Rachael Rees / The Bulletin

The Deschutes National Forest has released a new proposal for a paved bike path connecting Sunriver to the Lava Lands Visitor Center, and is seeking public comment until the end of the month.

Cycling has emerged as a major component of area tourism. Bend has hosted eight national cycling competitions in the past four years, and the region has four state-designated scenic bikeways offering routes covering 140 miles.

Starting at Sunriver, the proposed 10-foot-wide, nearly 6-mile path would take bicycle riders and pedestrians to Benham Falls and then continue along the lava flow until reaching the visitor center near Lava Butte, according to the proposal.

Planning for the path started in 2009, and in April 2010, it was approved.

But during the design phase, the U.S. Forest Service decided additional environmental assessment was needed, Amy Tinderholt, recreation, lands and special uses team leader for the Deschutes National Forest, wrote in an email.

“We identified that some design and trail route modifications would allow for retention of more trees,” she wrote.

“Some roads that were not closed under previous decisions in the area needed to be closed to public motorized access for public safety.”

Because of the assessment, construction on the project was delayed and changes were made, resulting in a new proposal released June 29.

Some of the changes include closing roads to motor vehicles and adding a restroom, informational kiosks, trail turnouts and a parking area at the Sunriver end, and minimizing tree removal, according to the letter.

Tinderholt said the Forest Service and Oregon Department of Transportation have secured a $1.87 million Federal Highway Administration grant for design and construction.

“We will complete the design for the project,” she said, “and upon a new decision, be ready to construct next year.”

The Forest Service is accepting comments about the proposal until July 30,Tinderholt said.

After the first phase ends, Tinderholt said forest officials will complete the environmental analysis and release a draft for public comment.

Public comment period

The Deschutes National Forest will be taking comments about the proposed bike and pedestrian path until July 30.Comments can be made:

• By email to comments-pacificnorthwest-deschutes-bend-ftrock@fs.fed.us, with “Sunriver to LLVC Path” in the subject line

• By phone at 541-383-4012.