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Phil’s Trail gate debate prompts dueling petitions — but it’s no open-or-shut case for Forest Service

Environmental analysis would be needed to look at pros, cons of proposed year-round closure

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- The gate to the popular Phil's Trail recreational area west of Bend is sparking a "petition debate" of sorts online, as one gathering signatures to urge that the gate be closed year-round has prompted a second one, urging that the Forest Service keep it open seasonally, as it has been for years.

The petitioners on both sides shared their views Friday with NewsChannel 21, while a Forest Service representative provided some insight of the steps that would need to happen, to make any changes.

Bend resident Nicole Moore Perullo started the petition to close the gate, to cut down on abuse of the area.  

"I'm not trying to restrict the use of the land," Perullo said. "I'm trying to protect the land and keep everyone safe." 

On the other side, meanwhile, Bend resident Brandon Bachtel told us why he feels the gate should remain open from April to November. 

"The trail just, it offers a lot of access for everybody, it's a public trail," Bachtel said. "It's a public area. I think it's not really right to restrict the public from that land." 

"Honestly, I just wanted the other side to be heard," he said. "There wasn't much going on, as far as reporting on both sides at the time, and kind of on a whim just decided to start the petition."

Perullo said, "When the gates are open, there's 'black water' dumping, there's trash everywhere, there's plastics on the forest floor. There are people driving on restricted habitats. Grasses are getting ruined." 

As of late Friday afternoon, the petition to close the gate had received nearly 2,400 signatures

The more recent counter-petition had almost 1,600.

Deschutes National Forest Public Affairs Officer Jean Nelson-Dean said they will take all public input into consideration. 

"We're not surprised that there's a varying of opinions on, you know, whether the gates should be opened or closed," Nelson-Dean said.

"If we were to close the gate, we would need to do some environmental analysis to decide to gate that road permanently," she added.

"Under the National Environmental Policy Act, we would do an environmental assessment, basically, and we would do that to kind of look at ... what would be the impacts of closing the gates," she said.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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