The Medford City Council on Thursday directed public works officials to pursue a state grant to complete an important stretch of a proposed bike and pedestrian path along Larson Creek.
Medford Public Works Director Cory Crebbin was granted permission to push for grants from ConnectOregon, which provides funds for non-highway transportation projects across the state.
The goal is to secure a significant amount of funding needed to complete a pedestrian and bike path connecting Ellendale Drive and Black Oak Drive in east Medford.
The path would run along Larson Creek, just south of Barnett Road. It would be a significant step in the larger plan to eventually connect the Bear Creek Greenway to North Phoenix Road and then to other trails leading out to Chrissy Park.
"It has taken us 40 years to develop the Bear Creek Greenway, which I liken to a strong spine," Medford City Councilor Al Densmore said. "Now it's up to the communities along the Greenway to connect to it and expand outwards."
ConnectOregon's grant process is competitive and the program looks for cities with projects that show promise in sparking economic development when completed.
Historically, the program has focused on airport and rail projects, but also devotes grant funds to bike paths.
"We have a neat bike path and we are looking to add more," Crebbin said.
The new path would provide an alternative route for cyclists and pedestrians wanting to avoid busy Barnett Road by traveling through a mostly residential area.
A study in 2007 by Alta Planning and Design of Portland determined the cost to build the entire trail at $1.7 million.
There are large residential areas along Barnett Road that could add riders to the bike path, Densmore said.
"They could ride from the path along Larson Creek to the Bear Creek Greenway and then they could ride to downtown Medford, Central Point or Ashland," Densmore said. "It would make the bike path safer because you would have more people using it."
Crebbin did not know how much grant funding ConnectOregon would devote to the bike path should it award the money. The program does require some matching funds from a chosen city.
The council ordered Crebbin to begin a community outreach effort to seek residents' opinions on the proposed path.
Councilors John Michaels and Dick Gordon support the Larson Creek path, but believe that more efforts should be made to build similar paths in west Medford.
"I would very much like to see this type of thing on the west side of town," Michaels said.
Meanwhile, the city is looking to move earmarked money around to pay for the half-mile stretch of bike path that would run from the Bear Creek Greenway to Ellendale Drive.
A $500,000 federal earmark for the project could expire in September if the city doesn't show progress in developing a plan for the path. City officials hope to refocus the funds saved from lower costs used to build the pedestrian bridge across Barnett Road.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email email@example.com.