The Black Butte Ranch Board of Directors voted unanimously to reconfirm the Homeowner Association's philosophical support of a paved multi-use trail from Sisters to the Ranch at a regularly scheduled meeting on Friday, July 23.

The board will send a letter of support for the path to Alan Unger, Deschutes County commissioner, with a recommendation that the U.S. Forest Service conduct a new environmental assessment for the proposed path.

Commissioner Unger has requested letters from individuals and organizations in order to determine if there is enough community support for the Forest Service to schedule an environmental assessment in its next budgetary cycle. Should this happen the Forest Service will actively solicit feedback from affected communities.

In September of 2014, the Ranch board had voted to philosophically support the trail project after reviewing the results of a survey of homeowners. In response to survey questions, 61 percent of homeowners indicated support for the trail, 14 percent were undecided, and 25 percent were opposed.

At the July meeting, proponents for the trail noted the strong survey support of homeowners, the additional recreational amenities the trail would provide the larger community, an example of a trail which currently terminates at the Ranch and alignment with the original Black Butte Ranch mission.

Mike Hollern, chairman of Brooks Resources Corporation and a homeowner at the Ranch, provided an historical perspective on the development of a trail between the Ranch and Sisters in a letter of support proponents shared with the board. "We considered it in the early 1970s when we developed the Ranch, but the Forest Service had no money for trails then and we didn't follow through. I wish we had," he wrote.

Homeowners who spoke in opposition voiced concerns about increased unauthorized access to the Ranch; jeopardized safety and security; increased costs to the Ranch; and unnecessary removal of trees and use of asphalt. Opponents recommend that an alternative trail location be explored on the north side of Highway 20.

Board members acknowledged the seriousness of the issues concerning unauthorized access to Ranch amenities raised by homeowners who oppose the trail. However, in their discussion members agreed that such concerns could be managed effectively.

Board member Jeff Curtis summarized rationale for the current letter of support: "I believe there is a majority of the homeowners on the Ranch who are in support of the path."