City council agrees to craft a lease for a portion of land north of Ochoco Creek Park

A community bike park first pitched to Prineville City Council last summer will likely become reality following tentative approval of a land lease.

Last week, Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA) representative and Prineville resident Darlene Henderson again appeared before the council in hopes of gaining approval to use a small, triangle-shaped parcel of city-owned land just north of Ochoco Creek Park and west of Juniper Street.

She gave a presentation recapping the steps she has taken to launch the project, and once again described some of what the park would feature. The pump track, made primarily of dirt mounds, is constructed in such a way that “if you do it correctly, you never have to pedal - you just pump your bike,” Henderson explained. A perimeter skill building trail would include wood and rock features.

“It gives you various technical terrain for which to practice maneuvering your bike,” she said.

Henderson told the council that she has visited local Kiwanis and Rotary meetings, as well as the Crook County Middle School fair, to assess community support. So far, responses have been encouraging.

“The feedback I got from the teachers was that we were one of the most popular exhibitors at the fair,” she said.

To move the project forward, Henderson said that COTA needs to apply for grant funding to build the park. However, she can’t apply for grants without city approval to use the land. Henderson had initially asked the council to donate the property, but they declined and instead offered to lease the land to the Crook County Parks and Recreation District. The district would manage the park once built and provide regular maintenance.

Complicating matters, the land belongs to the City of Prineville Railway, so securing the desired property would involve input from the railway commission as well as the council.

“The railway commission recognizes the difficulties that the railroad and freight depot operation have had in terms of profitability,” said city manager and railroad commission member Steve Forrester. “So, from a fiduciary standpoint, they recognize that they are not in a position to give assets away. On the other hand, I think it is also safe to say that they will defer this decision to the council and support their decision.”

Councilors weighed in on the proposed lease, questioning the length needed for the agreement and whether the railway would be compensated in any way for allowing use of the land. CCPRD Director Richard Bonine did not promise any monetary payment for the land, but said the district would provide ongoing maintenance of the property as payment.

Regarding timeframe, Henderson requested a 30-year lease in order to ensure that the project would be selected for grant funding.

“There is a lot of competition for these grants and if it’s a short-term (lease), they are not going to pick our project,” she said.

After discussing the project, councilors asked city staff to develop the framework for a lease that would meet the needs of the park proposal and protect the city should they need the land for any reason in the future.

“There can be some termination language in that lease agreement that would protect the city’s interests should a viable party come knocking on the door and want that parcel,” said Councilor Dean Noyes. “At the same time, it is benefitting the community and using a community-owned asset. It makes sense. There is really no downside. Everyone wins.”

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