A new footbridge over Bear Creek will give pedestrians another route of travel, and give the creekside corridor a new look

A 130-foot-long, 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge arrived downtown Friday, ending its 1,880-mile journey from Minnesota.

The new &

36;109,000 steel and wood structure, delivered in two 65-foot pieces, will span Bear Creek ' about where Ninth Street would be ' from Riverside Avenue to the Bear Creek Greenway.

I love it; it's so exciting, said Sonja Tramontana, owner of nearby Middleford Yarn Shoppe on Riverside Avenue.

She said with the deck outside her store and the new footbridge with lights and landscaping, the creek will be emphasized, much like the creekside in downtown Ashland is played up.

I think it's going to be a very nice effect, Tramontana said.
— That's the idea.

MURA Director Kurt Olsen said it's the first element of the city's Bear Creek master plan, which is a set of projects designed to restore and enhance the creek and creekside areas in the city.

The bridge also serves a purpose.

Hopefully this will create a more convenient connection to the east-side neighborhood and downtown to encourage foot traffic visits to downtown, Olsen said.

The pedestrian bridge, with built-up approaches on both ends, will span Bear Creek at the level of Riverside Avenue and give downtown visitors direct access to 80 all-day parking spaces in a public lot managed by MURA.

Another purpose for the bridge was to provide access to more parking for Rogue Community College's downtown campus. The lot, until now, has been used primarily by senior citizens visiting the Medford Senior Center on East Main Street adjacent to the parking area.

It's a concern, said Patti Proctor, director of the Medford Senior Center. She said the center has begun raising money to build their own parking lot. In the meantime, she hopes seniors coming for meals, health check-ups and other services will be able to use the lot.

Hopefully it won't be filled with college students and we'll still be able to use it for the seniors, she said.

MURA Senior Planner Eric Iversen said because concrete footings and walkway approaches need to be built, the bridge won't be put in place for a week or two and won't be open to the public until October.

Lampposts and landscaping also are part of the plan.

Iversen said the bridge is part of a one-mile walking loop, and there are plans to build a boardwalk from the footbridge along the west side of the creek as part of a system of downtown walking loops.

Iversen said the prefabricated bridge proved economical, even with shipping. Local engineering and construction from scratch would have cost nearly four times the amount and would have taken longer.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail