Majority of people surveyed would like second road, but some people have different ideas on where it should go

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Survey helps direct the Juniper Canyon access effort.

Crook County received encouraging results from a recent survey of roughly 2,200 Juniper Canyon residents regarding the addition of a secondary access road.

According to a recently released memo from County Commissioner Jerry Brummer, who is spearheading the effort, the county received 938 responses, and of those, about 86% expressed a concern about the lack of a secondary access.

"It was very successful to get that kind of response," Brummer said, adding that about 25 to 30 of the respondents said they would like to participate in the committee created to work on the project. "Some people had different ideas of where that access should be. That's great. That's the type of stuff we want to work on and see what people's thoughts are."

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 to 25% of the county's population live 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 focusing on getting something built.

The proposed road, which is still subject to change, would enter the Juniper Canyon area from Highway 27 about 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.

"One thing we are wanting to do is distribute that traffic flow and get part of it to come in on South Main (Street), instead of all of it going to Combs Flat (Road)," Brummer said.

With the new survey information in hand and people showing interest in joining a project committee, Brummer hopes to soon convene committee meetings and hold public forums to gather as much input and information as possible as county leaders pursue a new access.

"That will help us decide where it's going to be. We need to decide that and then we can figure out a cost on it and figure out how it might be funded," Brummer said.

The county has had a hard time getting grants up to this point, 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.

However, the new survey data and citizen participation should help.

"If you apply for grants, the first thing they will want to know is what the cost is," Brummer said. "We will be looking at all the sources and all the possibilities and potentials for different types of funding."

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