Trails focus for Tri-County Summit

Speaker discusses livable communities

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Madras Public Works Director Gus Burril, pointing, leads a tri-county group on a 2.8-mile walk on the city’s trail system. After the summit on June 15, a smaller group took in more on the trail system on a bike tour of the city.

   Bike and pedestrian facilities were the focus of the first annual Tri-County Summit, held at the Madras Aquatic Center June 8.
   At least 60 people attended the event, which showcased Madras' trail system and amenities, and featured an internationally recognized speaker on improving the livability of communities, Dan Burden, of Port Townsend, Wash.
   "If you plan cities for cars and traffic, you get cars and traffic," he said. "If you plan for people and places, you get people and places."
   According to Burden, key components for livable communities are great plazas, beautiful buildings, narrow streets, short blocks, and limited parking -- preferably diagonal and back-in.
   Suggesting that cities have too much pavement, which discourages walking, and encourages faster driving, Burden said, "Take away a couple lanes."
   With unstable oil prices, he believes it's especially important to plan communities for pedestrians and bicyclists.
   "Hopefully, we can save all our Main Streets, but it's going to require a lot more cooperation than we have now," he said. "We can no longer afford to have bad design."
   The conference was organized by Sara Puddy, of Madras, assistant to the Public Works director, Cheryl Howard, of Bend, chairman of the Deschutes County Bike-Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and Kim Curley, who works for Commute Options of Bend.
   Puddy was pleased to be able to showcase the results of the city's hard work acquiring grants and funding to add bridges over Willow Creek and expand the trail system.
   She heard many comments from attendees about the improvements. "One guy from Bend said. 'I've lived here a long time, and I never thought Madras would be able to do what they've been able to do.'"
   "I was favorably impressed," said Sheila Lyons, of Salem, bicycle and pedestrian program manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation. "It seems that Madras has a lot going on to support walking and biking and I enjoyed my visit. I would say keep up the good work!"
   As a result of a recent presentation on the trail system by local officials, Cheryl Howard, knew what to expect when she came to Madras.
   However, when they saw the slide presentation, "We were very surprised and impressed with what the city had done as far as prioritizing bike and pedestrian facilities."
   Howard was also favorably impressed by the city's efforts to concentrate development on the east side, as well as the city's dedication to creating safe routes to schools, and addressing childhood obesity.
   "All of these pieces have a place together: the people, the bikes, the places," she said. "It's really impressive to see how completely the city has evolved, and it's a thing of beauty."
   Madras Public Works Department Director Gus Burril, who led a 2.8-mile walk on the local trails, said participants in the conference were pleasantly surprised by the city's bike and pedestrian trail system.
   "Some of the comments were, `I just didn't realize what all was going on in the Madras area once you get off the highway a few blocks,'" he said.
   "We're being as proactive as many of our surrounding communities are," said Burril, who was complimented on the city's effective planning and efforts.
   "The speaker was really encouraging us to think about our streets as more than asphalt and pavement," he said. "It should have beautification -- bringing the buildings together with the pedestrian-friendly features."
   The summit was the first for the tri-county group, which will represent the area's bike and pedestrian needs to the Central Oregon Area Commission on Transportation.