March 18, 2008

Monitor Cline Falls park

Spokesman editorial

Last week the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department announced that it was instituting a ban on alcohol for Cline Falls Scenic Viewpoint. According to the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Department it responded to more than 100 calls at the popular day use area in 2007.

This came as welcome news to anyone who has had occasion to visit the park in the last few years – unless of course they were one of those unruly louts who made the place inhospitable for the sober.

Cline Falls is a treasure for the Redmond area. We’re a dry town. Unlike Bend and Prineville we have no picturesque river or creek running through our the city. Without water in town -- discounting the canals, which we’re supposed to stay out of – Cline Falls is our nearest aquatic opportunity.

Only four miles out of town Redmond, Cline Falls is an oasis of green in a sea of browns, resplendent with soft grass, picnic tables and barbecues, horseshoe pits and swimming holes.

Unfortunately, what makes it great is also its downfall. Cline Falls is outside the city but close by, and it’s free – no gate or ranger collecting a few bucks and scrutinizing the visitors.

Its proximity and remoteness, and lack of park staff presence, has encouraged a seedier element than is preferable for most folks. Kids skulk into the viewpoint (we all call it a park – not sure what the state sees as the difference) to party and adults who ought to know better hook up with friends for loud obnoxious barbecues and river floats.

Most likely it isn’t so much the alcohol – people over 21 are allowed to drink in Redmond parks provided they are not in a group of more than 10 – that causes the trouble but mixing alcohol with the lack of accountability that comes with a remote location.

Of late many families don’t enjoy Cline Falls. They don’t feel safe, or at the very least, comfortable. When families arrive they often find carloads of young people revving their engines and blaring their stereos, large groups of picnickers conversing and cussing at loud volumes and signs of illegal activity.

What was once a bucolic park for summertime relaxation has become crowded and unpleasant. The alcohol ban, however, will only be as good as its enforcement. We can only hope the sheriff’s office will be increasing its patrols to ensure compliance.

It may not be enough, regardless. Redmond has grown so much in the past two decades it may be time for the state to consider making the day use area a fee park. A ranger on site, and charging a couple of bucks a car, is sure to winnow out the troublemakers who can’t be bothered.

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