By John Bowler
The aptly named Crooked Fire, set off by careless burning in the southwest corner of the Ranch last May 31 has subsequently ignited several flameless conflagrations.
The latest is the presentation of a report and recommendation to the Crooked River Ranch Board Jan. 22 by an ad hoc Alternative Exit Committee.
The presenter was Rancher Kent Estell, member of the committee convened by the CRR Board to examine options for an additional CRR exit. It sprang from a Town Hall meeting in July 2007 organized by three Ranchers, who subsequently became committee members, to study issues the Crooked Fire illuminated and act on them.
The committee's first step was to poll Ranchers last fall on how they felt about the need for an alternative exit. Although the 543 responses represented only 21 percent of CRR properties, the norm for polls of Ranchers, 492 replied they wanted an alternative exit. A significant majority expressed a willingness to contribute to it.
The presentation to the board, available in its entirety at www.crookedriveranch.com, examines three main options that were explored with two subsequently tabled by the committee in favor of the one it recommended:
1. A northern route up the peninsula through Culver (tabled).
2. An exit north of the Association Clubhouse and bridge across the Crooked River (tabled).
3. Extending Quail Road south through BLM land over one mile to Lower Bridge Road with deliberate speed (recommended).
The two options tabled were for a variety of reasons including: very high cost, engineering obstacles, restricted properties involved, excessive time to complete, etc.
"The options tabled were not irretrievably or permanently abandoned," said Hope Johnson, one of the original organizers and committee members.
The main arguments for going ahead with the Quail Road extension to Lower Bridge Road option are:
1. Speedy to execute;
2. Relatively low cost;
3. Lack of bureaucratic obstacles;
4. Existing official support; and
5. Life and property safety benefits for residents and emergency agencies.
"Member Ben Johnson also raised the option of recommending 'doing nothing,' briefly referenced in the report's executive summary," Estell pointed out. "The committee rejected it as unworthy of consideration."
Estell explained, "Doing nothing accepts and prolongs the current situation, which poses significant risks to Ranch property and lives and ignores the potential for measurably reducing them by adding an alternative exit at relatively low cost. The committee feels doing nothing has an unacceptable cost/benefit ratio."
Another notable facet of the report was its assertion that the ad hoc committee is not going to dissolve after submitting its recommendation, implying that a thumbs down by the CRR Board would be unacceptable. It also states the committee's readiness to help make its recommendation happen.
Estell and several committee colleagues expressed concern about the CRR Board's reaction to their professional presentation and unequivocal recommendation. They said they didn't think it was received with unbridled enthusiasm.
The official board meeting highlights of the Jan. 22 meeting acknowledge presentation of the ad hoc committee report as follows: "The board has approved a motion to establish an action plan based on the data and recommendations by this committee. The action plan will be reviewed by the board at the March meeting."
Next step? Up for grabs. Special Road District Chair Clyde Stryker said, "I cannot speak for the rest of the SRD Board; however, I am committed to completion and success of this project for the sake of the Ranch."
A key factor in adoption and execution of the ad hoc committee's recommendation will be the official estimate of its benefits as an emergency route by those agencies most likely to use it: fire, rescue and police.
In any event, indications suggest Ranchers won't see embers from the Crooked Fire snuffed out soon.
In the Jan. 23 article about CRR home sales, it was reported RE/MAX closed both its CRR and Madras offices. It neglected to explain RE/MAX closed one office in Madras but moved to what they said is a more visible location at 210 South Old Culver Highway, Suite D, also in Madras. The Pioneer regrets the oversight.