Central Oregon Trail Alliance has asked the City of Prineville to donate land for a bike park

After once again considering a new bike park proposal, the Prineville City Council has yet to decide if they will provide property for the project.

Late last November, Darlene Henderson, of Central Oregon Trail Alliance, approached the council with a bike park proposal. She requested that the city donate a small, triangle-shaped piece of property located north of Ochoco Creek Park and west of Juniper Street.

The small park would offer dirt, rock, and wood features and be made available for all ages.

“There is a desire for that kind of recreation in our community,” Henderson said. “Bike parks provide safe and easy access to exercise and recreation ... They are inexpensive to construct and maintain.”

During her November visit, the city opted not to donate the land and wait for a report on the property from their realtor of record before making any decisions on the land. They have since received that report, and Henderson said that COTA still wants it.

“This is still the preferred location because it is centrally located,” she said. “It is connected to other trails. It has a water source. It has restrooms and it adds to our existing parks instead of taking away from our parks.”

The request again came with supporting testimony from several individuals including Crook County Health Department Director Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown and Crook County Parks and Recreation Director Richard Bonine.

“Part of what we do at the health department is support health and safety in Crook County,” DeLaVergne-Brown said. She explained that the department recently participated in conducting a health impact assessment that yielded data suggesting Prineville lacks physical activity options.

“The health department staff is very supportive of the bike park and was to increase those opportunities in Crook County.”

The proposal once again generated considerable discussion primarily centered on whether the city was willing to relinquish its land, and if so, under what conditions. Matt Wiederholt, operations manager for the City of Prineville Railway, said that their railway commission opposed donating the land.

“They viewed it as a financial decision,” he said. “Based on the current railroad finances, they opted against donating it to any entity, not just this group.”

Wiederholt added that the railroad commission provided other recommendations, one of which was putting the property on the market to see if it would sell.

Bonine said he would prefer the city donate the land to the Parks and Recreation District to enable them to facilitate and manage the bike park, but offered two other options for the city to consider instead.

“The next-best possibility would be a long-term lease, which is over 25 years,” he said. “The third possibility is a memorandum of understanding, where it is still your property, but we would upkeep it.”

Councilor Dean Noyes expressed support for the memorandum of understanding option because the city could retain ownership of the property while allowing the parks district to facilitate and maintain the park.

“There is nothing about the proposed relationship that is unlike what we already have in existence with Parks and Rec on the other properties that are owned by the city,” he said. “It wouldn’t jeopardize the asset, it would keep it on the balance sheet for the railroad, and it would protect the city’s position and move this thing (the bike park) forward.”

Councilor Steve Uffelman, on the other hand, expressed his reservations about providing the land for the park without selling it or trading it for equal-value property.

“It is real property,” he said. “The railroad did spend money on that and I’ll stand by the railroad commission. We are stewards of the City of Prineville property.”

The other council members opted for ideas that landed somewhere between what Uffelman and Noyes had proposed. Gail Merritt said she approved the memorandum option, but would consider a land trade as a backup plan. Jason Beebe and Jason Carr echoed her thoughts, while Jack Seley and Mayor Betty Roppe preferred exploring a trade first, then a memorandum of understanding.

Given the mixed reviews, Bonine said he would present both options to the Parks and Recreation board, to see what option they prefer. He will then provide that input to the council at a future meeting.

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