|4/8/2014 12:27:00 PM|
Sisters Country getting 'connected'
|Attendees at the ped/bike summit learned about efforts to make Sisters more connected. photo by Sue Stafford|
By Sue StaffordCommunity connectivity within Sisters Country was showcased at the Deschutes County Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) meeting held at Sisters City Hall on April 3.
Presentations by local representatives and a walking tour of the Cascade Avenue improvement project allowed committee members to see the many ways in which Sisters is promoting and ensuring bicycle, pedestrian, and equestrian traffic and safety.
Sisters Mayor Brad Boyd pointed out that one of the five main goals of the Sisters City Council this year is to improve community connectivity. Due to the small size of Sisters, Boyd said the City is "promoting the concept that visitors can come stay in Sisters, park their car for the weekend, and never need to use it until time to go home."
In a review of community assets, Boyd highlighted the many ways that improvements in Sisters are contributing to a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment. The forthcoming Fir Street Park is designed specifically to be kid/pedestrian/bike-friendly with a splash pad, bike racks, and benches.
The paved "bike-path to nowhere" at the west end of the Timber Creek neighborhood is slated to be extended, connecting the neighborhood to the downtown area. Larch Street out toward the post office is scheduled to have an improved bike and pedestrian path on the west side with street trees and lighting to connect the industrial area, post office and airport to downtown.
With approval of a grant application, Village Green Park will receive a major upgrade with new restrooms, pay showers, and lockable bike lockers. Improved paved parking around the park is already underway, a necessary improvement as the park serves as the trailhead for two trail systems. Peterson Ridge trail parking will also be provided at the park to relieve current congestion on Tyee in the Buck Run neighborhood where the trail begins.
Discussions continue between the City, ODOT and the freight commission regarding the western roundabout on Highway 20 at the intersection with Barclay Drive and McKinney Butte Road. The plans call for an interim single-lane roundabout with expansion to a permanent double-lane structure. It would be larger than any of the roundabouts currently in Bend, because it is part of a state highway.
Studies have shown that roundabouts are safer, with injuries from accidents being greatly reduced. It will also be pedestrian- and bike-friendly. The project is 100-percent funded, including continuation of the paved west-side path to Railway Avenue. Boyd is optimistic about the negotiations.
Future consideration is also being given to providing a pedestrian and bike bridge over Whychus Creek on Elm Street. The current automobile bridge is too narrow for bikes and walkers to cross safely when vehicles are present. No design has yet been determined.
Boyd concluded his well-received presentation by assuring the committee that bike and pedestrian access and safety are "no longer an afterthought, but rather an integral part of all City planning." Members of the committee expressed great appreciation for the Sisters City staff, saying they are "a dynamo staff to work with."
Sisters resident Phyllis Lewis, a member of the BPAB, reported that initial work was done last December on an application for Sisters to be designated as a Walk Friendly Community. Pauline Hardie, community development director, is currently preparing the application, which will be submitted in late spring.
The remainder of the meeting consisted of reports by various Sisters County organizations all promoting bike and pedestrian activities. Casey Meudt, co-owner of Blazin Saddles, winner of this year's Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year, spoke on "The Business of Cycling and Walking."
He shared statistics showing that, "more people participate in bike activities than skiing, golf and tennis combined." The city of Oakridge, Oregon, a town of 3,200 that suffered economically when their mill closed, reinvented itself as a bicycle town. They have 500 miles of trails, 350 of them for mountain bikes only. They host the group Mountain Bike Oregon for two weekends every summer, and the events are sellouts. Oakridge's figures show that every bike on every car that comes to town is worth $100 in money spent in town. Meudt believes, "We're close to becoming a world-class bicycle destination. We have a blank canvas of public lands and a town infrastructure" to support such a reputation.
Joel Palanuk, Sisters resident, represented the Central Oregon Trails Alliance (COTA), which now has 50 members in the Sisters chapter. Their mission is to provide stewardship of sustainable person-powered trails with designing done from the perspective of a bike rider.
Palanuk, founder five years ago of the Sisters Stampede mountain bike race, reported the economic impact of that one weekend on Sisters was $870,000 spent by attendees in 2013. Last year there were 568 adult racers, 200 children under the age of 9, and 600 spectators. The Stampede was the first mountain-bike race in Oregon to sell out, turning away 100 competitors. Palanuk expressed a "sense of satisfaction to see this small town fill up with bikes for the weekend."
The Sisters chapter of COTA is working to restore the Cache Mountain trail, which has suffered severe forest-fire destruction. It provides challenging terrain and would help relieve impact of overuse on the Peterson Ridge Trail.
Gary Guttormsen, trails manager for the Sisters Trails Alliance (STA), reported on a number of projects being pursued by the group for bikes, pedestrians, and equestrians.
Rick Thomas, representing Friends of the Metolius (FOM), reported that they are a volunteer conservation organization concerned with preserving the Metolius Basin. Five years ago they were focused mainly on land-use issues. With the 2009 passage of legislation protecting the basin from large-scale development, the group's efforts are now organized around general conservation efforts and water-quality monitoring in the Metolius River.
In an effort to conserve the heavily used River Trail, alternatives are being improved to encourage people to utilize other trails along Highway 14, the Jack Lake Road, and the Lost Creek trail (lower Black Butte). Trails in the basin are being improved and maintained by volunteers who adopt one- to two-mile sections. Anyone can become a member of FOM.
Following the meeting, ODOT representative Ann Fisher conducted a short walking tour of the Cascade Avenue improvement project where committee members viewed the improved wider sidewalks and bulbouts for pedestrian safety and comfort.
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