Also acknowledges removing green ribbons placed as protest
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The Bend Park and Recreation District acknowledged Monday it removed green ribbons and tags wrapped around about a dozen of the three dozen trees in Drake Park that may be removed from a trail upgrade project.
However, park district Executive Director Don Horton also issued a statement promising to save every tree they can.
"Per park rules, we don’t allow items to be posted or left unattended in parks, so they were removed," park district spokeswoman Julie Brown said Monday. "We are always willing to have conversations with community members and respect expressions of concern by individuals and groups."
"We will work as hard as we can during construction to save as many trees slated for removal. We do believe that some of these trees will be spared," Brown added.
Here's Horton's statement, in full:
"The Bend Park and Recreation District cares deeply about the natural beauty in its parks, trails and surrounding facilities, and we are committed to preserving as many trees as possible.
"The Drake Park bank and trail project will retain the character of the park while also improving accessibility and safety with modern design standards. We acknowledge the passion of community members related to Drake Park and appreciate hearing from individuals.
"We believe the project plan is the best way to retain the historic character of the park and make a trail/pathway that is accessible to all. We have spent a couple years working with certified arborists and landscape architects on the trail alignment to reduce impacts to mature trees.
"The number of trees permitted for possible removal is a small number of the 400+ trees currently in Drake Park. See attached for color-coding plans for trees to be protected, unimpacted, and those that may be removed.
"For the permit, it’s necessary to list all trees that may be impacted, rather than returning for case-by-case tree removal permission that would cause significant delays and costs during construction. However, we will work as hard as we can during construction to save as many trees slated for removal as we can. We do believe that some of these trees will be spared.
"With the grade changes necessary to meet ADA accessibility requirements (and) slope, it is not possible to curve around all trees. The trail expansion is also necessary for pedestrians, bicycles, strollers, wheelchairs and other modes of trail use. Because of the grading necessary to meet the ADA grade, it is difficult to work around some of the larger trees. In some cases, we will be constructing retaining walls in order to meet these grade requirements.
"It’s important to know that there are more than 60 mature trees in the park prioritized for protection efforts along the trail and five times the number outside of the project area. I encourage you to learn more about the project at: https://www.bendparksandrec.org/project/drake-park-project/.
Trees on which ribbons were placed Saturday included a giant Ponderosa pine that is more than 10 feet in circumference.
It was no advance St. Patrick’s Day event, but citizen activism to save trees currently in the way of a planned 10-foot wide paved trail by Mirror Pond, the plan's critics said in a news release Sunday, which continues below.
The eight women said they are unaffiliated with any group and decided to take action, after the (Bend) Planning Commission approved the Bend Parks and Recreation District’s $6.6 million plan for projects in Drake and Pacific parks.
The messages on the ribbons stated, “Don’t cut me down. Go around.” A tag gives more information about the trail and asks to honor the trees, get creative, and find a way for both a new trail and leaving the iconic trees stand, with the email address for Bend Mayor Sally Russell.
Their point? The city should mark all the three dozen trees that might be removed, invite the public to weigh in on the new trail, and come up with citizen-generated creative solutions that would save what makes Drake Park special.
Simply putting forward written plans makes it difficult for people to see the actual trees that could come down. What is likely to happen, the women say, is that when the parks department starts felling them, then there will be outrage -- after it’s too late to change course.
The women said they are in favor of many aspects of the new recreation plan that includes restoring riparian habitat.
"The part that is irreconcilable is the insistence on keeping the planned trail design close to Mirror Pond’s edge and barreling through standing trees, rather than going around them," their statement said.
"Why not create a winding pathway designed to slow people down, and showcase the trees that make Drake Park special? Trees should become the focus, not the obstacle."
The park district has said it plans to plant a roughly equal number of Ponderosa pines as part of the project. But Marina Richie, a member of the group, told NewsChannel 21 on Sunday that "cutting down big, mature trees and planting small saplings all of one species" is not acceptable.
"We don't oppose planting a few more pines, but not as a tradeoff," Richie said.
Richie said the ribbons were placed on the trees Saturday -- gently, using small tacks -- and they put three back on amid Sunday's winds (which coincidentally toppled a few tall trees elsewhere in Bend). But she said she returned to the park later to find the ribbons had been removed -- by whom, she doesn't know.
The bigger issue, the group said, is "how Bend values its elder trees, and the lack of a tree ordinance that gives priority to protecting long-standing trees that capture the most carbon, give the most shade, shelter the most wildlife, and make Bend a beautiful and livable city."
The women said people who want to comment on the Drake Park trees and the new trail should contact both Mayor Russell and park board members (each personally via email) to share their concerns at: https://www.bendparksandrec.org/about/board-of-directors/