Volunteers with the Sisters Trails Alliance work to carve out a new trail south of Sisters. photo by Craig Eisenbeis
Sisters-area trails have some new additions and improvements this year, and the Sisters Trails Alliance (STA) wants everyone to know about them. The STA was founded more than a decade ago to encourage the improvement, creation, and use of trails in the Sisters area.
The STA has no way to accurately monitor the growing number of people who use the local trail system. What is apparent, however, is that the 15,000 free trail maps that the local organization printed last year were all used up well before the season ended. So, this year, the STA printed 20,000 maps.
The STA's present trail system consists of 63 miles of local trails, 25 of which are equestrian trails. With an extensive and already existing trail system south of town, STA's eventual goal is to tie Sisters to Tollgate, Black Butte Ranch and Camp Sherman; and that plan is well on track.
For 2013, STA is promoting its new connector trails in the increasingly complex trail network that begins at the outskirts of the south end of town, just off Elm Street. "It's a ladder system of trail construction for variable distances," said Ann Marland, director of community outreach for the organization. She explained that the new connector trails connect portions of elongated trail loops - like rungs on a ladder - to create multiple trail options of varying lengths.
Another big change this year is a significant improvement in the number and quality of trail signs in the area. The network's proximity to Sisters, Three Creek Road, and the old Brooks Scanlon Road makes it difficult to become seriously "lost." However, the increasing complexity of the system - and the occasional dependence on old Forest Service two-track roads - sometimes resulted in confusion at the many trail junctions. The new signage should go a long way toward mitigating such problems.
One of the hallmarks of STA is the organization's commitment to multi-use trails. Its volunteers include members of the hiking, biking, and equestrian communities. In fact, in many areas, the trail system even provides for separation of horse traffic from foot and bike traffic. STA volunteer Phyllis Lewis pointed out that the separation system works well to help prevent fast-moving bicycles from startling unsuspecting horses.
Lewis also commented on the tremendous attraction that the trail system has become for Sisters and local businesses in the area. "Some of our members conducted a poll of trail-users last year, and most were from out of town" Lewis said. "We had people from all over the country - even Europe - who come to ride these trails." She said that the trails also bring many visitors from Bend.
The STA has also started a program in which individual members can adopt certain sections of trail for maintenance. Trail maps are available at the Sisters Park & Recreation District office, local businesses, and at several kiosks around town, including sites at FivePine, Creekside Park, the Village Green, North Pine Street and South Elm Street.
Laminated waterproof trail maps, showing a larger picture of the trails in the surrounding Sisters Country, have been ordered and will also be available for sale soon at outlets around town.
The Sisters Trails Alliance depends on volunteers dedicated to designing, building, and maintaining non-motorized multi-user trails to benefit Sisters Country. At present, there are about 90 members, but STA would like to see their membership grow even more.