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home : opinions : opinions June 18, 2018

6/5/2018 12:21:00 PM
Open the gate
By Glenn Brown

Most of you probably do not know that McKenzie Pass Highway 242 has been plowed and is ready for traffic now.

Unfortunately members of the local bicycling community, a local politician and the (retiring) head of ODOT Region 4 have conspired again to secretly block it off and again secretly operate a local bike path. This time it's State Highway 242 to McKenzie Pass. You didn't know? Of course not, that was their plan.

Without any advance public notice, ODOT, our county commissioners (Unger and Baney), and members of the local bicycling community have locked us out of our iconic natural landmark and national forests for months every spring. Want to take visitors to see the pass? Sorry, bikes only. Want to ski or hike the trails? Sorry, bikes only. Want to fish or hunt? Sorry, bikes only. Want to camp? Sorry, bikes only. In town for the Sisters Rodeo and like to see our most famous landmark attraction? Well, you know, sorry.

This isn't the first time the same players have run a similar bike path scam on us. Recall the failed Sisters-to-Black Butte Ranch paved bike path. For those who don't, a few local bicyclists, trail club leaders, Bob Bryant of ODOT, Unger and the USFS local district ranger concocted a plan to pave a path in the forest. No notice, moles on HOAs, etc. Once some light was shone on the "plan" and the tactics of its proponents, it became perhaps the most bitter public dispute I can recall in Sisters.

John Allen, head of the Deschutes National Forest, overruled the Sisters District Ranger's approval and decreed no more paths without a community process and a consensus. A state effort to mediate the failed bike path plan was abandoned when the path proponents would not put their path preferences on the table. Through all this we were assured by the pathies that there were no more secret bike paths plans, big group hug.

Yet here we find ourselves again. Our local officials including Sisters' then mayor/bike shop owner, trails club officers, and bicycling community have again decided not to tell us about their new bike path. Mr. Bryant and former Commissioner Unger stonewalled, evaded questions, and offered "fluid," inconsistent explanations for the closure.

Mr. Bryant's most recent story is this: ODOT now plows McKenzie Pass TWICE every year "to save us money." That's right, he's saving us money! ODOT first deploys plows and personnel as soon as possible in the spring to Highway 242, but clears only one lane (a bike path), then locks the gate again. For the following months, until late June, only bicycles are allowed beyond the closed gate; no motorized vehicles.

Sometime in June apparently ODOT deploys plows and personnel to McKenzie Pass a SECOND time and only then plows open the second lane for motor vehicles. Saving you and me money all the while. Unfortunately Mr. Bryant tells me that ODOT does not tabulate cost numbers for plowing, and has refused to -"cannot" - provide them to me. Does anyone reading this believe that?

It's time again for some light to be shined on another secret bike path and reverse it. It's a state highway, not a bike path. We also need to understand how this has happened again after being assured that it would not. So would you please help me by contacting the papers, the county commissioners, ODOT, USFS, and STA and insisting they come clean and reverse this fiasco? OPEN THE GATE!

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