Letter: Nature walk or death hike?

By Candace Brink /

Imagine taking your child and dog to a state park to hike and see the beautiful mountain views of Bend, when a car comes whizzing by at nearly 40 mph just inches from your child. This is a daily occurrence at a state park that hosts almost 882,000 visitors annually, consisting of hikers and drivers who summit Pilot Butte.

There are, as usual, two sides to each story. Some say hikers are not in danger as long as they stay on the dirt path parallel to the road or use the nature trail. However, it is not always possible for someone walking up Pilot Butte to use the nature trail or walk the dirt path. Pilot Butte State Park needs to address hiker/car sharing of the road because at this point it is inevitable that a person, child or pet will be seriously injured or killed in its current state.

Alongside the road that summits Pilot Butte is a path made of dirt and loose rock. This path is very slippery. I have slipped and twisted my ankle five times during the 10 years I have been hiking Pilot Butte when going down this path. This issue puts hikers on the road because of safety concerns like slipping, which could end much worse than a twisted ankle. I have been walking on the road for these reasons and have almost been hit by cars numerous times. My dog has been hit by a moving vehicle because the driver was mad that I would not move off the road. On this occasion I called the nonemergency police line but the officer never arrived. I hike Pilot Butte nearly every day and I either have to brave the elements in the winter or fear for my life as well as my dogs’ lives spring through fall.

Last summer, to keep cars from going off the road, the state placed white posts between the dirt path and road; consequently this moved hikers even further into traffic. Mothers who push their children up the butte either have to push through gravel, dirt and rock up a very steep incline or walk in the uphill lane because of the posts. I have taken my nephew up the butte in a stroller many times over the last two years and it amazes me how cars won’t slow down or move over when they see us walking. Hiking with my nephew was the second time I called the police. We were walking down the road because of the slippery path. A car came up very quickly and stopped about a foot from my nephew’s stroller and laid on the horn and would not stop. As I pulled my phone out to call the police, he proceeded to move around me and continue up the road. Again, the police never arrived.

The nature trail is a great way to avoid cars and still summit the butte. It is, however, very narrow, and for anyone who has dogs or a stroller, this creates an issue. With many people on the path and the obstacles from nature, it is not easy to navigate. For someone like myself, with two dogs and on many days a stroller, the trail traffic is frustrating. I hike the butte for exercise, nature, scenery as well as to combat stress, which is often negated by the added anxiety when I walk the nature trail.

There are ways to avoid the impending tragedy of someone being injured while walking the butte. Paving the path on the main road is a great way to solve this problem. The road up Pilot Butte is in desperate need of repaving. When it is repaved, and if the existing dirt path is paved simultaneously, the issue would be solved. This option would allow cars, hikers, children and pets alike to enjoy the state park as it was intended.

— Candace Brink is an OSU student and lives in Bend.