Dylan J. Darling / The Bulletin

A Deschutes National Forest plan to pave a path between Sunriver and the Lava Lands Visitor Center is up for public review.

The forest has completed an environmental review for the path and Thursday opened a month-long comment window on the documents, said Scott McBride, recreation supervisor for the Deschutes and manager of the Newberry National Volcanic Monument. The Deschutes first proposed the path in 2009.

“It essentially improves access to the National Forest and the National Monument,” he said.

Construction of the 10-foot-wide path, which will cost just under $2.3 million, is set for next year. McBride said the plan is to have the asphalt path finished before snow falls next winter. The path would be about 18 miles south of Bend and just northeast of Sunriver. The path will be open for nonmotorized use and could be particularly attractive to casual bicyclists.

“The grade is gentle,” McBride said.

A paved spur off the main path would lead to the Benham Falls East Picnic Area.

Near the falls, the main path would parallel Forest Road 9702 and cross over railroad tracks running north-south through the woods, McBride said. There, a crossing arm and warning lights would be installed. These improvements, as well as a buried power line needed to supply electricity to them, added to the cost of the project.

The path would follow the routes of existing forest roads, mainly a frontage road between road 9702 and a lava flow. The Forest Service would widen the roads and pave them, toppling 235 trees to make way for the path.

The paved path will likely lead to an increase of visitors coming to the Lava Lands Visitor Center from Sunriver, said Karen Gentry, a program coordinator for Discover Your Northwest. The nonprofit group runs the bookstore at the visitor center.

She said she is working with businesses in Sunriver to spread the word about how visitors and residents will be able to connect from the popular resort community to the visitor center by way of the path.

Path plan

The Deschutes National Forest is taking public comments on its plan to build a six-mile asphalt path between Sunriver and Lava Lands Visitor Center. Written comments should be sent by mail to Scott McBride, Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, 63095 Deschutes Market Road, Bend, OR 97701, or by email to semcbride@fs.fed.us.

The deadline is Jan. 11.

For more information, visit: http://j.mp/XecArg