Outdoor recreation in Prineville grew by a few more miles Tuesday when two new trails were unveiled south of state Highway 126 near the Apple data center.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to celebrate the new trails, which expand the 66 Trail System from its original 2.5 miles of trails.

One of the new trails is a mile long and on a moderate slope, making it accessible for easy walking and cycling. The other new trail is 1.8 miles long and nearly flat, making it accessible for people of all ages.

Both trails connect to existing mountain biking routes in the 66 Trail System.

Central Oregon Trail Alliance spearheaded the project with support from Crook County and Crook County Parks and Recreation District. The trail alliance received $90,000 in grants from Facebook, which has a data center in Prineville, to complete the work.

Seth Crawford, Crook County judge, the county’s top administrative position, said the trail system is on county land that was not being used. Some of the land is not suitable for building because it is within 200 feet of the canyon rim, Crawford said.

Turning the land into public trails is a good outcome, he said.

“What better way to use the citizen’s property than to give them an opportunity to get out there and recreate on it,” Crawford said.

The new trails are the latest addition to a growing list of recreational opportunities in Crook County. By next spring, another 5 miles of trail will be added to the 66 Trail System on the north end of Highway 126. The trail will include a one-way track following the canyon rim for mountain bikers and a parallel space for hikers.

Using the open space on both sides of Highway 126 for recreation adds to the quality of life and tourism of Prineville and greater Crook County, Crawford said.

“That section of land works really well into a trail system,” he said. “It’s where you want to be with the best views.”

Duane Garner, executive director of the Crook County Parks and Recreation District, said the most common request from the public is for more trails.

He said the district is actively working with the county government to create a 20-year master plan for recreational opportunities. And he expects a focus to be on building trails.

“Trails are certainly the No. 1 priority when it comes to recreation right now,” Garner said.

Amber Toomey, former Crook County chapter representative for COTA and current volunteer, said the expanded 66 Trail System is ideal for mountain bikers. In addition to the new trails, two areas have wooden structures for people to practice their mountain biking skills.

The wooden structures help mountain bikers work on their balance and handling to prepare them for the rocky trails, Toomey said.

“Our terrain is different compared to Bend,” she said. “It’s rough and a little more rugged.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

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