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Pandemic-related work changes, online hearings could spare Deschutes County’s Worrell Park

Bill Worrell Wayside Park, created in the late '90s, may not face big changes to add parking spots, after all
KTVZ file
Bill Worrell Wayside Park, created in the late '90s, may not face big changes to add parking spots, after all

Consultant says other steps could head off need for dozens more parking spaces

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) – Nearly a year after Deschutes County commissioners voted 2-1 to redesign and reduce Worrell Park, a rocky outcropping of greenery next to their offices, to make room for dozens more needed parking spaces, sparking a citizen protest movement, there’s a sign it could be spared that fate.

And of all things, pandemic-related impacts could be a key reason why.

Commissioners had a preliminary vote last January to support the redesign and explore adding nearly 70 parking spaces ahead of an expansion of the adjacent courthouse to make room for two newly added judges.

County staff has been working since 2019 on the downtown parking issues, and last January’s vote directed them to secure engineering services and develop the concept, including a new analysis of current parking use and capacity.

Commissioners will receive a presentation next Wednesday from HHPR, a civil engineering firm that conducted a preliminary analysis of parking capacity and use, looking at current demand and future needs for eight buildings in the county’s “downtown campus.”

The county’s own downtown campus parking study in 2019 found the area’s parking was consistently nearly full during the work week, a memo for next week’s meeting says.

But since then, the report says, “the county has experienced many pandemic-related shifts that appear to be impacting parking use,” including more workers on remote or hybrid schedules and the expanded options for virtual, online participation in public hearings and briefings.

"The preliminary findings indicate that there are several opportunities to better utilize our existing campus parking inventory," it goes on to say. "By exploring and implementing the strategies noted below, the project team believes that sufficient parking capacity exists to support the courthouse expansion and existing near term requirements of the remainder of the campus.

"Based on this analysis it does not appear that redevelopment of Worrell Park is needed," the staff summary says.

Focus areas identified by the project team for further analysis include:

 Campus parking policy and signage review—ensure messaging is clear and intuitive
 Ensure accessible routes and wayfinding are provided for staff and visitors
 Parking management and enforcement—ensure parking is prioritized for campus users
 Explore Transportation Demand Management options and strategies to increase walking, biking, and transit use and reduce single-occupant vehicle trips and parking demand.
 Assess future growth needs and parking allocation priorities. Identify and plan for mid-term options to increase capacity

The potential development sparked opposition and creation of a citizen group, "Save Bill Worrell Wayside Park," that has staged several events over the past year at the site, to make more people aware of it and of the potential loss of "a gem in the heart of downtown Bend." They noted the lava flow's natural vegetation is home to many watchable wildlife species.

Contacted about the new developments, protest group organizer Donna Owens offered a "cautious yay!" ahead of next week's commissioner meeting.

Article Topic Follows: Deschutes County

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Barney Lerten

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