Longtime trails advocate Gary Guttormsen was the symbolic first person across the threshold of the new Peterson Ridge Trailhead. photo by Sue Stafford
Longtime trails advocate Gary Guttormsen was the symbolic first person across the threshold of the new Peterson Ridge Trailhead. photo by Sue Stafford
Peterson Ridge Trail, a popular destination for cyclists, hikers and runners across the Pacific Northwest, has a new trailhead.

It took a concerted collaborative effort to get a project approved, funded, designed, and to build the new 25-space parking lot with restrooms and a soon-to-be-completed kiosk for trail information and maps.

The old trailhead, located on the south side of Sisters off Elm Street and Tyee Drive, has for a long time been inadequate to keep up with the popularity of the PRT.

According to Sisters Trails Alliance member Gary Guttormsen, “It didn’t take long for the Sisters Trails Alliance, the Forest Service, and the City to start getting complaints from the residents on Tyee adjacent to the trailhead parking area.” He went on to say, “The complaints were justified because trailhead users started parking their vehicles wherever they could find room, often on the lawns of neighboring houses. Also, folks would park illegally on the undeveloped private property on the north side of the street. A huge issue (was) folks relieving themselves out in the forest closest to the trailhead and within view of the houses! Not a pretty picture.”

It took many hands to do the groundwork to get the project from an idea to completion. Adam and Jana Novotny of Buck Run were instrumental in organizing a citizen letter-writing campaign in support of the new trailhead. Approval for the project was received in 2012 from the Forest Service, but it took four years to obtain the project funding.

After two unsuccessful attempts to obtain funding for the approved project, STA’s Guttormsen and Patrick Eckford worked on the 16-page grant appropriation request, adding actual trail data to the request. The third time was the charm when Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s Recreational Trails Program granted $152,000 to be matched by $38,661.40 from other sources for a total project cost of $190,661.40. That OPRD money comes from Federal gas tax funds.

Jodi Bellefeuille with OPRD told the people assembled for the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new trailhead last Thursday that the money was granted in part due to all the work done by so many people. Not only did the proposal have to be written, but the trail data had to be collected and a formal presentation had to be made in front of an OPRD advisory committee.

Jerold Wesley, a 15-year civil engineer with the Deschutes National Forest, served as the project engineer on the new trailhead. He used the dimensions of a Sprinter van to design the parking spaces. Besides 25 designated off-road gravel parking spaces and the installation of a CXT prefabricated toilet, the trailhead will also have an informational kiosk built by the STA, bike racks, space for user staging, and room for future expansion.

Sisters District Ranger, Ian Reid, who emceed the ribbon cutting, is himself a fan of the PRT, having discovered it three years ago upon his arrival in Sisters. He pointed out that trails in Sisters meet strategies of all four pillars of the Sisters Vision project.

Reid expressed appreciation for the collaborative effort surrounding the trailhead.

“The Deschutes National Forest can’t overstate our appreciation for our community partners, such as the City of Sisters and Sisters Trails Alliance, who have provided volunteer time and financial support,” she said. “Having a shared vision for a sustainable trails network and leveraging our individual strengths is part of the ‘Central Oregon way’ of cooperation and collective problem solving. We would also like to thank the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department and the Recreational Trails Program, which have substantially funded this project.”

The City of Sisters provided letters of support and funding through the City Grant Program. The Sisters Trails Alliance has provided thousands of volunteer hours in planning, labor, and grant writing, as well as money. OPRD provided the grant that will cover 80 percent of the costs. The new Deschutes Trail Coalition has offered their support with a small grant. McKenzie Cascade Heavy Equipment did the actual excavation of the new parking lot. Sara Baughman is the new Recreation Team Lead for the Sisters Ranger District, replacing Amy Radke who was on staff for the majority of the project.

Sisters Mayor Chuck Ryan was on hand, commenting he is biased because he is a trail runner. He told those assembled, “What we have here in Sisters is an outdoor gem… Businesses are appreciative of the trail system and the people it brings to town.”

STA president Catherine Hayden praised the ability of government, non-profits, and the community to come together in collaboration to build the new trailhead.

“Here’s to the PRT and its new welcome mat,” she said.

The old trailhead on Tyee will be decommissioned by the City, with all signage removed. It will remain a neighborhood access point to the trail.

STA is not resting on its laurels. Their next two projects will include a Whychus Creek foot bridge on the old Brooks-Scanlon road to take trail traffic away from a wildlife area and a new foot trail to the Peak View overlook.

The new PRT is open, just 850 feet south of the old trailhead.