GOLD HILL — Craig Harper strolls cautiously along the thin ribbon of concrete walkway on Highway 234's bridge over Sardine Creek, wary of getting clotheslined by the side mirror of a passing truck and glad he's not trying to cross on his bicycle.
"You worry about getting conked on the head," says Harper, natural resources program manager for the Rogue Valley Council of Governments. "It's enough for me to walk by, but it would be difficult for a family to walk by, let alone bike by."
The Rogue Valley Council of Governments will host an open house from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Gold Hill Public Library to present the planned creation of three-fourths of a mile of Rogue River Greenway trail from Sardine Creek to the Rock Point Bridge.
Walkers and cyclists won't have to share the bridge with vehicles beginning next year after the building of a new pedestrian bridge over Sardine Creek that is part of a three-quarters-of-a-mile extension of the Rogue River Greenway.
The $1.85 million project will connect the existing greenway trail from Gold Hill to the Rock Point Bridge and eventually help forge a cycling/hiking/walking trail from Gold Hill to the downstream town of Rogue River.
The next stretch's main feature will be a pedestrian bridge that will put cyclists and walkers at ease and off the bridge shoulder. "This trail will be a lot more safe for people to have a leisurely bike ride or commute on their bikes," Harper says. "Having a separate bridge definitely will be a good thing."
The RVCOG and others involved in the project will have a two-hour open house beginning at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Gold Hill Public Library to present various aspects of the project to the public.
Construction was scheduled for the spring and summer of 2013.
More than $1.45 million of the construction costs will come from an Oregon Department of Transportation's Transportation Enhancement Fund grant. The remaining money will be covered by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
The existing greenway stretch there runs largely on the Highway 234 shoulder from Gold Hill to just shy of the Sardine Creek Bridge.
The new trail will jump the highway, span the creek on its own bridge then proceed to the Rock Creek Bridge, where it will hook into an existing Jackson County trail, Harper says.
The county plans next month to apply for grants to extend the trail to the Valley of the Rogue State Park, Harper says.
Houston says the project initially did not have grant approval, but local support and a push by the Rogue River Greenway Foundation and multi-agency government support helped inch the project into the funding realm.
It's the latest snapshot in a collage of projects first identified in the 1960s by greenway advocates who envisioned bike and walking paths from Ashland down the Bear Creek Greenway to the Rogue River. That became a reality, and now the vision has expanded to include connecting with the Rogue River Greenway.
"Wouldn't it be amazing to get on your bicycle in Ashland and ride all the way to Rogue River on a dedicated path?" Harper says.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.