Reviving history

The heavy, antique dragline bucket that once worked the logponds along the Deschutes River has found a new home in Bend’s newest roundabout sculpture, titled “Ghost.” Photo: Andy Tullis / The Bulletin

In its prime, it was a workhorse: A multi-ton dragline bucket with fearsome foot-long spades for teeth and a gaping maw of a mouth.

A barge-bound crane would drop it into the log pond upriver from Bend’s two main lumber mills and drag it across the river bottom, scooping up yards of sediment at a time. It was also used to scoop bark and other debris out of the river. But when the mills closed, the dredge foundered, the heavy bucket left to rust.

Now, it’s a work of art, the centerpiece of Bend’s newest roundabout sculpture in the Old Mill District at the intersection of Bond Street and Wilson Avenue.

It’s a bucket reborn.

“We really wanted to bring it back to life,” said artist Andrew Wachs, who designed and built the sculpture with Erik Gerding and Andy Hall, all Bend residents.

“It’s beautiful, just so well designed,” said Wachs. “It has a lot of grace to it.”

The owner of a metal fabrication shop, Weld Design Studio, Wachs knows metal. The bucket, he says, is one-of-a-kind. He estimates it weighs several tons and likely took three weeks to build. Its craftsmanship is superb, from the rivets and reinforcing welds to the circular collar, hand forged from 3/4-inch thick steel. It is stamped with a manufacturer’s name, Baer, but not much more is known about its origin.

Wachs doesn’t necessarily have a thing for antique metalwork. In fact, most of his creative work is of a more modern bent.

The idea to revive the bucket belongs to Old Mill District developer Bill Smith, who is building the roundabout. The original plans called for landscaping the center of the roundabout, but once Wachs and his collaborators heard about it, they pitched an idea for a sculpture to Smith. Smith said yes.

It wasn’t Wachs first choice for a sculpture, but upon seeing the bucket for the first time — in what Wachs calls the “boneyard” Smith keeps next to the Les Schwab Amphitheater — he was smitten.

With the help of Gerding, who holds a masters degree in architecture, the two came up with a design to pay homage to the bucket’s past. Their sculpture would include a crane to simulate dredging and steel pilings to mimic floodwalls around a “dredged” area consisting of dry river rock.

Also of note is the crane arm, which is slightly tilted off its horizontal axis, as if straining to pull the bucket across the roundabout, not unlike a fisherman reeling in his catch.

In the sculpture, the bucket isn’t oriented the correct way, but its position implies a sense of movement that is crucial to the installation, said Wachs.

“There’s lots of motion and torque — tension — as it relates to all these objects,” Wachs said.

Another design element is the half-buried state of the crane house. It can be interpreted two ways, said the artists. The sculpture is either rising or subsiding. Rising, as with the Old Mill District’s transformation, or subsiding, as the past is lost to history.

If it doesn’t already sound like an instant classic, consider its location. From the Wilson Avenue entrance to the roundabout, the district’s iconic smokestacks are visible in the foreground and the Cascades in the background. It’s a spine-tingling sight — and a fitting nod to Bend’s heritage.

“This is definitely a site-specific piece,” said Wachs.

A word to would-be admirers: The roundabouts are off-limits to pedestrians.

The roundabout is tentatively scheduled to open today. The artists also plan to landscape the roundabout in the near future.

Source: The Bulletin ©2007

Dredge of Mirror Pond not funded

greg-walden
Rep. Greg Walden

WASHINGTON — Bend’s hopes for federal funding to quickly move forward with its plans to dredge Mirror Pond were dashed Thursday after the project wasn’t included in a U.S. House energy and water spending bill.

The House Appropriations Committee released a list of earmarks attached to the bill Thursday. The Senate version of the energy and water bill, passed in June, also did not include Mirror Pond funding.

It’s possible for earmarks to be added any time before the bill is passed, but that’s unlikely in this case, according to congressional aides. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, sought $490,000, which would have gone toward the planning and engineering work in preparation to dredge the pond of layers of built-up silt.

Without federal funding, Bend will have to delay its plans to remove built-up silt from the pond, said Bend City Councilor Jim Clinton.

“Had that been approved, then the city would’ve gone more quickly to do the dredging than it’s now able to do,” Clinton said. “Now, we have to backtrack a little bit because that was not forthcoming.”

The City Council has debated strategies to fix Mirror Pond for more than a year, since it became clear that sediment was building up in the downtown Bend pond. Sandbars dotted with trees and shrubs have popped up in places, as the water becomes shallower. Councilors last discussed a report drafted by a panel of water experts in Marchbut did not decide how to proceed.

Clinton said he thinks the city will next gather public input on how to prevent the pond from disappearing, ideally before the end of this year.

But before that happens, Bend needs to find money to fund the public process and start study work recommended by the city’s experts earlier this year, said Wendy Edde, a water resource specialist at the city of Bend. Clinton said any fix will run into the millions of dollars.

“At this point, the big hurdle is to find money,” Edde said.

Part of the Deschutes River that spans from the Tumalo Avenue Bridge to the Newport Avenue Bridge, Mirror Pond was formed in 1910 when a power company installed a hydroelectric dam on the Deschutes River just north of the Newport bridge.

The city wants to partner with other agencies and groups that have an interest in the pond, Edde said. That could include irrigation districts that control the flow of water through the Deschutes, federal agencies and other groups, she said.

Sedimentation in the pond first became an issue in the mid-1970s, when the lumber mills upstream stopped using the river to float logs. Because the pond is unnaturally wide, the river slows down and deposits the sediment it has picked up along the way.

The city dredged Mirror Pond in 1984 at a cost of $1.5 million, much of which came from federal grants. At the time, the project engineer predicted that Mirror Pond would have to be dredged in another 20 years. Any solution, Clinton said, will likely be a mix of dredging, stream rehabilitation and other strategies to help prevent sediment from building up again.

“Scientifically, it’s pretty much understood what should be done,” Clinton said. “There’s the question of how and who is going to pay for it.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2007