Irrigation district tries to share road

Jun 25, 2012

Bend Bulletin

Irrigation district tries to share road

COID to place signs in effort to improve relations with unauthorized users

By Erik Hidle / The Bulletin
Published: June 25. 2012 4:00AM PST

The Central Oregon Irrigation District is addressing problems with pedestrian traffic on a gravel road near the Deschutes River in Bend by raising awareness about how to safely share the road.

“We use that road for operations,” said Steve Johnson, irrigation district manager. “In the past, we have had some safety concerns.”

The two-mile road on the south end of Bend is a popular spot for hikers, bikers and joggers because it sits just feet away from the banks of the Deschutes.

The district uses the road for access to a power plant and canal intake point in the area. It’s a one-lane road with a few blind spots, which makes things dangerous at times.

“Sometimes people are discourteous,” Johnson said. “They don’t get out of the way when a vehicle is coming through. So there is some conflict.”

Johnson said he’s starting to see a bit of vandalism in the area as well, and he worries about the district’s ability to quickly access its facilities during an emergency.

But he’s not ready to put up a fence or bar people from the area. In fact, the district is willing to give folks a shot at proving the road can be shared.

“The way it’s been working for a long time, before it became more popular, is that people understood it was our road and they were good actors,” Johnson said. “We’re attempting to raise the awareness that people need to be those good actors, and we will see how that works first.”

The district plans to post signs which will say something like, “Yield to all district vehicles,” and, “This is not a public trail.” That might sound like a contradiction, but Johnson sees it as a reasonable warning that this may be the last chance to keep the path accessible.

“We’re not officially saying you can use it,” he said. “We aren’t trying to stop people at this point and we aren’t going to be prosecuting people for trespassing.” But if users can’t turn into “good actors,” then Johnson said the situation may have to be reexamined.

It’s a tough situation for the district. Johnson said he wants to be reasonable because he understands the desirability of the location. Also, there are some easements in the area where meandering public trails have been established.

The Bend Park & Recreation District takes care of some of those trails and has a few amenities in the area. Don Horton, executive director of the park district, said his staff plans to monitor the situation and work with the irrigation district on the matter.

“Right now, we have some trail directional signs which point that way and we will have to remove those,” Horton said. “We want to provide access ... but right now I think we will try (the irrigation district’s solution) and see how it works. I think if it doesn’t work for either one of us, we will have to revisit it.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7837,

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