- Associated Press - Monday, February 27, 2017

BEND, Ore. (AP) - Those who only know Bend from glossy magazine spreads and tourism promotions probably know the River West neighborhood the best.

The area is rich with things to do, but for residents and the River West Neighborhood Association, that popularity has come with a price, and they fear the loss of something special, reports The Bulletin (http://bit.ly/2mvM55s).

Stretching from the southern flank of Awbrey Butte to Simpson Avenue, and from downtown to the edge of NorthWest Crossing, River West is at the core of what’s become known as “the west side.” It lies on the doorstep of the Deschutes National Forest and is home to quirky millworker cottages, bike shops, ski shops and an unceasing flow of craft beer.

From the “Flaming Chicken” roundabout where Galveston Avenue and NW 14th Street meet, one road heads south to Mt. Bachelor and the Cascade Lakes Highway, one leads west to Phil’s Trail and Tumalo Falls, and one leads back toward the center of town, through the dense corridor of beer-centric establishments that now line Galveston.

Until 10 Barrel Brewing opened its pub on Galveston in 2010, Westside Tavern was the area’s sole drinking establishment. In the years since, the Galveston corridor has added Brother Jon’s, Sip Wine Bar, Sunriver Brewing and The Lot food cart pod. Aspect Boards & Brews pairs a snowboard shop with a handful of taps and a seasonal beer garden, while Primal Cuts meat market offers pints and growler fills.

Up Century Drive, a former wood products plant has become Century Center, an occasional concert venue and home to GoodLife Brewing and a scattering of other new businesses. Just beyond the boundary of the neighborhood sits the new OSU-Cascades campus, widely expected to kick off a new wave of development and redevelopment.

But overnight vacation rentals have proliferated and residents contend with new faces on a nightly basis.

Julie Hamilton, treasurer of the River West Neighborhood Association, said she still loves the neighborhood. Being able to walk everywhere she needs to go or ride a bicycle in any direction are traits that define the area. She isn’t the only one who feels that way.

Many of the things that drew her to her neighborhood about seven years ago are the same things that make it attractive to tourists, she said. The result is crowded on-street parking, litter and the boorish and inebriated behavior of some visitors, all of which are changing the area, she said.

“There’s concern that part of the neighborhood will disappear,” Hamilton said. “It just won’t be attractive anymore.”

The association has made noise its top priority for the coming year, particularly noise created by live music and other activity in the commercial areas adjoining residential streets. Members are pushing the Bend City Council to adopt a more stringent noise code that would reduce the maximum allowable noise by five decibels. Because the decibel scale is not linear, turning the volume up from 60 dB to 70 dB is perceived as twice as loud.

The association is also calling for the creation of “entertainment zones,” areas with looser noise standards where live music and similar activities can flourish without affecting residential areas. The group has suggested the area between downtown and Third Street, and the old KorPine plant in the Old Mill District as possible entertainment zones.

Traffic is an ongoing concern, Hamilton said, as neighborhoods even farther west than hers continue to develop, forcing vehicles through River West to the handful of bridges over the Deschutes River.

Hamilton said the association is continuing to push back on vacation rentals, although there’s an understanding it’s too late to turn back the clock. Looking forward, the association would like to end the city policy that allows the owner of a house permitted for vacation rentals to transfer that permit to a new owner if the house is ever sold.

The neighborhood association has taken on beautification projects as well.

“Triangle Park” - a small wedge of land between NW 12th Street and NW Union Street, a few blocks north of Galveston - was taken over by the association about 10 years ago and planted with native plants.

Hamilton said the neighborhood association is getting more organized all of the time and recently secured a deal to use the Environmental Center to host the growing number of people attending its monthly meetings. As fast as things are changing in River West, the job of staying on top of neighborhood issues is only going to get more complicated.

“People in the neighborhood association feel like we owe it to our neighbors to do the research, do the legwork, show up at the meetings and make sure we’re still there in the audience when the council looks up,” she said.

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Information from: The Bulletin, http://www.bendbulletin.com

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