By Hillary Borrud / The Bulletin
The Bend City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to pursue the preservation of Mirror Pond.
That means the city and the Bend Park & Recreation District both support the goal of keeping the pond. On Tuesday night, the park district board voted to adopt a nearly identical resolution. And while city councilors voted to discuss the condition and future of Mirror Pond dam with its owner, PacifiCorp, the park district board voted to negotiate with the utility company.
The City Council and park district board decided to vote on the issue after the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee voted Monday to keep Mirror Pond and continue negotiations to obtain the dam from PacifiCorp, within “financial reason.”
City councilors emphasized that it is still unclear how exactly local governments will resolve the problem of silt building up in the pond, and voters will likely have an opportunity to vote on the issue because local governments would need to ask them for additional taxes to pay for the project.
A consultant for the park district and city estimated it would cost roughly $11 million to remove the dam and restore this section of the river.
Few people attended the City Council meeting to speak about Mirror Pond, but some who did criticized the city and park district for not doing enough to include the public in the decision. A consultant for the city and park district completed an unscientific survey, which showed respondents were nearly split on whether to keep the pond or return that section of the Deschutes River to a free-flowing river.
Residents Barb Campbell and Foster Fell arrived at the City Council meeting carrying boxes filled with bags of popcorn, and a message for city councilors.
“You paid 1-2 hundred thousand dollars for the illusion of public process,” Campbell and Fell had printed on the bags. “You should at least enjoy some popcorn with the show.”
Campbell and Fell handed out bags of popcorn to other people who attended the meeting.
“We have tea baggers. Now Bend, Oregon, has popcorn baggers,” said resident Wade Fagen during public comment.
City Councilor Mark Capell said he agreed with some of what Campbell said. “I think the flaw with the process that happened before (City Councilor Victor Chudowsky) and I got on the (Mirror Pond ad hoc committee), the flaw was asking people what they thought before we know the numbers,” Capell said, referring to the cost of options for Mirror Pond. “And that’s what we’re trying to do now, is get to the numbers and figure it out.”
Capell said he asked city and park district employees to research details of the potential cost to remove the dam, to give local officials more leverage to negotiate with PacifiCorp.
Chudowsky said he is more concerned about the importance of Mirror Pond as a recreation resource than as an icon of Bend.
“I am really concerned about canoeists, kayakers, people who float down the river in tubes and that sort of thing,” Chudowsky said. Based on statistics from Cascades East Transit, which provides bus service for people who float down the river in the summer, Chudowsky estimated approximately 1,000 people float down to Mirror Pond and then use the bus each week during the summer.
“We do have an opportunity to create something amazing here, and that should be our goal, where we create something for everyone,” City Councilor Doug Knight said.
Source: The Bulletin 2013