Deschutes Land Trust announces 152-acre land preserve near Prineville

The Bulletin reports the Land Trust's new Ochoco Preserve.
By Allie Colosky
The Bulletin

 

The Deschutes Land Trust recently announced a new 152-acre preserve on the outskirts of Prineville and officials are optimistic about its future.


The new Ochoco Preserve will be along the Crooked River as well as the Ochoco and McKay creeks. It will provide additional floodplain across the river from the Crooked River Wetlands Complex, an area where the city has already completed restoration work.


“It’s the potential (of the land) that is so extraordinary,” said Brad Chalfant, Deschutes Land Trust executive director. “This is so unique because it’s literally on the doorstep of Prineville.”


“On the edge of the (urban growth boundary) it is likely to have been subdivided and we would have forever lost the opportunity to restore the land and the wildlife,” he continued. “By purchasing the property, we are keeping farmers or ranchers on land but removing the risk of a subdivision or further development.”


The Deschutes Land Trust is a locally based, nationally accredited land trust that has protected more than 9,052 acres of wildlife for local communities. The trust is in the early planning stages but will work closely with Prineville, Chalfant said.


“This property is immediately across the river, and once it’s restored it will provide additional habitat that will function more naturally,” he said. “The wetlands created an incidental habitat for wildlife, so this property allows us to build on what the city initiated. We will draw on their experience and build on that as we develop our own plan.”


The land trust expects the design and planning phases of the project to continue through 2020 and will try to ensure future plans complement the public access and opportunities for education established by the city in the wetlands project, Chalfant said.


“It’s like watching paint dry,” he explained. “It’s going to take some time to get the planning done, so people shouldn’t expect big changes anytime soon. It’s a significant investment, and we want to make sure we do it right. We want to be good neighbors, and we will take our cues from what the city does.”


Since the purchase of the project, city staff has met with the land trust to discuss concerns and possible complementary projects, said Eric Klann, city engineer for Prineville.


The city is wary of accepting grant funding because sometimes grants come with strings attached. For example, a grant from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife could prohibit mosquito control on the preserve and the public could suffer as a result, he said.


On the other hand, the city has shown interest in complementary projects like the construction of a suspension bridge over the Crooked River that would allow public access.


“Just having more access out there would be wonderful,” Klann said. “Our site was designed not considering (development) across the river. We want to work hand in hand with them and make sure citizens have a voice at the table. This is a wonderful opportunity and the city is excited to work with them.”

 

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