Shedding light on the Ochoco Creek path
It's too dark.
It's not safe enough.
The Ochoco Creek bike and pedestrian path is a popular place for people to walk, jog and bike through the community, particularly where it winds past the local skate park and through the adjacent Ochoco Creek Park.
But once the sun goes down, the path goes dark, and most people avoid the path. A survey completed by the Crook County Health Department as part of its Community Health Impact Assessment confirms this, as did a follow up survey by Prineville Police Sgt. James Peterson.
"People said they use the bike path during the day, but when it's dark, they don't," he remarked.
Hoping to change that, Peterson targeted the path as part of a neighborhood safety enhancement project.
"How it all started was in 2016, I went to a supervisor leadership academy at the Department of Public Safety in Salem," he said. "One of the parts of the academy is you see if there are any projects that might work in your neighborhood."
Peterson researched Oregon Knowledge Bank, reviewing different types of projects that might benefit Prineville and one that he found revolved around a concept called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).
"Basically, what that is, is when you modify the environment to be safer, to deter or prevent crime altogether," he explained. "One of the areas we have had problems in the police department is on the bike path, especially at night. It is often used as a corridor for people to make their way through town without being seen."
To combat that issue, Peterson wanted to add lighting along the path and security surveillance to improve public safety along the path at night. And early in the research process, he found he wasn't the first person to look into the idea. The health department had already conducted its own CPTED assessment of the path with plans to add additional lighting.
Projects developed during the supervisor leadership academy can earn grant funding, and the path lighting project was recently awarded $15,000 by the State of Oregon. That funding joined another $15,000 awarded by the Facebook Community Action grant program to Crook County Parks and Recreation District.
The CCPRD grant was intended to add lighting to the path from Third Street to Juniper Street only, but the additional state grant plus some in-kind donations will enable community leaders to install lighting from Juniper Street to Elm Street.
Peterson credits James Wilson with the city IT department with coordinating the donation of heavy equipment rentals from the city public works department and lighting design and layout by the IT department.
"With this project, we are using existing (electrical) infrastructure – commercial power along the (path) and standard parking-lot style lighting," Peterson said, adding that 24 lights will be installed between Third and Elm streets.
The project is quickly moving forward and is expected to conclude by the end of this month with minimal impact to trail use during the construction process.
"I think it's going to be a real attribute to Prineville," said CCPRD Director Duane Garner. "People are going to feel safe, the path is going to get used more often, and healthy activity like that is certainly a good thing and helps discourage criminal activity. I think it is good for everybody."