State parks officials are offering the public one last chance to comment on a new master plan for Bend’s Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint before it is approved in June.
Pilot Butte’s master plan hasn’t been updated in more than 25 years, when Bend’s population was about 30,000. Since then, Bend has grown to more than 100,000 residents. The park has transformed from a recreation area on the edge of the city to a popular location in the middle of several neighborhoods.
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has received a lot of public comment about park use and desired improvements at the butte. Now the department wants to hear from the public one more time.
Chris Havel, a spokesman for the state parks department, said the department used the previous public feedback to create a draft plan that was approved last year.
Before final approval in June, the public can still offer input on the process, Havel said.
“If someone thinks we missed a step, that’s the kind of comment that we’d expect to hear now,” Havel said.
Public comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. May 7, and can be made online, via email at OPRD.firstname.lastname@example.org, or in writing at: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, attn.: Helena Kesch, 725 Summer St. NE, Suite C, Salem OR, 97301.
The master plan will guide the park’s priorities for the next 20 years, Matt Rippee, district manager with Oregon Parks and Recreation, said in a press release Tuesday.
“It sets priorities for the next two decades, such as adding or improving trails, parking, facilities and signs,” Rippee said.
Since the process to update the master plan began in 2018, public feedback has been submitted, and it was similar to the results of a 2016 survey of day-use visitors. The survey found visitors consider hiking, sightseeing and outdoor photography as the most popular activities on the 141-acre park, which has 7 miles of trails. The survey also found the majority of visitors are local, living within 30 miles of the park.
A draft of the new master plan calls for several improvements to access points and trails. It proposes a new trailhead entrance at Lafayette Avenue on the west side of the butte and an access point at Derek Drive east of the butte. From the Lafayette entrance, the base trail would connect to Juniper Elementary School.
Another new trailhead at Greenwood Avenue and Summit Road would connect to nearby Pilot Butte Middle School.
The plan would maintain the two-lane road, but add marked parking spots at the summit. A vista trail would be added at the summit for hikers.
Previous public feedback led to several recommendations in the draft plan, such as providing more wayfinding signs, enforcing dog leash rules and considering an off-leash area and making the park more accessible for seniors.
In addition, the plan addresses the need for landscape restoration and the reconstruction of the exercise area and trailhead that were destroyed during the 2018 Fourth of July fire. The fire burned about 10 acres around the base of the butte.
All of the proposed improvements would be completed within 5 to 10 years, according to the state parks department.