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Bend Park and Rec Board discusses Sawyer Park renovations, debates adding parking

'We can't keep accommodating everyone'

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- In 2018, the Bend Park and Recreation District identified a need to renovate Sawyer Park in northwest Bend.

But before those renovations can begin, park staffers are tasked with analyzing the best way forward, when it comes to assessing capacity and parking demands.

Formerly a state park, Sawyer Park was dedicated to the Bend Park and Rec in 1980, but the district says the existing entry point and parking lot have reached the end of their life span.

To help assess those future parking needs, staff hired Lancaster Mobley, a local traffic engineering firm, to perform an initial parking/traffic study.

The firm says the current parking lot is outdated and no longer functions properly due to rutted pavement and pot-hole damage beyond normal maintenance repair.

Bend Park and Rec landscape architect, Bronwen Mastro presented study findings to staff and board members during Tuesday evening's meeting.

"If you've been there, you know that you have to drive down the road into the par,k and that has caused some safety concerns, in terms of visibility," Mastro said. "And for the park, this is one of the only, if not the only that's kind of more urban that has a sunrise to sunset timeframe, rather than the like typical 5 a.m. to 10 p.m." 

Staff says it will be preparing a formal request for proposals to hire a design consultant this winter in order to begin the planning and design of the overall project. Once the design consultant is hired, public outreach will begin, along with conceptual design.

But Bend Park and Rec Board Chair Ariel Mendez voiced his concerns during the discussion.

Mendez says to continue to increase supply without looking at other alternatives is "silly."

"If we keep trying to provide parking for everybody, we're going to fail. We're going to hit some upper limit where we'll find that we have less park available and we have more traffic available," Mendez said. "At some point, we're going to have to change. We can't keep accommodating everyone driving everywhere without trying to change anyone's behavior." 

Board member Nathan Hovekamp said he did agree with some of Mendez's points, but did not want to cause any delays in the project's timeline.

Others like state Rep. Jason Kropf, who also serves on the BPRD board, said he's open to a broader conversation when it comes to parking needs at Sawyer Park, but he did not agree with Mendez's premise about supplementing parking.

"I don't want to pursue a parking lot safety-by-pothole policy," Kropf said. "That's not what Bend Park and Rec facilities look like from, you know, the swing sets, to the grass fields, to the bathrooms, to the parking lot."

The 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Plan allocates $1.1 million for the project - $850,000 in property tax funds and $250,000 in a potential future grant to support construction.

This current fiscal year, the CIP allocates $100,000 to begin the design. The remaining $1 million is identified in next fiscal year to begin construction.

If the timeline goes as planned, the project could begin construction in the spring to fall of 2023.

Article Topic Follows: Bend

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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.


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