People float the Deschutes River through Bend, Ore., in the shadow of Mount Bachelor Friday, June 25, 2021.

People float the Deschutes River through Bend, Ore., in the shadow of Mount Bachelor Friday, June 25, 2021.

Bradley W. Parks / OPB

The Bend Park and Recreation District is inviting public comment on a plan the district says will improve access to the Deschutes River and restore riparian habitat.

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The district, which operates independent of the city, has identified 27 projects to clean up river access points that have deteriorated from years of heavy use.

Among its highest-priority projects are expanding the beach at Riverbend Park and adding an accessible boat launch, closing several user-created river access points at Farewell Bend and First Street Rapids parks, and finding a permanent location for off-leash dogs to use the river.

Additional projects include parking improvements, public outreach programs, and consistent, multilingual signage throughout the park system on the river. The full draft plan and maps are available here.

The draft plan cuts down the list of proposed projects from 33 introduced in February. It takes into account results of a public survey responding to the original proposal.

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Related: The river is calling, and the Bend park district wants to clean it up

Park planner and project manager Sarah Bodo said Bend residents spoke up in particular about the proposal at Columbia Park, which is a small neighborhood greenspace near the Galveston Corridor.

The river access point at the park eroded to the point where the park district had to close it in late July.

“Members of the public said it’s a really important access point for a variety of reasons,” Bodo said. “And so they really encouraged the district to take a look at how could we design and develop an access point that would be more sustainable while doing some habitat restoration surrounding that access point.”

The draft plan labels improving river access at Columbia Park as high priority.

The park district will accept comments on the plan online until Aug. 20 and will host several public meetings leading up to that date.

“Our hope is that we will be adopting the plan … this fall,” Bodo said. “And once it’s adopted, the district will start implementing those projects.”

Approved projects will be completed intermittently over the course of 10 years.

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