Central Oregon residents will be able to explore Prineville’s newest park by wagon tour or guided hike before entering their choices in a name and logo contest at the grand opening of Barnes Butte Property on Friday.
The opening, at 10 a.m., will be a chance for Prineville residents and visitors in Central Oregon to see the city’s 620-acre property and help the city decide how to develop — or not develop — the land.
“Can’t you just see some baseball fields out here or something? With people walking the trails and maybe an ice rink?” asked Crook County Fairgrounds board member Stanley Flynn during a recent tour.
Flynn is a member of the Barnes Butte Focus Committee and has helped establish the various walking trails through the city property and the 160 acres of BLM land that is also included in the park.
Flynn will lead groups of visitors on guided hiking tours through the park, allowing visitors to see the panoramic view of the Cascades in the distance and the city of Prineville.
The city purchased 460 acres of land from Brooks Resources that was previously an unfinished housing development. The $1.2 million sale in January of the property — previously named Iron Horse — could serve Prineville in various ways, said city engineer Eric Klann.
The property includes 305 acres of water rights that could serve nearly 4,000 homes, he added. With the opportunity to create inexpensive trails or a sports complex, the city came out on top.
“When (Brooks Resources) realized they had more land than they were able to develop, the city recognized this great opportunity,” he said. “The cost of the water rights alone was worth the value of the land and now we have this blank slate. This land could be anything.”
Developing the land would be relatively inexpensive and could bring in money to the city through tourism opportunities, Klann said.
“This is really the very beginning of planning,” Flynn said, “but this has the potential to be the Pilot Butte of Prineville.”
The city has created four access points to the property with the ability to continue Combs Flat Road and Peters Road in the future and relieve traffic congestion through town, Flynn added. A parking lot was also created at the base of the park just up Combs Flat Road from Barnes Butte Elementary.
The opportunity to engage the community through education and recreation will not be taken for granted, Klann said.
“We have this wonderful opportunity to develop a strong bond with our schools through lesson plans or kiosks on the trails,” Klann said.
While visitors will have a chance to submit their proposals for the name and logo of the park, the Barnes Butte Focus Committee is excited to hear feedback about what the public would like to see happen on the property.
Prineville City Council and committee member Gale Merritt said her daughter works at Barnes Butte Elementary and with one grandson currently attending school, she already sees the value in the property and can’t wait for the community’s involvement.
“Allowing the city to provide another access point by extending the roads and just making sure we are planning in an orderly fashion with the community’s input will keep Barnes Butte for the generations to come,” she said.
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