By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
A few days before Christmas, Deschutes County crews began constructing dirt berms along Highway 97, just north of Bend and Highway 126.
County commissioners approved the idea in November and construction began a few days before Christmas.
“On paper it looked like ‘yeah no problem let’s go do that,’” Commissioner Tony DeBone said. “It will be better for everybody.”
DeBone says the plan was in response to safety concerns.
“It’s highway access, it’s high speed,” said DeBone. “You slow down to take the turn or you pull out real slow if you are going north. If you try to cross and go south, it can be very dangerous.”
But the berms also blocked some access to county land. DeBone said the berms near Juniper Ridge upset some community members, including many people who live in homeless camps in the area.
“It really got some people riled up,” said DeBone. “I got some voicemails and some emails, people were just ready to go sideways on this. That was not the intention at the board level.”
There are other ways to access Juniper Ridge even with the berms in place. But DeBone said county officials decided to flatten the berms to make access safer, even though it’s technically not a legal access point.
The local activist group Central Oregon Peacekeepers posted on Facebook that they flattened the berms shortly after they were constructed.
County crews on Monday worked to flatten the berms further using equipment, and the access point was officially reopened Monday morning.
“Today it was flattened over by the county and it wasn’t intended on being a conflict,” said DeBone. “It was intended on improving having less vehicles going in and out of the public land.”
Creating and then flattening the berm cost about $2,000.