Clearly Marked | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Clearly Marked

Sign project aims to mitigate damage to public lands

The Deschutes Paddle Trail is a stunning stretch of nature, skirting along the twisty river, and ducking in and out of fir forests.

But that beauty also creates a paradox: The Deschutes River's beauty attracts hordes of visitors, but not all manage to preserve its natural habitat, trampling off-trail plants and unintentionally damaging adjacent land.

The Bend Paddle Trail Alliance hopes to solve that issue, and has started with simple signs to gently nudge and encourage recreators to use the space properly, says Jayson Bowerman, a board member for Bend Paddle Trail Alliance.

While trying to create a contiguous river trail within Deschutes County, BPTA members saw an opportunity to better mark areas for recreators to put in along the waterway, making trips to the area even more user-friendly and less likely to end in accidents.

Bowerman (pictured on this issue's cover as The Hulk) explains that a campaign to create and post updated, uniform signage is one immediate way to deter future threats to the land.

"There wasn't a lot of signage up there, and a lot of it's accessed through the National Forest land," Bowerman said, discussing the river trail sign project his group completed in cooperation with local government agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office.

The collaborative process reaches back to 2008, but really gained momentum in 2009 and 2010 when BPTA began focusing on fundraising efforts. They collected nearly $100,000 for the project, and the new signs were posted during the fall last year at the tail end of the high-use season.

"People would very often trespass on people's property or put in at the wrong spot and destroy vegetation up there," he said. "In some cases, people would put in at dangerous places, like at the Tetherow logjam or at Pringle Falls, where it looks innocuous, but if you go around the corner, you're at fast-five white water. The signage was an opportunity for people to recreate and take advantage of all that beauty."

Partnering with so many government agencies can be tricky, but Scott McBride, the supervisor for developed recreation in the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, called BPTA's efforts navigating those independent entities impressive and said he sees real value in the group's accomplishments.

"We've worked specifically on updating river information boards and maps at 17 different locations," he said of the project. And while the new postings currently offer visitors the most up to date information, McBride said, it will take an on-going effort to keep it current.

"We'll have a long-term agreement on maintaining the infrastructure that's been installed," he said of working with Bowerman and his group.

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