New concepts for Miller’s Landing

Dozens of Bend residents turned out at an open house Thursday, taking an opportunity to weigh in on plans for the city’s next riverfront park.

The Bend Park & Recreation District is on an aggressive schedule to begin construction on the park at Miller’s Landing, across the Deschutes River from McKay Park, by next spring or summer.

Thursday, the district invited the public to view three concept drawings of what the nearly five-acre park could include and to offer their feedback.

Robin Laughlin, project manager for the district, said the public has expressed a preference for a lower-intensity park than McKay Park, the grassy expanse just downstream from the Colorado Avenue spillway popular with summer river floaters. All three plans call for much more limited river access than at McKay Park, with native plants covering the majority of the area along the water’s edge.

Laughlin said three concepts — plans A, B and C — reflect diminishing degrees of development. While plan A features community gardens, a picnic shelter and three river access points, including an off-leash dog beach, plan C has only two small river access points and is dominated by native plants and grassy areas.

All three concepts include public restrooms, the feature most requested by participants at prior public input sessions.

No plans for skatepark

Despite extensive lobbying by skateboarders earlier this year, none of the concepts include a skate park. Bruce Ronning, the district’s director of planning and development, said the district is actively looking for a place to locate a new skate park on the west side, but doesn’t believe it would be a good use of limited riverfront park space.

Laughlin said the district is likely to mix and match different elements from all three concepts in developing its official master plan this winter.

Two design elements captured much of the attention from participants in the open house, who left their comments on sticky notes tacked up next to images of the three concepts: the off-leash beach included in Plan A, and parking in the alley behind Gilchrist Avenue, included in plans A and C.

Both plans were unpopular.

Bob Almquist, who lives on Gilchrist Avenue, said while he has no problem with dogs, they don’t mix well with the park’s focus on boating and floating. A frequent kayaker, Almquist said he’s vulnerable to being tipped over by swimming dogs when he’s in his boat. Off-leash dogs are unlikely to remain on the designated beach, he said, and are likely to cut through the proposed stands of native plants, damaging the plants and creating erosion of the banks.

Almquist said he’s mixed on parking along the Gilchrist Avenue alley. While a parking lot off the alley could slow traffic, he said, it could also create conflicts with the walkers and cyclists who use the alley.

Dagmar Eriksson, who lives on the bluff overlooking the park site, said she leans toward plan B as the best way to both provide river access and preserve riparian areas. She said she often sees boaters who launch or land from the site damaging the banks by pulling their boats through the bushes along the banks, and would like to see designated launch sites at the future park.

Eriksson said she thinks an off-leash area would create conflicts with other users of the park. Across the river at McKay Park, too many dog owners already let their dogs run free and fail to pick up their waste, she said.

One participant left a note suggesting the development of an off-leash beach doesn’t go far enough.

“This should be a dog sanctuary,” the note read. “The anti-dog people are giving Bend a bad name.”

Eriksson and Almquist both said they expect the park district will do a good job, and that any park is a more welcome addition to the neighborhood than the residential development that had been proposed for the site just a few years ago.

In 2006, Brooks Resources and the Miller Lumber family were given approval to build 37 townhomes on the site. Economic conditions stalled the project, and late last year, the Trust for Public Lands purchased the property in order to transfer it to the park district.

“This is just frosting on the cake, the fact this is a park and not condominiums,” Almquist said.

The park district is continuing to accept public input on the Miller’s Landing project.

Source: The Bulletin ©2011

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