Talent park will get walking path, loop for handicapped

TALENT — A quarter-mile jogging and walking path and a 725-foot paved, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible, wooded loop are the next upgrades targeted for Chuck Roberts Park, where work is nearly finished on a $347,000 parking lot project.

An Oregon Parks and Recreation Department recreational trails grant will be sought to fund the work. In addition to the jogging and paved paths, another 1,050 feet in connecting routes within the 12-acre park will be requested.

"We have had so many people request some trails," said Parks Commission Chairwoman Janet Chose. "I really want to get the parks up to ADA access. This would be the start of all that."

Officials are still compiling cost estimates for the project, but the city will need to provide a 20-percent match of cash, materials, labor or a mix of the three. Parks commissioners and the City Council will need to approve the application.

Chuck Roberts Park now includes 655 feet of paved paths that provide access between the parking lot, courts, a picnic shelter and playground. The proposed loop would use 225 feet of existing pavement and feature a new, 500-foot section that would wind through trees.

Decomposed granite or wood chips may be used for the jogging path, said Elizabeth Zwick, a trails proponent in Talent and member of a three-person committee fine-tuning the grant application for the commission.

Connecting paths would be in the southeast corner, along Rogue River Parkway and in the middle of the park to link the court area with Little League fields to the west. All would tie into the jogging loop.

Research is under way to determine whether the trails grant could come under a heritage trails provision, as Talent Avenue was once an old stagecoach route. The proximity could yield additional points in ranking criteria, said City Manager Tom Corrigan.

While the wooded loop already has trees, Zwick would like to see it include a three-area heritage garden envisioned by the Talent Garden Club. The areas would feature plants used by indigenous people, vegetables and decorative plants brought by settlers, and historical agricultural plants.

"It's just a twinkle in the eye at this point," said Zwick. "We have the Talent tomato and an alfalfa that was developed here, too."

Parks commissioners will have a booth at the Oct. 5 Harvest Festival, where they will present the project and seek signatures of support.

An Oregon Department of Transportation grant to improve air quality by reducing airborne particulate was used to transform the dirt and gravel parking lot adjacent to Talent Avenue. Talent paid 10 percent of the project cost.

Paving and striping has been completed on one portion of the parking lot. Another part, which incorporates pavers that will be covered by grass, has yet to be completed.

Paver material swelled in the heat before grass could be planted in the holes, said Corrigan. H2 Construction of Central Point, which is building the lot, will correct the problem and probably plant grass next week if cooler weather persists. It will take six to eight weeks to establish the grass. Landscaping will be undertaken in September or October.

A splash pad also will be added to the park next year. The City Council approved $26,000 for the project in its 2013-14 budget.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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