Grande and scenic

By Dick Mason, The Observer October 31, 2010 03:27 pm
Riverside Park may soon be the destination of bicyclists throughout the Northwest.

The park is the proposed starting and ending point of a route that could soon become part of the Oregon Scenic Bikeways Program, which is run by the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department.

Named the Grande Tour Scenic Bikeway, the proposed 130-mile route has cleared several application hurdles. The Grande Tour is now one of eight proposed routes the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department is close to adding to the Oregon Scenic Bikeways Program.

Anita Metlen of Imbler is leading the effort to get the Grande Tour added to the Oregon Scenic Bikeways Program. Saturday she was joined by other cyclists and together they rode a portion of the route.

 The Grande Tour would take bicyclists from Riverside Park to Baker City by way of Union, North Powder and Haines on Highway 30 on the first half of the journey.

Riders in the second half would then bike north to Pondosa, then take Highway 203 to Union and Cove and finally Highway 237 into La Grande.

Riders on the route would of course go though the towns listed plus Hot Lake, Catherine Creek State Park and other sites.

The top selling points of the proposed route include low traffic, opportunities to see the Wallowas, the Elkhorns and the Blue Mountains, and access to food and lodging. The variety of terrain on the route is another plus. It includes pasture and crop land, sagebrush and forest land.

Originally supporters of the bikeway had proposed that the route begin at a site east of La Grande on Highway 203. The site was recommended because visitors would have easy access to it off Interstate 84, Metlen said.

The state bikeway selection committee recommended that the starting point be changed to a site with less traffic, Metlen said.

Riverside Park then was chosen as the starting and ending point.

Metlen noted that before an application can be approved, permission must be obtained from the jurisdictions the route would pass through, including the towns and counties.

Preliminary approval from the jurisdictions was received earlier and now formal OKs must be obtained.

An Oregon Scenic Bikeway is a signed bike route on roads and bicycle paths. The route can be straight one of more than 40 miles or a loop route more than five miles in length.

Presently there is just one Oregon Scenic Bikeway. It is the 132-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway. It already existed and was incorporated into the Scenic Bikeways System.

 One of the intents of the program, according to the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department website, is to create a set of routes that will be identified as the best in Oregon and attract domestic and international tourism dollars.

The State Parks and Recreation Department’s Scenic Bikeways Program was created via a partnership between the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Travel Oregon, the Oregon Department of Transportation and Cycle Oregon.