City ready to roll on new bike path

Federal grant rules require eminent domain filing, but it likely won't be used

Medford officials may file eminent domain proceedings this week to create the first leg of a Larson Creek Trail in southeast Medford. But they say they don't expect to condemn any property.

The City Council will consider an ordinance at noon Thursday at City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St., to begin the process to acquire portions of two Rogue Valley Manor properties and one owned by Pacific Retirement Hospitality LLC, a subsidiary of Pacific Retirement Services, which operates the manor.

The proposed Larson Creek Greenway would connect with the Bear Creek Greenway and run parallel with Barnett Road to the east, eventually extending for two miles to North Phoenix Road, then into other trails that would be part of the Southeast Plan.

The new path, which would run along the south bank of Larson Creek, would provide an alternate route for cyclists and pedestrians wanting to avoid busy Barnett Road by traveling through a mostly residential area.

The initial phase of the bike trail would run from the Bear Creek Greenway to Ellendale Drive.

The three parcels required for the bike path are along Hospitality Way. The city needs rights of way through the properties, estimating the value of the easements at $70,000.

Cory Crebbin, director of Medford Public Works, said the city has qualified for a $500,000 federal grant for the first phase of the path.

As a result of the grant process, the city is required to start eminent domain proceedings, Crebbin said. That doesn't mean they'll have to take any drastic action.

On other projects, the city has been able to avoid actual condemnation actions and arrive at a fair market value for property.

"We want to pay a fair price," Crebbin said. "We almost always work it out."

The city did contact officials at the Manor several years ago about the project, Crebbin said, but he wasn't sure if there had been any recent discussions. Representatives from PRS and the Manor said they were unaware of the possible council action.

The city will build the Larson Creek trail in sections as it receives grants and other funds. He said the city is in the process of receiving state funds for the next segment of the trail east of Ellendale.

Crebbin said the bike lane is an important cycling connector in southeast Medford. Barnett Road isn't wide enough to provide bike lanes, so the city selected Larson Creek as the best route under the Transportation System Plan.

A time frame for completing the Larson Creek Trail hasn't been nailed down yet because it requires so many grants to complete.

"I'd love to get it done," Crebbin said. "It's an important bike connection."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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