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$25,000 grant will jumpstart next phase of 460-acre Prineville recreational property

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - $25,000 grant will jumpstart next phase of 460-acre Prineville property.

The future of the Barnes Butte property just took a major step forward.

The National Park Service's Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program awarded a community assistance grant, valued at $25,000, to the City of Prineville earmarked to help complete the Barnes Butte Master Plan.

"I think it's just wonderful that we can take a really deep dive into what the community would like it to be and how we'll go about developing that," said City of Prineville Engineer Eric Klann.

The NPS program, which supports community-led natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation projects across the nation, lends non-financial planning and design assistance.

Purchased by the City of Prineville in early 2017, the Barnes Butte property is 460 acres of open space at the base of Barnes Butte just north of the Prineville city limits. When combined with existing BLM land, the property connects the north and south ends of Prineville, giving residents and visitors access to more than 620 acres of open space.

Since its acquisition last year, the Barnes Butte Focus Committee has established walking trails and solicited public input. However, more help was needed to develop a master plan detailing the future of the park, which will move forward in 2019 thanks to the RTCA grant.

"We're in a rare position to create a community asset that can be enjoyed and appreciated for generations of Prineville residents as well as visitors to our beautiful city," said Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe. "That's a responsibility we take seriously and why public involvement is so important."

Public meetings inviting community input will begin early in 2019.

"A master plan takes a really comprehensive look at to what the community would like that piece of property to be and how would we build it, what would the cost of those projects be," Klann said. "It helps us to orderly develop that piece of property into what the community would like it to be."

The Barnes Butte Focus Committee met last winter and spring to identify initial ways to get the community involved with the piece of property

"As we roll into this master plan, that Focus Committee plus any other interested members of the community would be involved in that, deciding what the community would like up there," Klann said. "This is a big public process that will codify those needs and desires."

The Barnes Butte project is one of 40 projects in the Pacific West Region to receive assistance from the RTCA program in 2019.

"What's great about the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance program is that we get to be part of local, community-driven efforts to design and improve natural areas like Barnes Butte," said Barbara Rice, program manager for RTCA. "We work collaboratively with local residents to conserve and enhance these special places and create recreation opportunities."

Recognizing that this complex effort could extend beyond 2019, the National Park Service has offered a second year of financial assistance should it be requested — an anticipated total award of $40,000.

"We've heard everything from just keeping it as it is to putting in 10 baseball fields and everything in between, and so what does the community want," Klann said of the property. "A lot of us use it, so what would we like that to look like today, and what would we like it to look like for our kids and for our grandkids as well?"

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