Forest Service exploring expanded Sun-Lava paved path connecting Bend to Sunriver

The Deschutes National Forest is exploring the idea of a paved recreational path connecting the south end of Bend to the Lava Lands Visitor Center.

The path would run north from Lava Lands 3.6 miles paralleling Highway 97 to Knott Road on the south end of Bend. The current 5.5-mile Sun-Lava paved path opened in 2014 and winds south, connecting Lava Lands to the Benham Falls area and Sunriver.

If completed, the project would create a 9-mile-long, 10-foot-wide, gently graded paved path connecting Bend and Sunriver.

“The purpose of the paved path is to provide connections between high use visitor attractions and recreation sites including the High Desert Museum, Lava Butte, Lava Lands Visitor Center, and the Deschutes River,” according to a scoping letter sent out by the Forest Service Tuesday.

A paved path could also reduce car traffic to those popular destinations, alleviate parking congestion and provide a trail experience for all abilities, according to Forest Service.

Cristina Peterson, a project manager with the Forest Service, said ODOT is coordinating with landowners to find the best route north of the Forest Service boundary.

An undercrossing likely will be planned to allow the path to reach the High Desert Museum and the east side of Highway 97 safely, Peterson said.

The estimated cost is about $6 million and construction could be completed by 2022.

The Forest Service and ODOT are seeking public comment on the proposal through April 1st.

Public comments on the project will be taken until April 2, 2020. Comments can be submitted electronically to comments-pacificnorthwest-deschutes-bend-ftrock@usda.gov .

People are asked to put “Bend Lava Lands Paved Path” in the subject line of their email.

Comments may also be submitted in writing by mail or in person. Written comments should be sent or delivered to Kevin Larkin, District Ranger, Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District, 63095 Deschutes Market Road, Bend, OR 97701. Hand-delivered and oral comments may be delivered to the same address during normal business hours: 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

For more information about the proposal, please contact Cristina Peterson, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) Planner, by email at cristina.peterson@usda.gov or by phone at 541-383-4028.

To read the public scoping letter, please go to the following link: https://rb.gy/xrgn9s

Image courtesy ODOT

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