking around ideas to replace the validation program, but it's not yet clear exactly what the successor program would look like. In the meantime, DBBA is generally supportive of ending the validation program at the end of the next month because of the problems that have been identified, said DBBA Executive Director Chuck Arnold. Of foremost concern is the sharp drop in parking revenue that the city has seen since reinstituting the validation program last year. It has lost about $37,000 in parking fine revenue since May of last year. The city and its parking contractor are spending a significant amount of time administering the validation program, which allows customers to have the $22 parking fine waived if they can prove that they were shopping at a downtown business. According to the city's analysis, Diamond has spent about $35,000 in the last year and a half on enforcement and administration costs related to the program. As a result, Diamond has reduced the amount of time that is spent on maintenance at the Centennial Parking Plaza.

While the parking validation program is seen as a downtown amenity, helping to level the playing field with other non-fee areas like the Old Mill District, the city has battled abuses by downtown merchants and employees for years. The problem isn't getting any better under the current system. Since last year, the city has rejected more than 400 parking validation claims, mostly from employees and merchants who opt to hopscotch around downtown rather than purchase long-term parking permits. Of particular concern is the uptick in dubious validations. Between May and October, the city saw a roughly 75 percent increase in rejected validations compared to the same period last year.

"What's going on is not working," Arnold said. "It's creating more confusion than it is helping people."

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