Opinions expressed on future of pond

Results are in for a Mirror Pond questionnaire

Bend residents appear to be split down the middle on whether Mirror Pond should remain a pond or be transformed into a free-flowing river, according to the results of a questionnaire released Friday.

Nearly 1,900 people completed the online questionnaire created by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, a group assembled by the Bend City Council in 2009 to determine what, if anything, should be done to address silt that has been accumulating in the pond since it was last dredged in 1984.

Project manager Jim Figurski stressed that the results are not scientific. Statistically valid surveys use random sampling to discern the opinions of the larger community; while the questionnaire participants opted into the process by visiting the mirrorpondbend .com website and electing to complete the 18-item questionnaire.

Survey participants were disproportionately from the northwest quadrant of the city — 46 percent — and primarily long-time residents of Bend. Just 18 percent of participants reported having lived in Bend five years or less, while 27 percent have lived here 10-20 years and 36 percent for 20 years or longer.

“We’re not extrapolating this to all of Bend. These are the values of those who participated in the questionnaire,” he said.

The questionnaire was developed to determine what residents value about Mirror Pond and how they use it — as opposed to what ought to be done in the future. Where participants could weigh in on the pond versus river question, a sharp split emerged.

At public meetings and in comments submitted by questionnaire participants, a significant number of people have called for removing the Newport Avenue Dam that created Mirror Pond more than 100 years ago. By most estimates, the dam generates electricity for fewer than 500 homes, and Pacific Power representatives have said the company is not necessarily committed to leaving the dam in place long-term.

Asked if Mirror Pond should look like it did before the dam was built, 51 percent of questionnaire participants placed themselves in the strongly agree or agree column, while 49 percent opted for strongly disagree or disagree.

In another segment of the questionnaire, participants were asked to rank four photographs of different sections of the Deschutes River in order of preference — most attractive, attractive, somewhat attractive and least attractive.

An image of rapids that appears to be upstream of Bend — Figurski said he’s not sure of the location — ranked highest, with 40 percent rating it most attractive and 33 percent attractive. A present-day image of Mirror Pond resembling the Mirror Pond Pale Ale label came in second, with 37 percent choosing most attractive and 18 percent attractive.

Rapids near Sawyer Park ranked third, with 15 percent most attractive and 35 percent attractive, while a shot of the area upstream from the Colorado Dam was last, with 9 percent giving it most attractive marks and 14 percent opting for attractive.

The questionnaire also found broad agreement on a handful of matters.

Just 28 percent agreed or strongly agreed with the idea that “the water in Mirror Pond is very clean,” while 91 percent of participants agreed or strongly agreed with the idea “water quality in Mirror Pond should be improved.”

Present-day Mirror Pond is regarded as “beautiful to look at” by 86 percent of respondents, while 83 percent agreed or strongly agreed it is a good place to watch birds, ducks, geese, otters and other wildlife.

Addressed more specifically, ducks and geese did poorly in the eyes of questionnaire participants. Just 1 percent of respondents ranked geese and ducks in the pond and the park as the feature they value the most, while 39 percent put geese and ducks as the feature they value least.

Figurski said consultants working with the steering committee are planning on creating four alternative visions of the area in the future. He expects they will be ready to share illustrations as well as cost estimates with the public by late April.

Each of the alternative visions will be designed to be functional whether or not the dam remains in place, Figurski said, and will be presented to the public in two parts to reflect dammed and un-dammed scenarios.

Figurski said the group responsible for drafting the alternatives will be “walking a tightrope” due to the divide between the maintain-the-pond and let-the-river flow factions. But he expects it will create designs that appeal to members of both groups.

“Because people haven’t seen the alternatives yet, people think its an all-or-nothing thing,” he said. “It’s not, it doesn’t have to be.”

Mirror Pond questionnaire

The Mirror Pond Steering Committee’s questionnaire, posted online, invited Bend residents to answer 18 general questions about Mirror Pond. It is not scientific; it is the results from 1,817 people who chose to visit the website and answer the questions. Here are some of the responses.

Who responded 
• Many of the respondents (36 percent) have lived in Bend for more than 20 years.
• Almost half (46 percent) live on the city’s northwest side.

About the pond 
• Almost half (44 percent) visit the pond at least once a month.
• More than half (59 percent) think the pond symbolizes the quality of life in Bend.
• Walking is the most popular activity at the pond (87 percent).
• Few (28 percent) think the water is clean.
• There’s an almost even split on whether having geese and ducks at the park is “good” (47 percent yes, 53 percent no). But more people (39 percent) identified the geese as the least valued aspect of the pond over anything else.

The pond’s future 
• Few (10 percent) want to see more boating or fishing opportunities.
• About half (51 percent) think the pond should look as it did before the dam was built.
• More (53 percent) want all of the silt removed, changing the shape of the river channel and pond. Fewer (42 percent) want the silt removed, repeated as needed to keep the pond as it is now.
• Few want nothing done (12 percent).

The full results can be found at mirrorpondbend.com.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

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