Deschutes Bridge Bill Dies in Salem

Bill That Would Have Banned Any New Footbridge Across Deschutes River Will Not Be Considered

As the legislative session winds down in Salem on Saturday, it appears a bill that could have banned any new footbridges across the Deschutes River in the Bend area will not make it to a vote before the House and Senate.


On Friday, State Senate President Peter Courtney told Central Oregon Daily would not make it out of committee during this session.
For decades, the Bend Park and Recreation District has wanted to connect the Deschutes River Trail all the way from Tumalo to Sunriver, and a footbridge just south of Bend city limits could have been the final piece of that puzzle, but the proposal had fierce opponents and supporters on both sides of the issue.
The proposed bridge was part of a bond measure approved by Bend voters in 2012, and has been discussed since 2004, but the construction of the foot and bike bridge has been halted since it requires an exemption from the state.


A law passed in 1996 established that segment of the Deschutes River south of Bend as a scenic waterway and bans construction, like the bridge, in that area.
Last month, community leaders from Deachutes County traveled to Salem to testify before a committee about House BIll 4029 (which eventually became 4029A). Bend Park and Rec and Bend City Council reps opposed the bill, while groups like Coalition for the Deschutes and Oregon Wild were in favor of the bill.
With Friday’s developments in Salem, it looks like the battle over a proposed footbridge across the Deschutes River will not have a resolution anytime soon.

House Bill Could Block Deschutes Bridge

Residents and official from Bend testified in Salem on Thursday morning on House Bill 4029, which would forever ban a proposed bridge over the Deschutes River.

Members from Bend Parks and Rec, Bend City Council and community members all spoke against the bill during Thursday’s hearing.

Bend’s Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell echoed concerns raised by the Bend Parks and Rec Department, saying the bill would “derail the local participation process,” and put a local decision in the hands of the state.

The proposed bridge has been hotly contested. Proponents believe connecting the Deschutes River Trail from Tumalo to Sunriver would provide necessary transportation and recreation benefits.

Opponents say it could disrupt the designated protected area along the south Deschutes and could lead to a slippery slope of lost protections for other scenic areas.

Some of those opponents also spoke on Thursday. Members from the Coalition for the Deschutes spoke in favor of the bill, saying there was a reason the state protected that stretch of waterway in the first place.

“This is not a local issue,” said Michael Eisele, of the Coalition for the Deschutes. “This is a wild and scenic river that serves all of Oregon citizens, all its visitors and the future generations and we benefit today from the foresight of those who put these rules in place, way before Bend Parks and Rec started planning their bridge.”

The bridge was part of a bond measure approved by Bend voters in 2012, and has been discussed since 2004, but the construction of the foot and bike bridge has been halted since it requires an exemption from the state.

A law passed in 1996 established that segment of the Deschutes River south of Bend as a scenic waterway and bans construction, like the bridge, in that area.

On Friday it will be decided wether or not the bill will move forward.

Bridge Battle

The Bend Parks and Rec Board Will Oppose a Bill that Prohibits a Deschutes River Bridge

At a meeting of the Bend Park & Recreation District Board on Tuesday night, members made it clear that they will try to stop the passage of House Bill 4029, which would effectively ban any future footbridges across the Deschutes River.
The board felt that the bill would shut down any conversation within the community about the potential recreation and transportation benefits a bridge connecting the Deschutes River Trail could bring.
“Our concern is, and what we’ve been saying all along, is we need a very broad community discussion,” said board member Ted Schoenborn. “This legislation effectively shuts down any conversation in the community.”
Schoenborn will head to Salem on Thursday to testify against House Bill 4029, and the board hopes to potentially bring together the community, Parks and Rec board, State Parks, Forest Service, recreation organizations and conservation organizations to continue discussions about the bridge.
The proposed bridge, which was approved by Bend voters as part of a bond measure in 2012, would cross the Deschutes River near Bend’s southern boundary and would effectively connect the Deschutes River Trail all the way from Tumalo to Sunriver.

Tumalo Boardwalk Expansion

Deschutes River Trail Plans to Expand By Mid-Summer

The Deschutes River is expanding north this summer as the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department adds a new boardwalk a half mile south of Tumalo State Park. Central Oregon Daily photojournalist Tim Wehde was there today as they put the finishing touches on the last section.

House Passes Bill to Reinforce Protections Along the Upper Deschutes River

A proposed bridge being considered for the last five years could face more hurdles after the House unanimously passed State Representative Gene Whisnant’s bill on Wednesday afternoon. The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration. The chairman of the board of directors for the Bend Park and Recreation District says if the bill becomes law, it could mean the end for any chance to build the bridge and connect the Deschutes River Trail from Tumalo to Sunriver.