Let's consider the Bend of the future: With even more locals and tourists looking to access singletrack mountain biking, hiking, trail running and primo dog walking territory within a 15-minute drive from the nearest brewery, areas like Phil's Trailhead will become even more popular than today.
But when these recreators arrive at Phil's Trailhead, what will they find?
Under a new Forest Service plan, it probably won't be a parking space. The Forest Service is currently taking public comment on a plan that would eliminate about 50 of the current parking spaces now available at Phil's. The goal? To better manage the parking lot.
This makes no sense to us; anticipating greater use and popularity by restricting access?
Already on a busy weekend day, well more than 100 cars descend on the parking lot, with visistors parking on bushes or lining the Forest Service road leading to the trailhead. While we applaud the Forest Service for smartly addressing some concerns—like installing a new double-vaulted toilet—the parking portion of its plan is shortsighted.
The proposed design is a response to plans shot down in the past, including one that would have created a three-acre-plus project with a total of 120 parking spaces. Under that plan, more than 50 large pine trees would have been removed.
While the new plan only removes several trees, it would only cover about an acre of land—simply not enough to adequately meet the demands at Phil's Trailhead.
What's more, the Forest Service is missing an opportunity to create a vision for the entire Skyliners Road corridor. As Bend's popularity grows, more people will want to access the extensive trail system from any and every pullout on the way to Tumalo Falls.
In creating a too-small lot at Phil's, the Forest Service is just kicking the problems—including sanitation issues and disturbance to vegetation—down the road. The right answer here is to put the brakes on this new plan and go back to the drawing board.
There is still time to hold at least one or two meetings to identify a community vision around what the Skyliners Road corridor should look like. That vision could include a campground, multiple parking lots and the paving of other Forest Service roads.
Deschutes County won't repave Skyliners for at least another year. This section of road, and this trail network, are tied into the future of Bend's recreational tourism scene. Let's take a moment now so that we don't blow this one for the future. In the meantime, here's the BOOT!