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Project combining mountain biking, running and horseback riding will be a trememendous addition to recreation in Madras

Quite often, it's one motivated, determined person that makes something really special occur.

Such a story is taking place in Madras.

When Brennan Morrow moved here from Sisters, he brought with him his love of mountain biking. Problem was, there was no great place to mountain bike in town. Instead of just grumbling, he went to work to change that fact — and this summer, the East Hills Trails will be a reality.

Nearly two years ago, he started meeting with city officials. There were several pitfalls and legal issues that arose. But Morrow, and the city, kept with it. The end result: Madras is going to have an excellent multiuse dirt trail system come this summer.

Morrow is a member of a pretty fantastic organization: the Central Oregon Trail Alliance, and the leader of its Madras chapter. COTA got behind the Madras effort by fronting $15,000, which has been used for fencing and other initial work. COTA will contribute to the trail's maintenance with volunteer manpower, and its promotion through the association's website and club word of mouth. It's a great organization to have as a community partner.

Since 1992, this organization has focused on "preserving and enhancing" mountain biking, essentially striving to bolster the sport and create and maintain areas to conduct it. The association is headquartered out of Bend, and most certainly the majority of its membership lives around that community. But COTA has proven itself dedicated to all of Central Oregon. In recent years, COTA was the keystone behind the Upper and Lower 66 Trails in Prineville, and this year jumped at the opportunity to assist in making the Madras project a reality.

While it was Brennan and the rest of the Madras chapter — particularly among them Josh Farrester — that has carried the load, COTA truly is a Central Oregon-wide organization and it deserves recognition and some thanks and praise.

Maybe the most important element about the trail projects like East Hills and the Upper and Lower trails in Prineville is that they are close to the communities. The proximity of the trails are an important contribution to the livability of those towns. With trails essentially right in our rural towns, people won't have to drive 20 or 30 miles or more to find good trails/dirt roads on public ground where they can pedal, run, and in the future Madras system, ride their horses. It will all be a short drive, or maybe even a bike ride, to the trailhead.

The horse trail element to East Hills is another aspect that makes the project somewhat spectacular. Usually, mountain bikers and horse trail riders don't mix, are often competing for trail space and don't generally get along when it comes to usage. At East Hills, the opposite is occurring. The design at East Hills calls for both mountain bike and horse trails. The two will be separate — horses might spook over moving bikes — but in the same vicinity, using the same amenities.

In fact, a little horsepower will be used to construct trails once things dry out some, and mountain biker Morrow is excited about that fact. It's planned to have horses do some of the trail-creation work that would take long man-hours to do.

While the local mountain bikers have been an energizing force behind the project, so has the local equine group, the Spur of the Moment Horse Club.

Spur of the Moment member Tori Reid, a regional horse activist, made a great point in the story in this week's paper, on why the East Hills Trails project is important for the community in ways bigger than just providing a recreation outlet. It harkens back to the trail system being an economic draw for the town.

"Madras should be a destination like other Central Oregon communities. We have the same weather, the same beautiful views, and great people," said Reid.

The Jefferson County Rotary saw the positive future impact of the trails program and has made the effort the beneficiary of its 2019 Cherry Tree event in May. The trails' potential as an economic contributor to the community was a key reason the Rotary selected it over other strong beneficiary candidates.

Congratulations to Morrow, Reid, Farrester, city officials, and everyone making East Hills Trails a reality.


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