The recent article by Damian Mann on the Rogue River Greenway planning effort for the proposed Gold Ray Road portion was, unfortunately, misleading.

The recent article by Damian Mann on the Rogue River Greenway planning effort for the proposed Gold Ray Road portion was, unfortunately, misleading.

Instead of correctly portraying the Gold Ray Road Solutions Team, convened several months ago by RVCOG, Oregon State Parks and Recreation Dept., the Rogue River Greenway, and Jackson County, as a compelling example of how to effectively include citizens — supporters and detractors alike — in a critical planning process, the article suggested that a wave of public negativity battered the process into submission. Not so.

The Solutions Team has been discussing numerous options for constructing a multi-use trail along the Rogue River for several months. Road closure was an early consideration, along with many possibilities, but was never a probable outcome of the planning process. In fact, early on, the members of the Solutions Team established a list of critical features that any potential solution would have to include, and keeping the road open to vehicular traffic was one of them. Incorporating the multi-use Greenway trail along the route was another.

The details of how these two essential components can be combined are what the Solutions Team is now considering, and the process with this diverse group has been professional, collegial, and results-oriented. Yes, the road is extremely narrow in parts, and yes, there are a wide variety of uses in the area, all with their impassioned advocates, but that is why the Solutions Team was necessary. It's unfortunate that the article did not recognize and acknowledge the courage of the entities named above for delegating so much responsibility to the Solutions Team, the members of which were initially not in agreement on much of anything concerning what should happen along this stretch of the Rogue.

Comprising individuals representing landowners and residents, equestrian advocates, fishing organizations, boaters, cyclists, business owners, Oregon State Parks, Jackson County and the Rogue River Greenway Foundation, the Solutions Team is far from anyone's rubber stamp. The meetings have been lively at times, and some of the members would probably have preferred sticking their fingers into a light socket to sitting through yet another contentious meeting, but it appears that all these differences of opinion are finally coming together to focus on a workable solution.

At this point in its process, the Solutions Team is examining a wide variety of options for trail construction, but the final report from the engineering firm won't be completed until early summer. As for the remote possibilities of cantilevered roadway sections, double-decker roads or spending millions of dollars on a mile of trail, they are not being taken seriously by anyone involved in the process.

Without any doubt, the final recommended solution to the Board of Commissioners will be much less dramatic and much more feasible (clearing, paving, painting lines on the road, speed bumps, signage, etc.). It will also be a great deal less expensive than is suggested by the article because, in contrast to the Bear Creek Greenway, most of the land along the proposed Rogue River Greenway is already in public ownership and most of the area is rural.

Obviously, there are many good reasons for completing the entire Rogue River Greenway, and many reasons why this stretch along Gold Ray Road is critical to the success of the whole Greenway. Having a complete network of the Rogue River and Bear Creek Greenways to link Josephine and Jackson counties together will bring immeasurable benefits to the region, from enhanced recreational and alternative transportation opportunities for local citizens to a permanent enhancement to the local economy.

But regardless of future benefits, it's important to recognize just how much has been achieved with our little experiment here with the Solutions Team. With all the suspicion and ill will that can be created by almost any proposed change, especially when government is involved, this group of people with nothing more in common than an appreciation for a certain stretch of land along a certain stretch of the Rogue River decided to take a chance and trust in each other's good will. The members' determination to find a way to make one of the most scenic, accessible natural areas in the Rogue River Valley even more scenic and accessible than it is right now is really inspiring, and deserves to be recognized as such.

Craig Harper is Natural Resources Program manager for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.