Sisters-Black Butte Ranch trail plan draws critics

Some Tollgate residents worry about impacts

Proposed Paved Trail Causes Backlash

SISTERS, Ore. - A planned paved trail that would start right on the outskirts of Sisters and go seven miles along Highway 20 to Black Butte Ranch would pass a quiet community where some neighbors aren't very happy about it.

"Just sort of -- it's shocking!" one neighbor said Tuesday.

"They think a need -- we don't see a need," said another.

"And they don't have a need either, and they can't justify it in their data," exclaimed a third.

The proposed paved trail has sparked some controversy in the quiet neighborhood of Tollgate, located a few miles north of Sisters. Critics we spoke with declined to be identified.

"This is where our property ends, and so it's about 321 feet exactly," one neighbor told us.

And it's only about 300 feet away from the highway on the other side. Neighbors want it closer to the highway and further from their homes.

We asked if her kids play out in the forest behind their house.

"All the time -- that's how it started off as me being a mom, saying like, golly, you know? I've got three kids," she told us.

With the busy highway nearby, it's a tough compromise.

"If you get too close to the highway, you're in the right-of-way, and that's not a safe place to be," said Sisters District Ranger Kristie Miller.

Since this all started, other concerns have arisen.

"Don't create something that harms the habitat," said a neighbor.

 Mainly deer, the section of land is a migration corridor for deer. Neighbors worry the trail could ruin that.    

Miller said, "In our wildlife analysis, we know that that is a migration corridor, we also know there is a highway that bisects the corridor. We also know there is a neighborhood that bisects that corridor."

But the tests have been done, and the objections of the community came as a shock to officials, initially.

Miller said, "Last fall, we had a community meeting. At that point, it was pretty clear to me there was a lot of support for the project."

But after some thought, she added, "I'm not surprised that people are passionate. People love their national forest. People love their natural environment."

Many comments have been submitted, on both sides of the issue. Chuck Humphreys, who has worked on trails for over a decade, wrote in a submittal also sent to NewsChannel 21 that he offered support "as counterweight to the vocally shrill few who seem to think that nothing should be possible."

So now, it's decision time. The official objection period ended Monday on the final environmental impact statement and draft decision.

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