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Stakeholders celebrate the launch of Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway designation

HOLLY SCHOLZ - Scenic Bikeway Steering Committee members from left to right, Travis Garner, James Good, Casey Kaiser, Seth Crawford, Duane Garner and Greg Currie cut the ribbon Friday morning at Rimrock Park.

It's official.

Crook County is on the Scenic Bikeway map.

The Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony during Prineville Perk Friday morning at Rimrock Park, signaling the completion of a four-year project.

"It's already a well-traveled highway by bicycle, and so this is a way to curate how to use the corridor," said James Good, who was on the steering committee to get the Scenic Bikeway designation for the Crooked River Canyon. "For the state and for the region, it's a great opportunity to advertise and market Prineville as a recreational destination."

The Scenic Bikeway begins at Rimrock Park on South Main Street and stretches 19 miles out to Big Bend Campground.

"It's a really nice out and back route, and it showcases one of the most scenic routes in our county," said Casey Kaiser, who is the Chamber executive director and also on the steering committee.

In February, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and Travel Oregon announced that the Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission approved the designation of the Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway.

Since then, the steering committee has secured signage, looked into other upgrades along the route, and planned a launch celebration.

On Friday morning, Crook County Parks and Recreation District Executive Director Duane Garner unveiled two sections of the new sign that they will soon install at Rimrock Park. Agee Ironworks created the metal signs, one featuring the CCPRD logo and another depicting the Crooked River Canyon Scenic Bikeway logo.

Kaiser pointed out that the steering committee has not spent any money on this process.

"If you go through the work to get this designation, it makes available some funds for some of those things like the signage first of all, but it also opens up the door for some grants for some potential improvements along the route," Kaiser said.

Travel Oregon will provide grants to improve the infrastructure, such as aprons and more signage.

The local parks and rec district owns Rimrock Park, the official starting point for the Scenic Bikeway.

"People will often park in this parking lot and head up the Crooked River Gorge," Garner said, pointing out the nearby RV park, fairgrounds and surrounding district-owned land.

He envisions a kiosk station, a bike maintenance station, restrooms and hiker/biker campsites.

"There's a lot of opportunity to create something special into the future," Garner said.

Kaiser said the Scenic Bikeway designation also helps put Crook County on the cyclists' map and provides them with more details about the route.

"The Scenic Bikeways are a popular thing, so people make a tour where they want to ride all of them in the state, and they generally stay overnight and make an event out of it," Kaiser said. "Cyclists are some of the highest spending groups of tourists out there, and they're relatively low-impact, too."

Good, who owns Good Bike Company in downtown Prineville, agreed that cyclists are good for business.

"The beautiful thing about cyclists, they're tired at the end of the day, they go to bed early, and they wake up early, and they're gone. And, they're willing to spend money. So, it's a good group of people," Good said.

He encourages bikers to take this route.

"It's incredibly gorgeous. Every time I go up there, it gets more and more beautiful. Just the camping opportunities, the picnic opportunities, fishing, hiking," he said, noting that bikers can make it an all-day trip or an overnighter. "It's been a destination; it's just more of an established destination."

The bikeway joins a collection of cycling routes overseen by the Oregon Scenic Bikeways program. The cycling routes are intended to inspire people to experience Oregon's natural beauty and cultural heritage by bicycle.

Launched in 2009, the program is a partnership between Cycle Oregon, Travel Oregon, Oregon Department of Transportation, and Oregon Parks and Recreation District.

Several stakeholders were involved in the designation process, including Bureau of Reclamation, Oregon Irrigation District, Bureau of Land Management, Crook County Parks and Recreation District, the Chamber, the Bowman Museum, the City of Prineville, Crook County, Oregon State Parks, and Oregon Department of Transportation.

"It really has blossomed into a great thing where we have all these community partners joined together, turning existing infrastructure into economic development," said Crook County Judge Seth Crawford, who had the honor of cutting the red ribbon. "I'm glad we're finally here. It's been a long road."

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