August 22, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Work on area trails may be in store

August 31, 2010
August 22, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Work on area trails may be in store

Whychus, Metolius, Black Butte areas in line for upgrades; public input sought

By Kate Ramsayer / The Bulletin
Published: August 22. 2010 4:00AM PST

New viewing platforms placed near Whychus Creek and the Metolius River, as well as an improved road up to the Black Butte Trailhead, are among the improvements recommended in U.S. Forest Service proposals for recreation sites in the Sisters area.

The work is part of the Deschutes National Forest’s “Tale of Two Rivers” restoration project, funded with the help of the National Forest Foundation’s conservation campaign.

“We’re one of five projects out of the country for the National Forest Foundation to concentrate some energy on, and help us with restoration and recreation and other activities that would benefit a really special landscape,” said Maret Pajutee, district ecologist with the Sisters Ranger District and a team leader for some of the efforts.

The Sisters Ranger District is starting to look at the environmental impacts of three projects and is asking for public comment on the proposals. Officials are still determining how much the projects will cost and where the funds will come from, although some could come from the National Forest Foundation’s program.

Whychus Creek ‘being rediscovered’

Whychus Creek is suffering from vandalism, crisscrossing trails and trails created by off-road vehicles, Pajutee said.

“It’s a creek that has really been lost in so many ways to people for so many years, but now it’s being rediscovered,” she said, noting work to increase stream flows and reintroduce salmon and steelhead to the creek.

“We’d like to provide a stable trail there, in just a small portion of the area, to allow people to enjoy the creek and learn a little bit about it.”

The proposal calls for developing almost 7 miles of trails between the gauging station on the creek to where Forest Road 1514900 crosses the creek.

At the same time, about 5 miles of trail that people have created themselves would be decommissioned and additional miles of roads that people have created over the years would be closed.

The Forest Service is also proposing to build an overlook at a popular viewpoint, she said, so people can safely get a view of the creek and mountains. But much of the upper stretches of the creek will remain trail-free, she said.

“We’re not planning to put trails up and down this river corridor,” Pajutee said. “It really is meant to be managed as wild and scenic.”

Improvements could also be in store for the Head of the Metolius, where a parking lot and trail lead visitors to the spring that feeds the river.

“It’s an iconic place; it’s one of the most-visited sites on our district,” Pajutee said. “And it’s important to have it be beautiful and really tell the story of what’s so special about the Metolius, and why it needs to be protected.”

But the visitor site is 40 years old, said Rod Bonacker, team leader with the Sisters Ranger District. The parking lot is not well-designed, and the bathrooms and viewing platform are not accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the platform also does not drain properly, he said, and can be treacherous during winter.

So the proposal is to redesign the parking lot to reduce traffic problems and increase parking spaces, including for some recreational vehicles, and replace the toilets. The trail surface to the headwaters would be replaced, and a new viewing platform would be added that people with limited mobility could use. Plans also call for improvements to Black Butte recreation sites, one of the area’s most popular trails — Bonacker estimated it can draw between 80 and 100 people on a busy day.

“We’ve had all kinds of problems with the road, the last little bit of road that goes up to the trailhead,” Bonacker said.

So the agency is proposing to improve the road by regrading it and adding drainage features. Under the proposal, crews would also improve an old trail that starts at Forest Road 14 and climbs up the west side of Black Butte to the regular trailhead, adding more than 1.5 miles to the typical hike up. And at the top, the Forest Service’s proposal calls for designing a new trail system, rehabilitating some unofficial trails and installing an interpretive sign.

There is a lot of history about fires, fire lookouts and more that could be presented on Black Butte, said Gregory McClarren, a board member of the Friends of the Metolius organization.

“We’ve recognized for a long time that we need to do some things that improved hiker opportunities and also provided for education around Black Butte,” he said. And Friends of the Metolius members have also worked with the Forest Service to restore the facilities at the Metolius Headwaters as well, he said, noting that water pools on the trail and platform, and the bathroom and parking lot could use some improvements as well.

“That site has been an interpretive facility since the ’70s,” McClarren said. “It’s had a lot of use, wear and tear.”

Kate Ramsayer can be reached at 541-617-7811 or

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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An aerial view of a body of water.