Bend Park and Recreation officials expect to share on Tuesday the results of an online survey aimed at gauging public opinion on the future of Mirror Pond.
Access to the online questionnaire closed Friday. The results are expected to be aired publicly at a joint meeting of the Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District Board of Directors.
A late surge in participation pushed the number of completed questionnaires to more than 1,200, according to Jim Figurski, a consultant hired by the park district to help determine what to do about siltation in Mirror Pond. As recently as June 25 — about three weeks after the online questionnaire was activated — just 210 people had participated.
The questionnaire provided seven scenarios along with rough cost estimates and the benefits and drawbacks of each, from doing nothing, to removing the dam downstream of the Newport Bridge and allowing the river to find its own course, to dredging to deepen the pond. Because the dam slows the river current at Mirror Pond, suspended silt and other particles drop out of the water and accumulate on the bottom. The warmer, shallower water provides substandard fish habitat, and allows aquatic plants to take hold.
Figurski said while the results he’ll be sharing Tuesday are not as accurate a measure of public opinion as a formal poll, the participation level suggests the City Council and the park board will have meaningful information to consider.
“If it were that original number, I would have been disappointed and a bit more nervous about it. I think the fact we reached 1,224 people is a good sign and will certainly give decision makers a little more comfort in taking whatever information they want to take from the questionnaire,” he said.
Bend Mayor Jim Clinton is looking forward to seeing the questionnaire results, but said the results shouldn’t be interpreted as a vote on how to proceed.
“The questionnaire itself is one part of a much bigger program to figure out what to do about Mirror Pond,” Clinton said. “It’s not the controlling part or even necessarily the most important part. It was intended, I think in my mind, to get more people thinking about the different options.”
Clinton said that over the last 10 years, the idea of doing something about Mirror Pond has been discussed, the “dredge it and be done with it” has diminished in popularity, as support for a flowing river has risen. Though both camps still dominate the discussion, Clinton said the public process has helped expose the complexity of the issue and the drawbacks of “simplistic solutions.”
“It continues to be a polarized issue where each person has their own way of looking at it, and over the period I’ve been involved in it, people are now maybe thinking about it in a more comprehensive and realistic way than they might have been looking at it before,” he said.
Park district Chairman Scott Wallace could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Clinton said he’s hopeful the city, park district and other stakeholder groups can be in agreement by the end of the year, with a broadly supported plan, estimates of how much it might cost and where funding could be found, and a loose timeline for moving forward.
Figurski said he will be providing information rather than making any recommendations to the City Council and the park board on Tuesday. He said he anticipates another round of public outreach in September once a preferred alternative on how to proceed is identified.
Source: The Bulletin ©2013