Park district is set on turning Mirror Pond into wetland

While we blissfully enjoy all that Drake Park and Mirror Pond offer to our community, your park and recreation district is quietly working to inalterably change it from the iconic pond that is the face of Bend, to a wetland complete with narrow river, cattails, reeds and sloping banks.

I recently attended a “community outreach” event hosted by Jim Figurski, the project manager for the “Mirror Pond Visioning Project.” He presented four options, one of which included dredging the pond and otherwise leaving it alone. He then spent our time explaining why that won’t work — too expensive, too much mud, too much trucking, too short-lived and the dam is too old. It became apparent that a “natural” river is viewed by the district as the only sensible choice, with wetlands and natural vegetation making up the greatly expanded banks adjoining Drake Park.

It quickly became obvious that the unintended consequences of the destruction of Mirror Pond have not been considered. Figurski opined that mosquitoes would not be a problem in the newly formed wetlands because the cattails would blow in the wind, drowning the mosquito eggs.

Though much time and money has been spent controlling ducks and geese, the audience was assured that the profusion of nesting areas resulting in more water fowl would not be a problem because the birds’ line of sight to the water would be obscured by the vegetation along the river bank, making them too nervous to use the lawn. He dismissed the idea of people and animals swimming, saying it is against city ordinances. The danger of children traveling through the underbrush and into the river unobserved was not discussed. Nor were ticks and the threat of disease posed by mosquitoes.

He focused on the age of the dam. He sang the praises of a natural river, ignoring the fact that there are two dams just downstream of the power company dam that would prevent the river from being “natural,” even if the dam were removed. The silt that would fill the downstream dam if the first were removed was clearly not considered.

When asked why the questionnaire sent out to residents did not request a preference as to whether to keep the park as it is, he replied that, like a doctor, the park district could not make a decision until first identifying the symptoms. Apparently the district, like a doctor, will decide what is wrong and make a decision as to how best to treat it. He rejected the idea of a vote, saying the people get to decide whether to vote money for parks but the district decides how to spend it.

I must confess a bias. I have occupied an office across from Mirror Pond for the past 30 years, watching people walk along the river, play and picnic on the lawns, and fish, swim and float in the quiet waters. Visitors are quick to assure me how lucky I am to have a view of the beautiful place that makes Bend so special.

I hunt, fish and enjoy the natural rivers with which we are blessed. The Deschutes flows naturally for hundreds of miles, from Wickiup to the Bill Healy Bridge, from Bend to Billy Chinook and on to the Columbia. The continued maintenance of our beautiful pond in the heart of Bend is not too much to ask. You can visit the parks district website at If you do not act, Mirror Pond, as we know it, will be history.

— Bruce Brothers lives in Bend.

Mirror Pond questionnaire doesn’t reveal public opinion

If more people fill out an unscientific questionnaire, does that make it mean more? Clearly not, which has been the problem from the start with the approach of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee.

Now officials are concerned that too few people are filling out the second questionnaire or coming to the latest round of meetings.

Project manager Jim Figurski said last week that if more people fill out the questionnaire, decision-makers will be more “comfortable” using the “information.”

If true, that’s unfortunate, because the “information” will be all but meaningless, no matter how many people participate.

Mirror Pond, the central feature of Bend’s downtown, is turning into a mud flat, gradually filling in since it was last dredged in 1984. After years of discussion about what to do, the steering committee was formed and spent January and February holding meetings and collecting responses to its first questionnaire, leading to its June presentation of alternatives and price tags. The new questionnaire asks for reactions to those alternatives, which include doing nothing, preserving the pond as it is, returning it to a natural river, and steps in between. The cutoff date for responses is July 12, and results are to be presented to a joint meeting of the Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District’s board on July 16.

We’ve argued for dredging to preserve Mirror Pond as it is, although such a decision does depend on resolving questions about the future of the nearby dam and ownership of the land beneath the pond.

Unscientific questionnaires or surveys can easily be influenced by organized groups or even loose coalitions on either side of an issue. They tell you nothing about what a majority thinks or wants or is willing to pay for. And yet the discussion about Mirror Pond has treated these limited bits of reaction as if they mean something about general public opinion.

It’s a dangerous approach, because it builds public policy on a phony foundation. Without at least a scientific survey, the public opinion portion of this project can be worse than meaningless, it can be false.

Mirror Pond decision depends on the dam

Central Oregon abounds in pristine river scenes, where water follows natural paths edged by marshy areas and riparian shrubbery.

In downtown Bend, though, for decades we’ve had something else: an urban pond, a landscaped place, partly lined with retaining walls and walkways.

We’d like to keep it.

It’s not that we don’t value the natural, but we like the urban landscape as well. Bend ought to be able to have both, and Mirror Pond is our special exception. Some who share our view have called it the city’s crown jewel.

We’ve argued for dredging, even if it’s expensive, even if it has to be done again in 20 years. We’ve argued that people would likely be willing to pay for it if given a straightforward choice. Without a vote, or at least a scientific survey, though, we can’t be sure that’s true.

