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Work to build another road out of Juniper Canyon includes a survey of area residents

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Currenlty, there is only one improved road in and out of Juniper Canyon.

An effort to move forward with a secondary access road for Juniper Canyon is poised to resume in the near future with a public survey.

Juniper Canyon residents will soon be sent a survey in the mail where they will be asked to weigh in on a secondary access to the area.

"We want as many people to respond as we can get so we can have a good, comprehensive study of what the desires and will of the people are in that area," said Crook County Commissioner Jerry Brummer, who is spearheading the project.

Brummer first took an interest in creating a secondary access for the Juniper Canyon area in 1996 when he was serving on the Crook County Planning Commission. He became aware that about 20-25% of the county's population lives in that area, and there is only one improved way in and out, raising concerns about what might happen in an emergency where evacuations are necessary.

For many years, the idea didn't gain much traction, but when Brummer was elected commissioner in 2016, he made the project a county focus and progress was made. County leaders have since come up with a road proposal and are now trying to get it built.

The road would enter the Juniper Canyon area from Highway 27 about a 1 to 1.5 miles south of the city limits and travel east connecting with Davis Loop about 1.5 to 2 miles from the lower Juniper Canyon Road intersection. The road would be about 1.5 miles long and potentially make use of an existing dirt road that climbs about 300 feet in elevation over the course of about 5/8 of a mile, which would keep the road at less than 6% grade.

"We want to make this a good road so that people will want to use it," he said. "By doing this, we can change the traffic flows in the middle of town and benefit the city and ODOT in the long run."

Brummer said the county has had a hard time getting grants to help fund the project, and efforts launched early last year were hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic hit, county officials had met with leaders from the City of Prineville, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management and Oregon Department of Transportation to look at possible funding options. One opportunity was to secure a Federal Land Access Program (FLAP) grant.

Brummer had hoped to establish public meetings with residents in the Juniper Canyon area in February or March, depending on the weather, to hear their thoughts on the proposed road. But because of the pandemic, those meetings never happened and work on the project was shelved.

The effort has since gotten new life, and money has been added to the county road department fund to get some design work and engineering done on the proposed road.

"I think once we get that done, we will have a better opportunity to get a grant to do the road," Brummer said.

Meanwhile, the county wants to hear from Juniper Canyon residents to find out what their wants and needs are prior to the project breaking ground.

"Hopefully, we will come up with a good product when we get it done," Brummer said.

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