Local Rick Wright with Ron WydenBack in my California windsurfing days, we would occasionally sneak out of the office on a blustery afternoon for a "Board Meeting" at Coyote Point in San Francisco Bay. That's my kind of meeting. I would much rather be out on a trail than sitting in a chair in a conference room. My butt is sore from too many meetings last week, but sometimes you've got to endure the chair to advocate the trail. I attended a meeting of the Deschutes County Committee on Recreation Assets with Senator Ron Wyden, as well as the Winter Recreation Advisory Group and Trail User Group meetings with the Forest Service.
The attendees at the meeting with Senator Wyden represented a "Who's Who" of outdoor recreation leaders in our community. Wyden appointed the ad hoc committee, co-chaired by longtime Bend La Pine School District official Peter Miller and Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Melton, because "access to outdoor recreation enhances quality of life and attracts new businesses, creates jobs and stimulates the economy." Wyden also believes the benefits of outdoor recreation stretch beyond that to addressing our looming healthcare crisis.
The Bend Visitors Center corroborated the value of our recreational resources to our economy. Its recent study of 700 visitors to our area found that over 50% came for the outdoor recreation: #1 hiking/trail running (51%), #2 cycling (29%), and #3 rafting/kayaking/canoeing.
Although there seems to be consensus on the importance of our recreational assets to the vitality of Central Oregon, former mayor Bob Woodward noted that the problem is that "we are working with 1960 resources and a 2008 crowd."
The committee discussed four recommended projects that reflect the priorities of our community:
Create a multi-modal recreation trail along the North Unit Irrigation Canal from Highway 126 to Smith Rock. The concept is to develop a dirt mountain bike and walking/jogging trail that could later be upgraded to a paved recreation trail. Accompanied by the designation of back roads, this could create a nice cycling loop from Redmond to Smith Rock.
Provide a paved route along Road 41 between Bend and Sunriver. This is the first project identified as part of an overarching goal of establishing Deschutes County as a premier cycling destination by improving the connectivity of our communities. A relatively flat, low traffic alternative to Highway 97 can be achieved by putting in about 3 miles of paved road or path.
Expand access along the Century Drive corridor. This umbrella project includes the expansion of the cross country ski trails and parking lot at Meissner, expansion of the mountain biking trails at Wanoga, development of dog-friendly ski and snowshoe trails, development of a new Kapka Butte Sno-Park serving the snowmobile community and more.
Expand the Deschutes River Trail, both on land and in the water. This project, initially outlined in the 2002 Deschutes River Trail Action Plan, seeks to develop an uninterrupted land-based trail from Meadow Camp to Tumalo State Park. In addition, the Bend Paddle Trail Alliance seeks to establish a State Water Trail from the high lakes through La Pine, Sunriver, Bend, Redmond and beyond which includes the development of brochures, signage, and additional put-in and take-out facilities.
Sally Russell, former executive director of the Cascade Festival of Music, was announced as the coordinator of the new Recreation Plan, tasked with working with the myriad of groups involved in making some of these recreation wishes reality. Sally, we are behind you all the way!
I'll share more specifics from the Forest Service next week. One thing for sure is that they would not be able to accomplish a fraction of what they do without the amazing help they receive from volunteers. So, your friends at the Deschutes National Forest are throwing a thank you party for all volunteers on October 28th from 5:00-6:30pm at the Bend Senior Center. Cider and light refreshments will be served. For more information, contact Jean Nelson Dean at 383-5576.
We all know Bend is filled with frighteningly dedicated athletes in diligent training for their next event. Well, here is the perfect opportunity to hone your Trick or Treating skills and ability to rush around in the dark finding goodies: the Vampire- O! What, you've never done a Vampire-O? There's no better time than the present to try a new sport. You can train for Halloween and test your nighttime map and compass skills at the annual Vampire-O on the COCC Campus October 29th. The goal is to find as many checkpoints out in the woods as you can in 2 hours, but watch out for scary vampires who may "bite" you and suck your blood (steal your points) while you are out there. Prizes will be provided for best costume and top finisher. Race solo or in teams. Cost is only $5 (free for students). For more information, contact Cynthia Engel at email@example.com or 280-5314.