What is going on at the Fair Grounds?

What is going on at the Fair Grounds?

— Bruce V., Medford

What you see there, Bruce, is the latest progress by an all-volunteer group of go-getters who are turning the little-used Expo ponds area into a haven for disabled people to go fishing.

The Disabilities Recreation Project has been busy installing some of the infrastructure needed before an all-volunteer crew can start building pathways, fishing piers and buildings envisioned for the two ponds off Peninger Road near the Jackson County Expo Park.

When the project is finished, the ponds will be a fishing haven for wheelchair anglers and others — complete with picnic tables, fishing platforms, open-air pavilions, restrooms and a 120-foot pier where even the most disabled person with a taste for angling can fish.

So far, the group has installed water and sewer lines. On Friday, the group submitted a grading permit to Jackson County, says Richard Anderson, the group's leader. Once that permit is signed, crews can move in and start building the paths, parking lot and perhaps one of the fishing piers there this summer, Anderson says.

So far, all the work has been underground infrastructure, Anderson says.

"We're really picking up a lot of momentum," Anderson says. "Once we get something above ground, the community will see what we're doing out there."

About $3.5 million worth of amenities are being installed, with materials paid for with donations and fundraisers. No government money is involved. The work parties typically are on Saturdays.

The group has spent $58,000 cash so far and used $398,000 worth of in-kind donations, Anderson says.

The project has the financial support of nine different foundations, Anderson says. The group's Feb. 4 fundraising barbecue at the adjacent Mace Center raised more than $15,000, he says.

The DRP was formed in 2002 to improve fishing access for anglers in wheelchairs and others, says Anderson, who has a nephew and two friends who are disabled but like to fish.

The group's first project was the fishing jetty adjacent to Howard Prairie Resort at Howard Prairie Lake, using donated items and help from construction workers to turn a shoestring budget into a jetty that would have cost $300,000 had it been built under contract.

The group then built a similar but smaller access structure at Emigrant Lake near the Jackson County boat ramps.

In all, they have completed seven projects in Jackson County, parlaying donations and Saturday work parties into finished projects that would cost far more if done conventionally.

The group has been working on the Expo project since 2003, using donations from 13 different engineers to put together permits and plans for the project.

For more information on the group, see www.drpinc.org.

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