The proposed Lemon Gulch mountain bike trail system in the Ochoco Mountains east of Prineville has been withdrawn from consideration.
The proposal, nearly five years in development, was broadly supported but vehemently opposed by people who live near the project.
The Ochoco National Forest issued a final Environmental Assessment (EA) and identified a Preferred Alternative for the Lemon Gulch Trail Project.
However, the Deciding Official, District Ranger Slater Turner, has withdrawn the project from consideration, effective immediately.
This action indefinitely suspends the planning process for the proposed mountain bike trail system 20 miles east of the City of Prineville.
“We are glad that they’ve withdrawn. I commend the Forest Service for hearing the community,” said Kim Vogel, a resident of Mill Creek Road near the Lemon Gulch project site. “It was a very divisive project. Most people did not realize that it was 52 miles which is larger than most mountain bike and ski areas across the nation.”
“It’s a disappointing considering over 75% of the comments were in support of the project,” said Emmy Andrews, Executive Director of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance. “Given how most issues fall out, barely over 50%, it seems to us there was really clear support for the project.”
District Ranger Slater Turner said there were individuals who felt left out of the planning process, which led to social divisions in the community.
“It had a lot of amenities for mountain biking but was very impactful to cattle grazing allotments and to the community and none of that had been looked at,” Vogel said. “I think the community was upset for not having been included in the process. I think everybody is glad that they are willing to step back and take a look in a much broader area.”
“It was a lot of time by a lot of volunteers from Ochoco Trails and other groups to try to do and support this in a really environmentally sensitive way, that looks like it will not come to anything,” Andrews said.
District Ranger Turner said the Ochoco National Forest will look for opportunities in the future to have a broader community conversation about non-motorized trails on the Forest.
“Local residents, county officials and their natural resources advisory group look forward to working with the Forest Service and the mountain biking community on sustainable trails that fit community vision and growth,” Vogel said.