Bear Creek Greenway being considered for state trail designation

The Bear Creek Greenway could be recognized by a state program that promotes outdoor recreation.

The greenway is being considered for a state trail designation that would boost its advertising on Oregon travel websites, and give it additional protection in land-use planning decisions.

The nearly 18-mile stretch of mostly paved trail that spans the Rogue Valley from Ashland to Central Point, will be considered for the State Designated Regional Trail title at an open house from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 8, at the Coyote Trails School of Nature, 2931 S. Pacific Highway, Medford. The Oregon Recreation Trails Advisory Council — ORTAC — will take public comments on the potential designation at the event. If passed, it would be the first Southern Oregon trail to receive the state's Regional Trail designation.

"The designation is more of an honorarium to identify how important the trail is to your region," said Rocky Houston, Oregon Parks and Recreation Department state trails coordinator. "It doesn't mean that the state comes in and takes ownership of it. It's still managed locally."

A regional trail designation is one of three under the state's State Trail Designation Program. Qualifying trails are non-motorized trails that connect communities, recreation sites, schools and other trails. They must be at least five miles in length, open to the public, mostly complete, and located on public lands or public right of way.

"It's exactly right up the Bear Creek Greenway's alley," said Jenna Stanke, bicycle pedestrian manager for Jackson County Parks. "It's definitely a regional trail in a true regional trail sense in terms of connecting communities."

Houston said the greenway's regional trail designation would mean additional marketing for the trail on the Oregon Parks and Travel Oregon websites, providing better exposure for tourism.

"When you come to Oregon, it'll hopefully be farther up the list," Houston said. "It provides sort of a tourism economic hook."

Additionally, he said it provides additional protections during significant land-use decisions that could potentially affect trail use.

"It provides another review process to help with that," Houston said.

Following public comment at the Aug. 8 meeting, ORTAC would need to nominate the trail to move the process along. An official designation would then be finalized in September or November.

"It's an honor to be designated," Stanke said. "It's really a great award for the trail."

— Ryan Pfeil

Read more in Wednesday's paper.

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