The August UDRC meeting was cohosted with the South Deschutes County chapter of the Central Oregon Trails Alliance (SoDeCO). Our guest speakers were Bob Townsend, Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Central Oregon Manager; Abby Driscoll, ODOT Project Manager, Joe Welke, Deschutes National Forest Trail Crew Supervisor; Brock McCormick, Deschutes National Forest, Supervisory Wildlife Biologist.
Dan Youmans, chairman of SoDeCo, gave an update of the Sunriver Trails project. COTAs mission is building and maintaining of mountain bike trails in Central Oregon. The Sunriver Trails project was approved by the Forest Service and trail construction has started. The trail system will connect with the Wanoga trails system. A Sunriver Trails work party is scheduled on August 24. SoDeCo is working with the BLM and La Pine State Park on a proposal to extend the trail system to La Pine.
Monte Dammarell announced speakers for the September 19 UDRC meeting will be James Lewis from Deschutes County Lands on foreclosed properties and fuels reduction. Chris Doty, Deschutes County Roads manager will give an update on roads projects. Project Wildfire has published a Wildfire Protection Plan summary brochure. The UDRC has copies available for community meetings. The La Pine CWPP will be updated for 2020. The UDRC received a $150,000 grant for the Senior Low-income Defensible Space program covering South Deschutes County. Volunteers will assess properties and hire contractors for wildfire fuels reduction. A flyer and application form is available on the UDRC website. Volunteers are needed to help with property assessments.
Bob Townsend is available to speak to communities about ODOT projects. The $135M Bend North Corridor project is scheduled for construction in 2021 – 2022. Abby Driscoll was the grant writer. The 3rd Street bypass will be routed along the railroad tracks. Highway 20 intersection improvements are planned, depending on available funds.
Wikiup Junction overpass project girders will be removed and soils analysis will continue for future project planning. A solution to soils settlement may not be cost effective. The 4-lane extension of Highway 97 has been funded for 3 miles South of Sunriver. Construction will begin in 2021 including wildlife fencing, under crossing, and Vandevert Road intersection improvements. The $6M Baker Road to Lava Lands paved trail project has been proposed for construction in 2022 – 2023. Design of the High Desert Museum connection has not been finalized.
Highway 97 accident rates have increased after increasing the speed limit to 65 MPH. Electronic speed control signs for weather will be installed. There are no plans for adding electric vehicle charging stations or improving State Recreation Road intersection.
Brock McCormick has been studying recreation impact on natural resources and wildlife. Impacts are presence of people, direct, indirect, and cumulative interaction. Joe Welke said tracking through wilderness permits shows usage growth accelerating since 2012. There are 2,500 visitors on weekends at Tumalo Falls. New powerful recreation vehicles and user created trails are a problem. Development of parallel trails can reduce user conflicts.
Landscape analysis during trails planning can improve connectivity for wildlife. The Sunriver Trails project was modified to consolidate disturbance areas, incorporating new trails, converting roads to trails, and obliterating user crated trails. Central Oregon trails maps are available online at bendtrails.organd adventuremaps.net.