Navigating the Bear Creek Greenway could get easier for both trail users and emergency crews responding to calls there, thanks to a state grant that will update signage.
Jackson County commissioners approved a $22,016 grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Recreational Trails Program on Wednesday. The grant and an additional $15,504 in funds from the Bear Creek Joint Powers Committee will pay for pavement markers, posts and signs to be installed along the 17.5-mile bike and pedestrian path from Ashland to Central Point.
Jackson County Fire District No. 5 Chief Dan Marshall said the agency has responded to several 911 calls on the stretch between Phoenix and Talent, including bike crashes, cardiac arrests and fires. Sometimes, the emergency can be tricky to find because of subpar signage in the more remote areas.
"If it's a medical call, it's difficult to find out where they are," Marshall said.
County officials hope the new signage will better inform trail users where they are and help improve emergency response times on the Greenway.
"It's more just getting people to the trail and also feeling a little bit more like it's a maintained facility," said Jenna Stanke, Jackson County bicycle and pedestrian program manager and parks planner.
Stanke said Greenway officials hope to have the project completed by spring 2013.
"Completed by the next busy season would be our goal," she said.
The project will entail map kiosks at six locations: the Eagle Mill Road and Dean Creek trailheads, and U.S. Cellular Community, Bear Creek, Hawthorne and Railroad parks. There also will be signs from streets to trailheads and access points, destination indicators, mile markers and directional signs.
Project officials hope to partner with an Eagle Scout who would install the signage to cut labor costs.
There are already map kiosks at the Ashland Dog, Blue Heron and Lynn Newbry parks, and at the Wrangler's Arena and Pine Street trailheads. The Greenway has markers every quarter-mile now, but Stanke said they are not easy to see.
"This project will make those more durable, more permanent and also more visible," she said.
Lt. Marty Clark of the Jackson County Sheriff's Department said he thinks better markers and increased signage along the path is a great idea. He runs on it frequently and said the route can be a little confusing in spots to those who have never used it before.
"You have a lot of out-of-towners using the bike path, so they're not going to know cities," Clark said. "It'd be very beneficial. If you don't know the area, you can get confused."
Blaine Pickett, an employee of Marty's Cycles & Moore in Medford who sometimes uses the Greenway to commute to work, agreed.
"I would think, for people that are visiting the area, that it would be nice to know," he said. "I think that would definitely help."
He added some customers at his shop just getting started in cycling have expressed interest in eventually riding from Medford to Ashland and back, and that visible mile markers could help them work toward that goal.
"Being able to gauge where they are would help," he said.
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.