Encompassing close to 270 acres right in the heart of Bend, the Old Mill District lies along the banks of the beautiful Deschutes River. The land was purchased 26 years ago this year. It took just shy of 5 years to get approval for a mixed use development from the City of Bend; 4 years, 11 months and 3 days to be exact. When plans began to re-purpose the old lumber mill site into something that would benefit the whole community, developers of what has become the vibrant Old Mill District wanted to make sure that people were able to fully enjoy the natural beauty of the region.
One of the first steps was to address the restoration of the Deschutes River. Efforts on this front alone opened up 14,000 linear feet of river access that was previously off limits to the public for more than 80 years. In the process, a fish ladder was also installed in the Colorado Street dam, allowing fish habitat to expand once again to the Upper Deschutes.
To help visitors enjoy this new amenity, a large network of walking and biking paths were incorporated into the master plan and connected to the larger Bend trail network. The Old Mill District worked closely with the Bend Parks and Recreation District, developing a color-coded loop system that pedestrians and bikers can easily enjoy. Each loop is lined by lighted bollards that provide directional information. Many of these bollards hold memorial plaques to commemorate local individuals that have contributed in a significant way to Bend or had involvement in the land’s timber history.
Because many of the pathways run beside the river, visitors can enjoy the abundant wildlife that these waters offer to the region. The Deschutes River is a vital migratory corridor and also plays host to many amazing avian residents. Birds of all kinds nest in bird boxes installed around the property and water creatures such as beavers, muskrats and otters are often seen to peek up at passerby’s.
Historical interpretive signage was added to harken back to the mill days of yore and to honor a storied century of history to experience while walking along the river. These seven 3’ by 3’ hand-painted signs feature historical photos that have been recreated by artist Jerry Werner and provide information about land’s logging and timber mill history
What a journey we have all taken over the last 26 years. We are so proud to be a part of this amazing community. Thank you for all the support and the camaraderie and here’s to the next twenty years!
The vision of everyone who had a part of this restoration and development is to be congratulated. Thanks to them what could have been a dying lumber town is instead a vibrant mecca for visitors and business. It truly is a jewel in Central Oregon.