Instead the Mirror Pond Steering Committee launched the current series of meetings and questionnaires and consultant’s renderings. Lots of opinions have been expressed, but we still have no idea what the majority in Bend wants and would support.

Meanwhile, the process focused attention on a critical factor: The dam that created the pond a century ago isn’t a sure thing going forward.

Pacific Power owns the dam, and although there appear to be no plans to remove it in the short-term, there’s no assurance of its long-term survival. It’s entirely possible it won’t make business sense for the company to preserve it at some point.

We can’t argue for spending millions dredging the pond unless we know the dam will be there long enough to justify it. That’s where the focus of attention should be, not on alternatives that turn Mirror Pond into one more natural river scene.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond should be preserved

Mirror Pond should be preserved as an icon of Bend. This can be achieved by the city of Bend purchasing the dam owned by a private utility, with the revenue thus derived from power generation committed to dredging of Mirror Pond as needed. Bend wouldn’t be the same without Mirror Pond.

Robert Cobb

Silt problems start farther upriver

I find it interesting that no one seems to address the real concern regarding silt and sediment problems in the Deschutes River.

What about the North Unit Irrigation District and all the related irrigators that seem to continually create stream flow variables that constantly churn up sediment and debris, causing harm to riparian habitats and fish-spawning beds?

Shouldn’t these irrigators be financially responsible and accountable for the river damage their releases and discharges create?

This is not just a problem for Mirror Pond, but their annual irrigation actions affect the whole Deschutes River system. I live upriver from Sunriver (20-plus miles from downtown Bend) and I can recall river water level changes of several feet in just a matter of a day or two, creating turbid murky water conditions downriver until the flow stabilizes — which I assume sends suspended debris particles all the way to Bend.

My section of the river is experiencing major sediment buildup also.

Again, address the source of the problems and have all stakeholders liable for solutions, including North Unit Irrigation District’s and Wickiup Reservoir’s impoundment in your financial solutions.

Duane Wyman

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Offer a prize for an idea for Mirror Pond

I have been following the progress of Mirror Pond and the process of a decision as to how to solve the problem of removing the silt as economically as possible and not breaking the city.

It seems like a really tough problem. Still, there must be an answer somewhere.

There must be a really smart person that has the answer. Perhaps if the power in control would make an offer of, say, $50,000 or so — a prize to the winner of the idea to come forward? There is an old saying, “You usually get what you pay for.”

Gary Robertson

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Remove the dam and let the river run

Remove the Deschutes River dam.

Dredge Mirror Pond.

Geez! People of Bend, look at the bigger picture for a change. Dams are now unpopular and yet, here in Bend, we have the old-fashioned people, living in the past.

When we remove the dam in Bend, we will make the cover of Time magazine, be written about in The New York Times and on and on. People will flock to Bend to see a river run through it instead of what we have now. The small limited picture is to leave things alone. Well, the bigger picture is to remove dams, for a flow of river water and all of the amenities that come with that. The Bend Park & Recreation District could redo Drake Park and use some of that money from the bond issue. Yes, remodel the old-fashioned Drake Park, what a novel idea. And to Millie Nolan’s letter from March 17, I say, “A river runs, it just runs.”

One doesn’t dredge a river, one watches it flow. We are Bend recreationists, so the brochures say. So let’s be “outdoorsy” and remove an old dam — for free-flowing water, traveling downstream from up in the Cascades.

Tom Filcich

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Idea for Mirror Pond

Pacific Power owns the dam that creates a small but profitable return of energy for this facility. The dam is also the cause of the Mirror Pond build-up. The cost to remove the dam and restore its construction area would be significant to Pacific Power. Why not leave things as they are and Pacific Power pays the cost of dredging the river every 10 or 15 years as the silt builds up.

Harold Anderson

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Preserve Mirror Pond

Thank you for printing the view of Cary Robles in the Feb. 26 paper. I am in total agreement about Mirror Pond. I worry that a huge mistake will be made by removing the dam. What will Bend be without our beautiful river and Mirror Pond? Someday there would be a plea to build a dam again so Bend would have another beautiful pond. Bend residents should at least have the chance to vote on the decision.

Not all of us want a mud flat at Drake Park, natural or not. We should take care of this treasure that Bend has and keep it up by more frequent dredging. Thank you again.

Millie Nolan

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Let voters decide about Mirror Pond

Cary Robles’ Feb. 26 In My View article is right on the money. What to do about the silt in the Deschutes River should not be decided by a steering committee, and we certainly should not be spending another $200,000 on another study. He suggests letting the voters decide and I agree.

I read the questionnaire online and it’s good, but answers can be interpreted differently. The dam could be modernized, the silt removed every 15 or 20 years and the river allowed to continue as it is. To restore the Deschutes to the “natural” wild river it used to be would be ridiculous. It’s in the middle of a city with many homes on its banks and many people enjoy it as it is. Let the people hear the facts and vote.

Maralyn Thoma

Source: The Bulletin ©2013