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Recreation Endeavors Make Cents 

Whitewater park and outdoor industry will boost Bend's economy

Since the Bend Park and Recreation District bond measure passed last week (barely, 51.7% to 48.3%), the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance has been hard at work.

"This is the start of our capital campaign to fund the surf component of the park," said BPTA board member Jayson Bowerman, of one of the most highly publicized projects to come out of the bond measure—a whitewater park at the Colorado Dam.

And, so far, so good, Bowerman said.

In the last two months the advocacy group raised nearly $30,000 and has secured private pledges for over $50,000. The monies raised through private donation will pay for the recreation improvements to the Deschutes River as it passes under Colorado Avenue. The BPTA is counting on the improvements costing around $900,000.

According to the BPTA board, each and every year after construction the investment will yield returns equal or greater to the initial investment, in terms of a beneficial economic influence on the community.

Separating the BPTA project from the park district's responsibilities can be confusing—mostly because the two groups have overlapping initiatives. But it's best to remember this: BPTA is in charge of the surf park, the parks district is in charge of the rest.

The Colorado Dam safe passage project is slated to cost $5 million. The bulk of that money will go towards a new footbridge, as the old one is in significant decay. That money also pays for the safe passage channel and a natural habitat channel on the river, said Scott Wallace a Bend Park and Recreation District board of director's member.

On river left is where floaters will find the safe passage channel, a mellow section of the river for humans. Bowerman is hopeful that the new footbridge will have enough clearance to accommodate Stand-Up Paddle boarders.

The surf park will exist in the center channel where there will be four waves. The top wave, at least, would be easily manipulated via a hydraulically-filled bladder, which would change the composition of the wave to serve a broad constituency. Such a feature would also open the door for whitewater competitions.

On river right there will be a habitat channel, complete with deep water holes, eddies and clean gravel, which should promote fish nesting, Bowerman said. The habitat zone would be within sight of the footbridge, making it something of an interpretive area.

Similar whitewater parks have been shown to bring in millions of dollars for the communities that put the parks into place. Status Consulting, a Colorado-based company, pegged the annual economic impact of Golden's whitewater park at $1.4 to $2 million. According to Bowerman, other parks have had similar positive impacts in towns across the west.

"In Reno, it has totally revitalized their urban core," Bowerman said. "We're obviously really excited."

Courting Outdoor Companies

Bend folks love the outdoors yet we have precious few Central Oregon-based outdoor companies.

The nine-person Bend Economic Development Advisory Board is looking to change that.

Last week, in what was the group's first round of outdoor-company courtship, a letter accompanied a made-in-Bend care package and was sent to 17 California-based gear and apparel companies in hopes of luring them to relocate in Bend.

Companies such as Five Ten, Timbuk2, Mountain Hardwear and Eagle Creek were sent packages filled with products from Silipint, Hydro Flask, Stanley Outdoors and Ruff Wear, according to BEDAB board member Van Schoessler.

The idea is simple—more businesses mean more jobs and a boost to the Central Oregon economy. BEDAB, which advises the Bend City Council on economic development issues, has been in existence since 2009 but has only recently decided to target the outdoor industry.

Schoessler called outdoor companies, "the most natural, low-hanging fruit," and said BEDAB had met with representatives from Ruff Wear, Hydro Flask and other local outdoor companies to learn how to attract other such businesses.

Schoessler said BEDAB would, over the course of the year, send out similar letters targeting other sectors of the outdoor industry. Climbing, cycling and fishing are also on the group's hit list. BEDAB is targeting California-based groups because they're nearby and they're operating in a tough economy.

"That economy sucks. It's expensive to do business down there," Schoessler said.

Schoessler hopes to send out letters once a quarter or so. And once BEDAB woos a couple of outdoor companies, Schoessler hopes that momentum will take over.

"The feeling is, once you get one or two of these, a cluster develops," Schoessler said.

All this fun could soon be ours.

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