REDMOND, Ore. - Visitors to the Bureau of Land Management's Maston Area west of Redmond have a new trailhead, thanks to an Oregon State Parks grant, community support and the work of volunteers last weekend.
Not too long ago, the Maston Trail Use Area was an area struggling to meet its potential – different user groups clashed over needs, everyone struggled to find parking, and the random trail system led nowhere.
But visitors arriving today will have an entirely different experience.
The 4,000-acre Maston Trail Use Area is part of the larger, 32,000-acre Cline Buttes Recreation Site, located a few miles west of Redmond off of the Cline Falls Highway.
Although BLM finished the required environmental planning for this area years ago, making the vision a reality was a challenge.
"What we've been able to accomplish out there is a sign of the support we've received from our local community and the partnerships we've been able to develop," said Greg Currie, BLM landscape architect.
Funds for the project came in part from a Recreational Trails Program grant, administered by Oregon State Parks. The grants are awarded yearly to support trail projects.
"BLM also received considerable support from the city of Redmond, Redmond Area Parks and Recreation District, Central Oregon Trails Alliance (COTA), Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET), and Thornburgh Resort Company when we applied for trail grant funds. That support was critical," said Currie.
The vision began 20 years ago, when local community members and environmental groups recognized the value of this piece of public land, located in the triangle between Bend, Redmond and Sisters.
Public land activist and former Tumalo resident Sandy Lonsdale was part of the early community work in the area, helping clean up dump sites and providing a form of "neighborhood watch" to keep the area from being vandalized.
"The Maston is a place that has it all," said Lonsdale -- "spectacular scenery, usually a degree of solitude, the full complement of local native plants, [and] and an ancient juniper-grassland ecosystem. We are the stewards, te partners to help the BLM create quality public space on these urban public lands."
Last Saturday, Lonsdale joined more than 50 other volunteers from trail user groups like COTA and OET, the Clines Buttes Recreation Association, and community members to put the finishing touches to make the new trailhead a destination for hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians in Central Oregon.
The volunteer event was helped by the positive working relationship established between mountain bikers and equestrians, BLM officials say.
Working together, COTA and OET have helped implement the trails plan and lay out separate horse and bike trails in the Maston Area.
On Saturday, volunteers contributed more than 300 hours to the trailhead project. The week prior, Heart of Oregon Youth Corps crews did pre-work at the site, including building perimeter fencing. The Tumalo Coffee House provided coffee and snacks for volunteers in the morning, with post-work lunch and beverages provided by OET and COTA.
The Maston Trail Use Area now includes separate parking areas with space for 16 horse trailers and 25 single vehicles. There is a picnic area, compressed gravel and paved walking paths, and a new double vault toilet.
Volunteers helped install benches, information signs, native plants, split-rail fencing with locally harvest juniper, a new bike rack and trail signs pointing each type of user to their own set of trails.
"The mountain bike community is jazzed to be actually building and riding new trails that will add to the total riding experience at Maston," said Mike Pulzone, COTA's liaison to the BLM. "The partnership we formed with Oregon Equestrian Trails has the feeling of a real team."
The sentiment was echoed by Kim McCarrel, co-chair of the Central Oregon chapter of Oregon Equestrian Trails.
"It's been amazing to work with COTA, and I'm so grateful [the BLM] has championed the idea of having separate trails for horses and bike riders. This means the equestrians are safer because their horses are less likely to spook when a bicyclist zooms around a corner, and the bicyclists are happy because the horses' hooves aren't tearing up their trails."
"Without the Oregon RTP grant, we couldn't have considered this project," said Currie. "And we're glad that this grant and the matching funds the BLM provided went to a lot of local businesses."
The lead contractor for the project was Deschutes Construction Corporation, with local material suppliers such as Cement Products Manufacturing Company, Empire Stone Company, 7x Lumber Company, the Cline Buttes Rock Pit, Wild Wood Works, Joe Floyd & Sons concrete, and Clearwater Native Plants.
"I think the only thing that came from out of the area was the toilet," added Currie, "and that came from CXT Incorporated out of Spokane."
The Maston is open for non-motorized use only and provides hikers, bikers and equestrian riders access to trails year-round, with views of the Deschutes River canyon. Visitors can access the trailhead by heading ¾ mile east on Newcomb Road off of the Cline Buttes Highway 4 miles south of Eagle Crest.
This winter, BLM and partners will continue trail development, trail restoration work and signage in the Maston Area and the adjacent Tumalo Canal Historic Area. BLM will also install interpretive kiosks at the Maston Trailhead to let visitors know about the unique natural and cultural resources of the area.
"I have been incredibly impressed by the relationship between the different user groups out at Maston – the bikers, equestrians, and grazing permittees," said Carol Benkosky, Prineville BLM District manager, "and I'm looking forward to continuing these cooperative efforts and seeing where we go together into the future."
For more information on the Maston Trail Use Area and other sites in the Cline Buttes Recreation Area, including the Central Motorized Trail Use Area (recently featured as part of 4-Wheeler & Off-Road Magazines Ultimate Adventure), visit the Prineville BLM website at http://www.blm.gov/or/districts/prineville/recreation/cline/index.php.
To learn more about upcoming projects and volunteer opportunities, please call the Prineville BLM at (541) 416-6700.
Lisa Clark of the Prineville BLM provided this story.