Nothing gets mountain bikers excited quite like the prospect of new trails.

The Central Oregon Trail Alliance has been hard at work over the past few years, expanding to form different chapters and develop new trails around the region.

COTA now has six chapters: Bend, Redmond, Sisters, Crook County, Madras, and the brand new south Deschutes County chapter. This latest chapter will immediately turn its attention to the Sunriver Trails Project, a recently approved network of about 10 miles of singletrack trails just west of Sunriver.

“We’re very excited,” says Dan Youmans, south Deschutes County chapter representative for COTA. “There’s just a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm in south Deschutes County for mountain biking, and now we can kind of come together in an organized way through our COTA chapter.”

The new chapter includes the communities of La Pine, Sunriver, and Three Rivers South. COTA is a nonprofit, volunteer organization that works with the U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies to build and maintain mountain biking trails, according to www.cotamtb.com.

The 10 miles of new trails, accessible from Sunriver via the Cardinal Bridge and from Forest Road 41, will connect to the existing Wanoga and Cascade Lakes Welcome Station trail networks, according to Youmans. The project also involves restoring and preserving nearby elk habitat with some trail and road obliteration work.

“Tying Sunriver into the main trail system has definitely been needed,” says Woody Keen, COTA trails program coordinator. “Sunriver from a mountain biker or trail runner experience standpoint is kind of isolated currently. This project will definitely do a lot to tie Sunriver into the bigger network of trails.”

While the majority of the new Sunriver trails will be machine-built, the south Deschutes County chapter will help provide volunteer work crews for the large amount of hand-finishing work that will be required, Youmans says. The chapter will also assist in raising funds for trail construction and maintenance.

“The new Sunriver Trails project was really the catalyst for this chapter,” Youmans says. “A group of us were thinking that we needed to come together in an organized way to provide the volunteer labor that’s going to be needed to build those trails.”

Forest Service approval for the new trails took five years, according to Youmans.

“A huge amount of work went into getting them approved by the Forest Service,” he says. “It took several years to get there. We kind of feel like we need to do our part to provide the actual work on the ground to get those trails built. So the COTA chapter just seemed like the natural way to go.”

The section of trails will connect to Tyler’s Traverse Trail in the Wanoga system and the Catch and Release Trail in the Cascade Lakes Welcome Station network, according to Youmans. Plans call for a family-friendly trail starting from Sunriver, as well as more challenging singletrack that will connect to existing trails near Road 41.

The new trails will be primarily cross-country singletrack, with a few technical trail features woven into the design.

“There are some sections in there that we will try to make a little more challenging,” Youmans says. “We want to make sure we’re appealing to the whole cross section of mountain bikers. There are some cool rock structures and outcroppings and things in that area, and I believe the trails will circle through some of those areas as well.”

A family-friendly trail will run from the Cardinal Bridge to the Besson Picnic area along the Deschutes River, according to Keen. Also in the works is a beginner loop and more difficult trail that runs below a cliff band.

“There’s a number of different trail types that are included in this project,” Keen says. “It’s somewhere in between traditional cross-country singletrack and more playful trail.”

Keen says that COTA hopes to get a significant portion of the trail work completed this year, with the goal of completing the 10 miles of trails no later than next year. Construction will begin in the next week or two with the focus on the trails closest to Sunriver, according to Keen.

Another high-priority project for the south Deschutes County chapter is the reroute of the Black Rock Trail to a safer crossing point over the Burlington Northern Railroad tracks. The 4-mile Black Rock Trail connects the Benham Falls Trailhead with the Lava Lands Visitor Center.

“We’re going to reroute the bottom of that trail up a paved road that will take you to a safer crossing of the tracks,” Youmans says. “(Bikers) can follow that to singletrack that will take them to Benham Falls or Sunriver.”

The south Deschutes County chapter will also provide volunteer maintenance support to other local mountain biking trails and will work with public lands agencies to identify new mountain biking opportunities.

“One of the reasons that we are coming together as a chapter in this area is to not only work on the Sunriver trails but to take a look at other opportunities that might be available in south Deschutes County,” Youmans says. “We think there could be potential for some other trails for ‘connectiveness,’ making sure all these different networks connect with each other. We don’t have any specific projects in mind yet but we want to take a look and continue to expand the sport in this area.”

Keen says that COTA needs volunteers to help with the new Sunriver-area trails, but also to help get the already-established trails ready for spring and summer riding.

“The reality of this particular season is that there’s going to be way more maintenance work than we have had in recent history,” Keen says. “We have a lot of blow down. It was a pretty serious winter, so just getting the normal trails ready for summer use, there’s a fair bit of work involved in that.”

For more information, contact Youmans at dan.youmans@cotamtb.com or visit www.cotamtb.com.

—Reporter: 541-383-0318,

mmorical@bendbulletin.com

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