Bikes vs. Bovines: Trail Planning in Rural Oregon Meets Opposition

Nick Smith has a link in today’s newsletter to this article in Singletracks magazine.

About 35 miles from the mountain bike mecca of Bend, Oregon lies Prineville, population 10,429 (2020). Surrounded by Ochoco National Forest (ONF), it is a small town in a rural county in the west that—like so many others—is experiencing change. When the group Ochoco Trails proposed a broad suite of ideas for new trails, improvements to existing trails, horse camps, staging areas and the like over a diverse landscape within the ONF in 2018, they and their many partner organizations had good reason to be encouraged. There was horse stuff for the horse people, bike stuff for the bike people, all with a relatively light footprint on the land and wildlife habitat. What’s not to love? 

17 thoughts on “Bikes vs. Bovines: Trail Planning in Rural Oregon Meets Opposition”

  1. Steve – Unblock ads on the original site doesn’t work with Firefox. It’s up to date, far as I know. I’ll try Chrome even though I detest Google. No news is good news.

  2. I get it. The folks in Prineville have a real need to stall the Bendification of their community. Regular folks need to live somewhere and Prineville is it for now. Mountain bikes are seen as an indicator of change. In that respect, the bikes and trails are simply symbolic of real change, which is skyrocketing real estate prices and taxes. With luck Prineville may hold out another year or two, but the hoards are on their way, checkbooks and credit cards in hand.

    • Welcome to the new west, where if you’re lucky you end up as a playground for the wealthy. At worse you end up ravaged by unemployment and drugs.

      Interesting that they speak to the timber industry having “dried up” in the region. There still seemed to be a decent amount of activity last time I came through. I’m sure it’s not employing as many as it used to, but that’s the same as everywhere. Anyone got any local knowledge on the state of forestry in Deschutes county?

    • That ship has sailed already. Prineville’s median household income is higher than for Deschutes County as a whole, which itself ranks fourth in Oregon behind only the Portland metro area high-tech counties. However, I’m sure there are some hold-outs who prefer poverty over diversity.

        • Or Coos Bay, Toledo, Riddle, etc., etc., including almost every rural county with significant public forestland in the Pacific Northwest. The Bend Californians skew the data for Deschutes County.

          • Actually, almost every PNW rural community with timberland, whether public or private, has taken it in the shorts, e.g., Valsetz, Oregon, which after logging out its surrounding PRIVATE old-growth closed down and was bulldozed over.

            The Northwest’s timber industry retrenched along I-5 corridor communities where work forces are larger, schools better, and transportation cheaper.

      • Andy, I think one of the Jim Stiles pieces about Moab says it well “it used to be a good place to be poor” at least in part due to the fact that you could get out and enjoy the woods.
        Now those folks can’t afford to buy a home (at least those starting out) and their restaurants and roads are clogged with tourists.

        Concerns of the elected are less about residents and more about tourism (cash cows). Until, of course, the employees of restaurants, schoolteachers and police can’t afford a place to live and then there’s an affordable housing crisis.

        Culturally, many people don’t want to be Portland or Denver or even Bend or Vail.

        Now, these processes seem inexorable but we can empathize with those who are losing more than they are gaining.

        Having a higher median income is not good for people in the lower ranks of income. I think they call that “income inequality” and it’s not supposed to be good.

        • “Culturally, many people don’t want to be Portland or Denver or even Bend or Vail.” Actually, population statistics say otherwise — MOST people want to be Portland, Denver, or Bend — that’s why those cities are growing. Even Vail, with its exorbitant housing costs has a larger population than Oakridge, Oregon, where housing is cheap.

    • Scapegoats? Not at all, in my opinion. Prineville is going through some growing pains and huge economic changes that we’ve discussed here — such as very high prices for real estate.

      Bicyclists are welcome in my area of Oregon, at the BLM’s Sandy Ridge trail system. They bring some revenue to local businesses, tough I’d like the BLM and chamber of commerce to more to reach out to them.

  3. This discussion reminds me a little bit of zoning. One of the take-homes from my college training and early career was that small/rural communities hated regulations to the point that they would not learn the lessons from communities that had let growth get away from them. So they ended up with the same poorly planned sprawl. Now it seems to be more about affordable housing, but I think the lesson is the same. If you want to manage growth in a community, you need a public willing to support a government that tells people what they can and can’t do. That’s a hard job regardless, but it doesn’t seem to be in the nature of small communities to want that in their governments.

    Maybe the people in Prineville and Oakridge would like to trade places.


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