Bend dog owners who want more access to groomed ski trails will have a chance to share their perspective with the Forest Service and other winter trail users this week at an open house aimed at airing some of the access issues. While there are no official proposals on the table, off-leash proponents lead by Bend-based DogPAC have been pushing the Forest Service to ease restrictions north of the Cascade Lakes Highway in an area that has been off limit to dogs, unless by special permit, since the 1980s and is presently reserved for Nordic skiers.
While dogs are permitted off-leash in other areas of the Deschutes National Forest, including the trail systems around Wanoga and Edison Sno Parks, dog owners must share those trails with snowmobiles, creating the potential for conflict. DogPAC has argued that its members and other dog owners would be better suited to non-motorized trails.
They have proposed adding several new miles of groomed trail on the Nordeen plateau, which dog owners would access through trough the Swampy Lakes Sno Park. The Forest Service has not yet offered an official position on the working proposal. However, it's a sensitive issue with existing trail users because of the limited number of non-motorized trail miles in the winter trail networks closest to Bend. The Central Oregon Nordic Club, which currently maintains the Nordeen Loop as part of the un-groomed trail network, has already submitted a formal statement opposing the change. The Tumalo Langlauf Club, which maintains the groomed network under an agreement with the Forest Service, would be responsible for maintaining the Nordeen Loop should the Forest Service agree to the proposed change. The club, however, has not yet taken a formal position on DogPAC's initiative.
The open house could be the first step in resolving some of the issues, or solidifying the status quo. The Forest Service has said it is interested in hearing from all users at the open house and hopefully heading off some of the conflicts now, before the start of the winter season.
The open house is scheduled to begin 5 p.m. Thursday night at the Bend Metro Parks and Recreation building, 799 SW Columbia St.