Get Mirror Pond fixed, not studied

Ask most Bend residents and most visitors what they think of when they think of Bend, and one thing is sure to top the list. That’s Mirror Pond, along which Drake Park runs through the heart of Bend.

Yet the pond is in danger of disappearing even as city government and others continue to study the issue to death.

The newest attempt to decide what to do with the pond, which is becoming ever more clogged with silt, was announced this week. The city, the local park district, Pacific Power and William Smith Properties have combined resources and hired a project manager to study the problem and analyze possible solutions. Hooray! Let’s all just hope it doesn’t take Michael McLandress of Brightwater Collaborative LLC six years to complete his work.

That’s how long a current fix to the pond’s silting problems has been in the planning stages. First news accounts of the effort appeared way back in 2004, and they’ve cropped up every few months since then. Unfortunately, the planning continues apace while we seem no nearer an answer than we were six years ago. Most recent estimates of the cost to fix the pond were $5 million, though that may well have changed by now.

Contrast all that with the last dredging of the pond, which occurred in 1983. Neighbors along the pond got together and came up with a plan to remove the silt that had built up there; they went to City Council, got the plan approved and the project was done in under a year. Total cost? Just about $300,000.

Clearly, Bend is a more complicated place today than it was way back in 1983. Any plan to clear silt — the product, in part, of fluctuating river flows that occur when water is impounded upstream — must include a variety of options from which to choose. Those options no doubt will cover the spectrum from doing nothing to a full-scale attempt to restore the pond to what it looked like when it was created in 1910 after Pacific Power built the dam on its south end.

In reality, though, doing nothing is really not an option, nor are other possibilities that do not restore the look of the pond. It’s simply too important a part of Bend and its history to be allowed to disappear under silt and vegetation. That may be more “natural,” but natural is hardly the goal in this case, or, if it is, it shouldn’t be. Rather, the goal should be to preserve this one part of Bend’s history that doesn’t center on timber or snow or agriculture but instead is valued and always has been valued simply because it is beautiful.

It’s unclear why, after six years, we’re not much closer to clearing the pond than we were in the beginning. We are not, however, and every added delay is likely to drive costs up still further. Knowing that, McLandress and those who hired him should set themselves an aggressive schedule and get the job done. Finally.

Source: The Bulletin ©2010

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