City leaders seek grant to add rubberized surface to horse racing track on its Barnes Butte property

JASON CHANEY - The horse track, covered in snow Friday, is exactly one half-mile long and is located about a third of a mile from the Combs Flat Road parking lot.

The City of Prineville is gearing up to complete its first of several potential improvements to its recently acquired Barnes Butte property.

An old horse racing track, and the trail leading to it from a recently installed parking lot, will become the focus in the coming months as plans to pave access to the track and add new surface to it unfold.

"It was a wonderful opportunity to pick up the land, and since September, we have been getting our focus group together once a month," said City Engineer Eric Klann.

That group, which meets every fourth Tuesday, has been tasked with giving the city some direction on what the community would like to do with the approximately 460 acres of land.

"One of the first steps that we need to do is a master plan for the site," Klann said, noting that he has identified a grant to apply for this spring that would help fund that.

However, as work begins on the master plan, which will take considerable time to complete, an effort to resurface the horse racing track will begin in the near future.

"State Parks has a grant that was due Friday. They funded some of the kiosks and trails out at the wetland, so it is a grant we have been successful getting in the past," Klann said.

With that Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, Klann hopes to add three paved ADA-compliant parking spaces at the gravel Combs Flat Road parking lot, then pave a 12-foot path over the roughly one-third-mile trail from the parking lot to the track. The city would then install a 12-foot-wide rubberized surface on the track, which is exactly one-half mile long, and then add a 5-foot-wide soft surface alongside it with a 6-foot buffer between them.

The project will cost about $297,000, and the city is applying for $135,000 from the Land and Water Conservation Fund. The city will provide about $46,000 of in-kind work, such as excavation, and Klann plans to apply for a local government grant to fund whatever expenses remain.

"One of the big reasons for this (track upgrade) is ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) improvements," Klann said. "Right now, we are getting a lot of people out there, but all of the trails are just natural surface. If you are in a wheelchair, it will be tough to get around. … With its proximity to Barnes Butte Elementary, it's a wonderful thing. Any disabled kids at Barnes Butte, they don't need to feel any differently than anybody else if they do a field trip up to the site."

He went on to point out that before the city purchased the property from IronHorse, the developer had produced an outlined development plan that called for the racetrack to be converted to a public park.

Klann hopes that improving the historic track will preserve it for future generations.

"I think that racetrack is a really unique feature and by upgrading the surface to ADA-accessible and putting this work in, it will always be a track in the future," he said.

Assuming the city is awarded the Land and Water Conservation Fund grant, Klann hopes to see improvements move forward quickly, with completion of the project coming as early as this summer.

"It is a really beautiful piece of property. From up there, you can see the Cascade mountains and the whole Prineville valley," Klann said. "It is going to be a fun project. I am thinking of it as the anchor project for this property."

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