Opinions of Rogue River users sought

Landowners' group planning to devise new recreation plan to guide county, state and feds

A coalition of public landowners is reaching out to the boating and fishing public as they move forward on a plan to manage public-access points along a 13-mile stretch of the Upper Rogue River.

Spurred by 2010's removal of Gold Ray Dam, which opened boating access to areas that had been blocked for 106 years, the group is in the early stages of a recreation plan that will guide state, county and federal land managers in how they deal with public access without trampling the stretch's uniqueness.

Possibilities range from more boating access points and even trail development in the stretch from Eagle Point to Gold Hill, an area that now has just one developed boat ramp, at TouVelle State Park, and one crude, public, concrete ramp, at Fisher's Ferry downstream of the old dam site.

The effort kicks off with a public meeting from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, at the Jackson County Auditorium, 200 Antelope Road. The meeting is aimed at getting an idea of the state of river use there, along with input on where the public would like to see things change along this stretch.

The county plans to post a survey soon on its website, www.co.jackson.or.us, so others can weigh in on the topics.

"Right now we're trying to get the baseline information of what's going on now," says Steve Lambert, Jackson County's parks manager. "We're focused on identifying current users, current needs and any conflicts."

Armed with a technical assistance grant from the National Park Service, the county and land managers are looking into access improvements along the stretch from the county-owned Givan Ranch property off Agate Road down to Gold Hill.

They've broken the stretch into three reaches — Givan Ranch to TouVelle, TouVelle to the old Gold Ray site and Gold Ray to the Nugget Wayside.

"Those really are three different areas with different accesses and different uses," Lambert says.

Since the dam's removal, local rafting companies have expanded into the waters downstream of TouVelle, and so have casual boaters, who face serious dangers should they miss the Fisher's Ferry ramp, which is of poor quality and offers very little parking.

No other public ramp exists until boaters reach Gold Hill — but they would be forced to boat through Nugget Falls, a Class III or IV rapid that is dangerous to run for most casual boaters.

The area between TouVelle and Nugget contains large tracts of largely undeveloped public land with little access other than from the river.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 7541-76-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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