CROOKED RIVER RANCH, Ore. - (Update: Adding comments from Crooked River Ranch officials)
The Prineville District of the Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday it has approved an emergency exit for Crooked River Ranch, partnering with residents and Deschutes County to develop the route while maintaining recreational opportunities and supporting conservation as part of the agency’s multiple-use mission.
After a long effort, the BLM said it recently issued a decision that will allow the county to build the one-mile paved road across BLM-managed public land at CRR, about five miles west of Terrebonne.
"I'm tremendously pleased that this, the most time-consuming aspect of our project, is now complete," ranch board member Bim Gander said Thursday.
The road will provide a motorized public access route for the residential area, as well as provide a second exit in the event of an evacuation due to a wildfire. According to residents, it's been a long time coming.
"Right now, with one entrance to the ranch, we're very concerned about the congestion that would ensue if you had to get firefighters onto the ranch and trying to get people off," ranch board member John Smallwood said. "So the alternative exit came out of that."
It's not just fires that could cause problems getting in and out of the ranch -- the Cascade Cycling Classic recently caused some traffic congestion.
"They were stopping traffic coming off of the ranch, letting the bikers go through on Lower Bridge Way," Smallwood said. "We had a half-mile backup of traffic."
The new route will run from Northwest Quail Road in CRR and travel southwest to connect with Lower Bridge Road. Deschutes County and the CRR Special Road District are pursuing grant options and hope to begin construction this year.
The decision addresses the need for fences, gates and signs so the new road does not create safety issues or preclude any of the existing recreational uses around Lower Bridge Road.
There will be some changes in the types of travel allowed on some routes in the area, officials said, and a few duplicate routes will be closed to reduce the effect on mule deer winter range. These changes will be posted on kiosks and other signs in and near CRR.
Ranch administrators hope to pay for the road through grants from the federal government, but see loans as the more realistic option. These would mostly likely be paid back by increasing dues or property taxes on the ranch.
The BLM provided a public comment period on the proposed action last fall and again this May.
Additional information is available by calling the BLM at 541-416-6700 or going to the project website, Crooked River Ranch Alternate Exit at https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/eplanning/nepa/nepa_register.do