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A Trail Monopoly: Approaching retirement, trails guru Marv Lang gets a pat on the back 

Land near his namesake trail at Phil'sAs one of the top trails and recreation planners on the local national forest, Marv Lang is accustomed to

click to enlarge Land near his namesake trail at Phil's
  • Land near his namesake trail at Phil's
Land near his namesake trail at Phil's
As one of the top trails and recreation planners on the local national forest, Marv Lang is accustomed to being pulled in several directions and, occasionally, getting kicked around a bit by competing users.

Recently though, Lang got a very visible pat on the back when the Central Oregon Trail Alliance designated a new segment in the Phil's Trail system as Marv's Garden. And as local bikers know, getting a trail named after you is one of the highest honors in the Central Oregon biking hierarchy.

"Usually, the rule is that you need to be dead at least five years to have a trail named after you," notes COTA president Kent Howes. "It's been an ongoing joke. But we wanted him to be able to enjoy it. Marv's Garden is also something people are used to hearing from Monopoly."

Howes describes the trail as running from north of Skyliner Road about 3.5 miles south to Century Drive. The singletrack trail is about one month old and is designated for riders with "reasonably good beginner skills," though rock and log features exist alongside the trail for the more advanced rider.

Lang, a Bend Fort Rock Ranger District supervisor and project leader, now in his 18th year of service, has conducted a great variety of outdoor enthusiasts through the building, maintenance and sharing of untold miles of multiple-use trails during his tenure. He has never been just a cog in the wheel. He gets his hands dirty with everyone from mountain bikers and hikers to skiers and snowmobilers.

"It's an honor that we built such a relationship and trust that [COTA] would think to name a trail after me," says Lang, who started with a forest management degree, later moving to fire management then recreation and special uses. "It's a neat thing. It probably took 10 plus years for me to convince [COTA] that I wasn't their enemy. I've gone to bat for them quite a bit over time...Then for the Wanoga project, COTA got a $10,000 grant and gave it to us for the trails planning expenses."

Although Lang is not an avid biker - more of a rafter, gardener and self-proclaimed putterer - he says he will certainly take a spin on the new route. Howes has mixed feelings about the prospect of Lang's retirement. There is happiness for Marv as well as "sadness and melancholy."

"Marv has been great to work with," Howes says. "There's always the X factor when you bring in someone new."

Howes recalls when Lang came to COTA seven years ago, before which time COTA was creating some renegade trails.

"Marv worked with us, not against us, and he was a moving force in that transition," Howes remembers. "If it hadn't been for this guy with pretty progressive thinking, we wouldn't have the trails we have in Bend now. It shows how much difference one person can make."

Howes is particularly pleased about the new and continuing Wanoga trail complex southwest of Bend, which Lang has been instrumental in planning.

Sue Olson, director of public affairs and partnerships for the Deschutes and Ochoco national forests, most readily recalls Lang's deft orchestration of users at the Dutchman Flat area, a popular sno-park with skiers, snowmobilers and snowshoers.

"One thing Marv and I did together was bring people in for a meeting over three days to talk about how we can peaceably work together to share this piece of ground," she says. "Some things were resolved. There was a separation of uses, a designation of trails, things done on the ground, and a lot of supporters of the forest who love to recreate."

Once a month Lang also brings together all spectrums of the recreation wheel at the ranger station to hash out issues and hopefully find some shared ground. Olson adds that Lang is further defined by his caring, thoughtful personality and fresh-baked cookies. Quite a feat for a man's man.

Lang says that Central Oregon is a desirable job location, offering a large, challenging and exciting task. He cites one of his greatest challenges as coping with ongoing changes in technology, which not only create the need for added and altered trails but further splinter user groups, setting the stage for more potential conflict.

"We're the middle guy, trying to please everyone to a degree," Lang says. "The challenge is knowing where you put everyone and at what point you limit the opportunities because the experience is diminished."

Chris Sabo, BFRRD trail supervisor, says the easygoing Lang puts trust and faith in his crew, focusing on the big picture rather than the details.

"Marv has brought the [Deschutes National Forest] trails program to where it is today," Sabo says. "There is a high demand for trails and many user groups with new projects in Central Oregon. Marv is pretty good at getting those to the table and explaining the process."

Lang says that after he retires he hopes that communication among groups will continue and that leaders will remember to take a wide-angle look at winter and summer recreational uses. A revision of the 20-year-old Deschutes National Forest master plan is also on the horizon as well as several recreational-use projects. But despite rumors to the contrary, Lang's retirement is still a little ways off.

"My sense is that my work is not done here yet," he says. "I feel I have more to contribute to the program, and we have leadership now that is recreation-minded. I want to be around for that. It's a strong group of people who care about the land and are committed to what they're doing. The bottom line is, I'm still having fun."


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