Connecting the neighborhood

The current bike path is a crucial element in the community, and residents are being asked to give their input at an upcoming meeting

by: RAMONA MCCALLISTER/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - This portion of the bike path behind Panda Restaurant is an especially troublesome section, with multiple roots and bulges in the asphalt. It is also one of the sections that is too narrow for trucks to get into for future repairs.

For Prineville residents who bike or walk across town, the bike path is a convenient but often treacherous route of transportation.
   With many roots growing through portions of the path, a new surface and future expansions for the bike path is on the radar of the City of Prineville and the Crook County Parks and Recreation. The City of Prineville, Crook County, Crook County Parks and Recreation, and members of the community conducted a survey to address the health impacts of infrastructure in the community.
    “One of the outcomes of that particular effort was that we needed to improve bicycle and pedestrian access and safety in the community,” said Health Educator for the Crook County Health Department, Kris Williams.
   She said that they also did a healthy communities assessment, and again one of the priorities that was addressed was the resurfacing of the bike path and its connectivity in the community.
   In 2009, the City of Prineville applied for a transportation enhancement grant through Oregon Department of Transportation. Although unsuccessful the first time, Senior Planner for the City of Prineville, Josh Smith said that they recently sent in another application for a similar grant for $584,000, which includes the engineering, environmental, site preparation, and construction.
   The original grant proposal was referred to as the Ochoco Lumber Rail Spur Path, and was proposed as an eight-foot wide, 3,700 linear feet, multi-use path and pedestrian crossing over the highway. It would have extended the City’s trail network, providing a safe crossing over the highway to create an alternative transportation route from major residential areas to the north of Hwy. 26 to primary areas south of Third Street.
   The new grant proposal has some slight modifications to the original application, but provides the same outcomes.
   The goal of the upcoming meeting is to get a group of businesses and community members to come up with a backup plan, should the ODOT grant not be successful. Williams said it is their hope that there will be a good representation of contractors, businesses and individual community members.
   “We are looking for solutions to the problem,” said Williams. She added that they will continue to apply for grants, but they are hoping for some people to come to the table to help find solutions.
   According to Williams, the Community Health Improvement Partnership (CHIP) also identified the bike path as a way to increase physical activity and decrease obesity in the community.
   In a report done by the State of Oregon for 2004-2007, 39 percent of Crook County residents overall fell into the overweight class, and 23.6 percent were obese. It also showed that 69 percent of adults met the recommendations for physical activity.
   “It’s extremely important in this community because of our obesity rate and because of our disease rates, we really need to work on our infrastructure for encouraging bicycling and walking,” said Williams. “We also would like to increase students utilizing the bike path for access to schools.”
   Crook County Parks and Recreation Director, Maureen Crawford said that it is difficult to apply for grant dollars to build new trails when our existing trail is in such disrepair.
   “If we can get our existing bike path in decent repair, than that can be phase one,” commented Crawford. “From there, we can start working on connectivity to other trails.”
   Williams said that it is an ongoing concern for the many residents who use the path on a daily basis -- including runners, bicyclists and pedestrians.
   “All ages (use it),” said Crawford. “It’s really important to link our neighborhoods to commercial retail areas and schools, as well as other parks and trails in the area. It’s about providing connectivity and a space for pedestrian access.”
   She added that the Parks and Recreation district maintains the bike path, although they only own a small portion of it. She said that they maintain from 3rd Street to Elm Street by Ochoco Creek Park. The remainder of the bike path involves a maintenance agreement with the City of Prineville and includes a budget allocation of $1,500—which covers weed-eating, limbing trees and small repairs.
   “Part of the problem with the existing bike path is when it was built, there was never a gravel base put in a lot of it, so you just have asphalt sitting right on the dirt and the roots are coming up right through the asphalt.”
   Crawford said that it will not be an easy fix, and it will require ripping some parts of the path out and building a new trail in many areas. She added that some very narrow stretches of the trail, such as those behind Gee’s Restaurant and the Central Oregonian also complicate things..
   “The bike path is so narrow in places that trucks can’t get in there to even resurface it,” said Crawford. “So a lot of that will probably have to be in-kind work that the park district and the city work together on.”
   Crawford and Williams said that they are encouraging the public to provide input at the Dec. 20 meeting, and they are hoping for a good turnout from the community.
   The upcoming meeting for the bike path discussion will be at the City Hall, 400 E. 3rd, on Dec. 20 at 4 p.m. For more information call Kris Williams at 541-447-5165 or Maureen Crawford at 541-447-1209.