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MailTribune.com
  • The Greenway: Closing the gap

    Opening of 1.4-mile stretch eliminates hazardous crossing for bicyclists in Central Point
  • While cyclists have been test-driving the newest section of the Bear Creek Greenway for a few weeks, county and state officials gathered Wednesday to dedicate a 1.4-mile stretch near the fairgrounds that filled the final gap of a 20-mile span between Ashland and Central Point.
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  • While cyclists have been test-driving the newest section of the Bear Creek Greenway for a few weeks, county and state officials gathered Wednesday to dedicate a 1.4-mile stretch near the fairgrounds that filled the final gap of a 20-mile span between Ashland and Central Point.
    The trail was funded with $1.7 million in federal transportation dollars and a 10 percent match from local sources.
    Before the new section was completed, cyclists and walkers using the Greenway had to stop at a dirt parking lot across from the Pilot Truck Center then cross busy Pine Street and navigate Peninger Road, which runs adjacent to the county fairgrounds.
    Jackson County bicycle and pedestrian planner Jenna Stanke noted that while the area appears rural, cyclists and pedestrians have never mingled well with fairgrounds event traffic and heavy truck traffic headed for nearby industrial sites.
    "We had a state parks conference and we did a ride from Ashland to the Rogue Creamery and we had to ride for a stretch on Peninger. I figured, 'Peninger is low volume, so it won't be a big deal,' " Stanke said Wednesday.
    "Well, it was a big deal. The cars on Peninger drive fast and they really are not friendly about cyclists on the road — we actually had people yell at us for being on the road. It can be pretty scary."
    On his regular weekly ride just after Wednesday's ribbon cutting, local cyclist and Siskiyou Velo cycling club member Phillip Kolczynski offered kudos for the quality and design of the newest section of the Greenway.
    "The stretch along Peninger was not a safe way to go," he said. "There's a lot of chip sealing, and drivers coming out of events are not always courteous. I could tell lots of stories.
    "With this opened up, it's going to be wonderful, and it's nice that they did it in an aesthetically pleasing way. Once they connect from Ashland to Grants Pass, it will be a really nice ride, and I would imagine a big tourist draw."
    The connection to Grants Pass would come via the Rogue River Greenway, which is still in the early stages of development. The Bear Creek Greenway got its start with legislation passed by the state in 1973.
    Medford resident Harlan Bittner, a Jackson County Bicycle Committee member, test-drove the new segment Wednesday with Kolczynski.
    "This is just a really great way to get places. Serious cyclists use the roadway, too, but it's nice when there's a safe alternative," said Bittner.
    "Like Phil said, Peninger isn't the best for cyclists and this is just a really beautiful section of trail."
    Oregon Department of Transportation officials said Wednesday that a project planned near Blackwell Road will include components that would further aid in completion of the trail system to Rogue River.
    "The long-term goal is for cyclists to be able to ride from Emigrant Lake all the way to Grants Pass," Stanke said.
    "People always ask why the trail starts with mile marker 8. It's because we always intended for the trail to start farther south. Then, when we connect with the Rogue River Greenway in Rogue River, cyclists will be able to ride from the other side of Ashland all the way to Grants Pass."
    For more on the trail, see www.bearcreekgreenway.com.
    Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com
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