By Beau Eastes / The Bulletin / @beastes
Published Mar 2, 2015 at 12:11AM / Updated Mar 2, 2015 at 05:48AM
One of the prettiest stretches of highway in the state may be soon getting a little more attention.
Leaders in Prineville have submitted applications for portions of state Highway 27, which runs through the Crooked River Canyon, to be listed as an Oregon scenic bikeway and scenic driving route.
“No. 1, it’s just beautiful,” Crook County Commissioner Seth Crawford said about the reasoning for the proposed designations. “And we’ve seen the success of the different scenic bikeways around the state. (Travel Oregon) puts out some amazing videos for the bikeways and the (driving) tour route gets put in their magazine, which is marketed all over the West.”
The bikeway, which would be the 13th in the state and fifth in Central Oregon, would start at Crooked River Park on the south end of Prineville and run 20 miles on Highway 27 along the Crooked River to the Powder House Cove day-use recreation area on the Prineville Reservoir. Both anchors on the route — the start and finish — have ample parking, bathrooms and drinking water.
The scenic driving route, which would become the sixth official “Oregon State Scenic Byway,” would start at the Bowman Museum in downtown Prineville and traverse the same stretch of Highway 27 as the bikeway but continue south all the way to U.S. Highway 20, approximately 45 miles.
“You look at the scenic bikeway map, and there’s a hole in the middle where Prineville and Crook County are,” said Greg Currie, a land use planner with the Bureau of Land Management and one of the projects’ leaders. “Part of the (reason) for doing this is that a lot of people use (the state’s scenic bikeways and scenic byways) when they’re exploring. The Crooked River and Highway 27 are incredibly scenic and really fit into that concept.”
Both applications are in the early stages, Crawford said. The bikeway designation goes through Oregon’s Parks and Recreation Department while the driving route application is handled by the state’s Department of Transportation.
“It’s pretty early in the process,” added Crawford, who expects both application processes to last at least a year. “We’ve got letters of support and the applications filled out. Soon the ball will be in their court. But so far we’ve gotten lots of positive feedback.”
Once a route is selected as one of the state’s scenic bikeways or driving byways, special signage is placed along the road and, in the byways’ case, informational kiosks are also a possibility. The routes also receive a healthy dose of publicity through Travel Oregon, the state’s official tourism arm.
“Something like this can heighten the whole region,” Crawford said, noting that Travel Oregon’s website and annual magazine are produced in six languages. “That’s why we chose these designations, because they’re the ones that have the potential to bring people here.”
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