Return Pond’s days of glory

Karen Willard/The Bulletin
Karen Willard/The Bulletin

If Mirror Pond, perhaps Bend’s best known geographic feature, ever regains its original glory it will be due to the efforts of Dick Carlson and Art Johnson and a host of others interested in the project. The idea of eliminating the pond’s present shallow areas has been discussed for several years. Now it finally appears something may be done.

The pond was created by an early-day power dam, still in existence, which backed up the Deschutes enough to create a head for a relatively small electric generator. That plant, plus some surplus power generated from burning lumber mill waste, was adequate to supply the city’s needs when those needs were limited, essentially to public and private lighting. (Growth of the city, plus growth in electric use occasioned by increased lighting, industrial uses, more home appliances and considerable space heating, means the dam at the foot of the pond now supplies only a fraction of current needs.)

The pond slowly has filled. Much of the debris — which has left room for only a few inches of water over much of the pond’s surface — has been caused as light earth and pumice disturbed by fluctuating flows after the creation of Wickiup Reservoir tumbled into the Deschutes. The flows, used by irrigationists, will continue to fluctuate and to erode the river’s upstream banks. The pond, then, will have to be dredged — at intervals of a number of years – if it is to be kept deep enough to inhibit the growth of algae and aquatic weeds.

A city paid study has come up with an estimate that it will take somewhat less than $300,000 to do the job. Carlson, Johnson and others have come up with a way to raise the money. Assessments of a few cents per square foot of property owned by those whose property abuts the riverbanks, or those whose property is improved by a view of the river — including public property — would do the job.

That leaves two questions to answer. Is the proposed method of raising the money fair to all concerned? And will dredging the pond seriously reduce its use by waterfowl, one of Drake Park’s major attractions, particularly to youngsters?

The answer to the first one is easy. The system is about as fair as can be developed. To be sure, riverside residents would have to pay an assessment on their property, plus their share of city and parks and recreation district taxes. But their property values, as a percentage of the total values in either the city or the parks and recreation district, are so low the idea of triple taxation can safely be ignored. The small extra amount it will cost them is insignificant.

The answer to the second question is a little harder. Ducks and geese should continue to use the pond’s islands for spring nesting grounds as soon as the dredging is completed. Ducks and geese are grazers, and can continue to feed on pond-front lawns and on extra feed provided by residents and tourists during the summer. But winter waterfowl get most of their feed from aquatic weeds which grow in the summer. Most of the weeds will disappear after the pond is deepened. Fewer buffleheads and golden-eyes and widgeon and coot can be expected to occupy the pond during winter months.

But the pond once again would be deep enough so that geese will swim, rather than walk, at its upper end. The summer’s unsightly algae bloom rafts will disappear. That seems to be worth the cost, both to nearby residents and those property owners in the city and parks and recreation district who would make much smaller individual contributions, as little as a few cents a year, to the project.

Source: The Bulletin ©1982

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