Issues with BPRD's agenda
1. This bridge and Trail are not NECESSARY
Bend Parks and Recreation wants you to believe that this bridge and trail connection are necessary to connect the current Deschutes River Trail to the Deschutes National Forest. What they don't want you to know is that a trail connecting Bend to Sunriver already exists and there are crossings both up and downstream of the subject area. Development for the sake of development is not prudent in such an environmentally sensitive area.
2. THE UPPER DESCHUTES SCENIC WATERWAY IS A PROTECTED AREA WHERE BRIDGES ARE PROHIBITED.
OAR 736-040-0073 prohibits development of bridges in this Scenic Waterway. Twice, BPRD has unsuccessfully attempted to remove this provision from Oregon law. OPRD denied BPRD's original request to amend OAR 736-040-0073 in 2015.
OPRD then created the Upper Deschutes Advisory Group (UDAG) in 2016 to continue potential rulemaking inquiry for the Upper Deschutes Scenic Waterway. An internal document shows that OPRD thought creating the UDAG was a risky experiment that could have unknown consequences locally and statewide. The process could provide a framework for how to go about reducing environmental protections on other State Scenic Rivers throughout Oregon.
Despite Don Horton and BPRD's wishes, OPRD released a ruling in May 2017. Director Lisa Sumption stated: "I would reconsider amending rules in the future if that would clearly strengthen protection of the waterway. As important as recreation is to our mission, it has to be balanced with our need to protect resources that make recreation possible. Changing rules, especially in a way that might encourage more visible riverside development, is contrary to the purpose of the scenic waterway system."
Despite their inability to change these environmental protections, BPRD intends to go forward with the project. Once a denial from OPRD is issued, BPRD only has to wait 12 moths before they can proceed with building the bridge.
OTHER UDAG ISSUES:
- Don Horton and Steve Jorgensen at BPRD made several efforts to ensure that landowners and homeowner associations (HOAs) in the subject area would not have a seat at the table. One HOA was even required to have an attorney send a letter to OPRD, just to be added to the list of stakeholders that would be able to participate in the UDAG. Internal emails have shown that BPRD expressed frustration at Central Oregon Solutions, the dispute resolution company managing the UDAG, when they received the news that the public and these stakeholders would be able to be involved. It is shocking that BPRD would try to suppress the concerns of those who this trail would affect most.
Internally, BPRD has been dismissive of any public input that has been made in opposition to their plans. After the first UDAG meeting, Don Horton said "I would guess based on testimony that most who spoke poorly of the Park District do not live in the Park District." Additionally, Horton has referred to the public as "ill-informed."
- In an internal email, OPRD’s Chris Havel acknowledged BPRD’s lack of outreach and transparency with HOAs in the bridge area. This revelation is chilling because of the private property rights at stake in this issue. BPRD has sought to place the burdens of their trail/crossing plans on HOAs and landowners in the River Community area without adequately addressing the concerns of these groups.
With all of the problems that have occurred with the UDAG, it is clear that this process was a waste of taxpayer money. It makes no sense why two parks agencies, who say they support conservation, would go through all this trouble to change environmental protections that they knew were put in place for a reason.
3. BPRD WOULD INCREASE RECREATIONAL DEVELOPMENT IN SENSITIVE RIPARIAN HABITAT.
Oregon spotted frog - was listed as anEndangered Species under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. "Named for the black spots that cover its head, back, sides and legs, the species has a historic range that stretches from California up north past the U.S.-Canadian border. But encroachments on its wetland habitats and the introduction of non-native plants and animals have almost totally extinguished the frog. Over the past 50 years, this unique amphibian has disappeared from 90 percent of its former range - and since it was listed as a candidate in 1991, its habitat has been lost at an accelerating pace." - Center for Biological Diversity
Throughout this process, BPRD has disregarded the concerns of conservationists and State scientists that oppose their effort to reduce environmental protections on the Upper Deschutes and destroy critical riparian habitat. The area of the proposed bridge is on a mapped floodplain and contains large amounts of wetlands and critical Oregon spotted frog habitat, a Federally listed endangered species. Additionally, with the length of bridge required, BPRD will need to put in a mid-stream pier that would require excavation and destroy valuable wetlands and fish habitat. BPRD is aware of all these issues.
Additionally, OPRD and BPRD are aware that increasing use is the lead problem facing the Deschutes National Forest in the Upper Deschutes River Corridor. BPRD’s plans for the bridge/trail will greatly increase the issues that come from over-use. A representative of the Deschutes National Forest has also advised BPRD that they have concern over how a new bridge and trail would maintain or enhance the "outstandingly remarkable values", as required by the UDCMP. The same representative also stated that the Federal Special Use permit needed for construction would most likely be denied.
Furthermore, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) strongly opposes BPRD's plans for this bridge and trail: "Generally, the Department supports public enjoyment of the State’s natural resources. However, this amendment has the potential to increase public use of areas that have been designated as important to the conservation of wildlife. Much of the area on the west side of the River between River Miles 174.6 and 172 is part of a U.S. Forest Service Key Elk Management Area as described in the Deschutes National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan (1990). In addition, according to the Deschutes County Comprehensive plan, the west side of the river is part of the Statewide Goal 5 Tumalo Deer Winter Range. These areas are managed to reduce disturbance to deer and elk during winter when they are particularly vulnerable due to colder temperatures and lack of food resources."
Other environmental groups in Oregon, such as Oregon Wild and Central Oregon Landwatch, where BPRD Board Member Hovekamp is employed, have expressed opposition to BPRD's plans as well. Despite numerous concerns about negative effects to wildlife and the environment, BPRD is unfazed. There is no shortage of river trails in Bend; however, there is a serious shortage of undisturbed riparian and critical Oregon spotted frog habitat. BPRD needs to listen to the facts and science.
4. BPRD IS WILLING TO USE CONDEMNATION/EMINENT DOMAIN TO BUILD THIS UNNECESSARY TRAIL AND BRIDGE.
BPRD does not own any land where they intend to construct this bridge and trail. Additionally, no property owners have agreed to sell or donate the necessary property for this project to be completed. Thus, BPRD will need to resort to condemnation to acquire the required property to construct their bridge.
BPRD and Don Horton have told the public that they will not use eminent domain/condemnation to complete this project. Internal emails show that this is a patent lie.
It is clear that BPRD has been operating in bad faith. They have manipulated the process, disparaged the public, wasted taxpayer money on an unnecessary project, ignored the science, attempted to keep key stakeholders out of the process, and are willing to disregard the conservationist intent of the Oregon Scenic Waterways Act.
Don Horton and his crony board, that rarely opposes him, want to flaunt their authority to degrade State Scenic Waterway laws, threaten private land owners and push affordable housing out of Bend. They gassed the Geese and now they want to suffocate the environment.