County effort to designate route on Crooked River Highway nearing completion

A more than two-year community effort to establish a state-designated scenic bike route in Crook County is nearing conclusion.

Later this month, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is hosting a final public meeting where people can review information on the proposed Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway and ask questions about the project.

Casey Kaiser, a member of the scenic bikeway's steering committee and director of the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, said this meeting follows one held this spring with Travel Oregon and Alex Phillips, a representative from Oregon State Parks and Recreation.

"At that point, we had a draft of the scenic bikeway plan in place," he said, "so the purpose of that public meeting was for the public to be able to review the draft of the plan and provide any input."

The steering committee took that input and used it to make revisions to the plan and submitted a final plan to Phillips in late July.

"She (Alex) has reviewed it and made her recommendation to the Oregon Scenic Bikeway Committee for us to proceed," Kaiser said. "This (upcoming) public meeting will hopefully be the last step, providing there isn't any major last-minute feedback."

The idea for a scenic bikeway in Prineville went public in early 2015 when Crook County Commissioner Seth Crawford and Greg Curry, with the Prineville BLM District, approached local leaders about the special state designation.

The proposed route would begin at Crooked River Park on South Main Street and follow the Highway 27 about 19 miles to Big Ben Campground near Prineville Reservoir. According to a recent Oregon Parks and Recreation news release, it takes visitors from the community of Prineville, "across the farm and ranch fields of the Crooked River Valley, then through the deeply carved and dramatic Crooked River Canyon. Riders pass by pastures of grazing cows and llama, then under dramatic basalt cliffs and pillars, while following the route of the Wild and Scenic Crooked River."

Crawford and Curry stressed that if Oregon State Parks officially designates it as a scenic bikeway, the community would reap benefits in the form of advertising through Travel Oregon and other sources outside the Crook County area.

More recently, steering committee member James Good, who owns Prineville-based Good Bike Co., pointed out some other benefits to the designation.

"There are some infrastructure update opportunities and then a bunch of other grant opportunities as well," he said.

Good noted that upgrades might include the paving of aprons at campgrounds along the highway or additional signage for the bikeway.

Underscoring the value in adding more cycling tourism, Kaiser noted that the average cyclist spends about $280 per day in a community.

"Cyclists' average daily spending is high in relationship to other types of visitors," he said, "so they are a pretty high economic impact visitor."

Public comments on the proposed bikeway will be taken at the meeting, and written comments will be accepted before and after the meeting until the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission acts on the proposed designation. Those comments will be presented to the commission before the vote.

Assuming the committee approves the scenic bikeway, local leaders anticipate work to begin on it the following spring.

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