Neighbors in Gold Hill have banded together to fight a proposal to close one end of Upper River Road to traffic as part of a Greenway extension to Grants Pass.

Neighbors in Gold Hill have banded together to fight a proposal to close one end of Upper River Road to traffic as part of a Greenway extension to Grants Pass.

A petition signed by about 500 residents and fishing enthusiasts urges Jackson County officials to keep Gold Ray Road open to vehicles where it connects with Upper River Road at a popular fishing area.

Residents on Upper River Road fear extra vehicles that can no longer access Gold Ray Road from Central Point will choke their road with traffic as visitors head up to a proposed park and boat ramp that would act as a trailhead for the Greenway.

"When you double the traffic on it, you have a problem," said resident Emmett Ramey.

The proposal calls for closing a 1.2-mile stretch of Gold Ray Road from the Gold Ray Dam to a point where it connects with Upper River Road near a primitive boat launch. The section of Gold Ray is constrained by the Rogue River on one side and railroad tracks and steep hills on the other.

Supporters want to create a 30-mile extension of the Greenway that currently runs from Ashland to Central Point.

The neighbors say the intersection at Upper River and Blackwell roads already is difficult to negotiate as trucks from Interstate 5 compete with residents hauling horse trailers. The intersection also is offset slightly with Gold Hill 99 Spur, making it more confusing, neighbors say.

"It will become even more dangerous," said resident Gary Frost.

A sharp bend under a train trestle on Upper River Road forces long vehicles or vehicles hauling trailers to creep over the double yellow line. Where Upper River intersects with Blackwell, there is a steep slope making it difficult to turn, neighbors say.

With more traffic potentially heading up Upper River Road, it will inevitably lead to accidents, fear Frost and his wife, Chris.

"There is no shoulder here when you go under the trestle — now, put in a bunch of extra cars," said Chris Frost.

Paul Korbulic, who recently retired as Jackson County Roads and Parks director and has volunteered to help the Rogue River Greenway Foundation, said, "There is no doubt that that intersection is not a good intersection."

He said these and many other issues could be addressed as officials consider the proposal, which is in the conceptual phase. Korbulic said other alternatives are being looked at, such as creating a Greenway trail that could be shared by vehicles and pedestrians. Closing the section of Gold Ray is the "preferred alternative," he said.

Frost said his conversations with officials led him to believe it's more than just a concept, that officials have set their sights on closing Gold Ray because other alternatives would be too expensive.

Frost and his neighbors aren't the only ones concerned about closing the road. Many anglers who frequent the Rogue River have objected to closing the road to vehicles.

Korbulic said under the proposal, the area would have more to offer fishing enthusiasts, with a new boat ramp area and restrooms. Anglers could still walk down the path to fish.

The new park would open the area up for families and visitors who might not even be aware of this scenic stretch of river, he said.

"This will be one of the best opportunities for improved access to the river that the public doesn't even know much about," Korbulic said.

He said he's met with local residents and others to explain that the area along Gold Ray Road will be cleaned up and better enforced as part of the proposal. He said there is a lack of bathroom facilities in the area that leads to sanitation issues in the summer.

Gary Frost said he appreciates the information he's received, but added, "I didn't get the feeling from the meeting that there was any alternatives being discussed."

Residents want to know how big the park will be and how many parking spaces it will have to get a better idea of traffic volumes, he said.

"We don't know because they don't have a master plan," Frost said.

Traffic studies and the amount of parking still haven't been determined, said Korbulic. A master plan for the Greenway trail will be developed in the future.

In July, the county determined 240 vehicles crossed the railroad tracks near Gold Ray Dam on a Saturday. On Upper River Road, where it connects into the dirt portion on the western side of Gold Ray Road, 163 vehicles passed on a Saturday.

The portion of Gold Ray Road that would be closed for the Greenway currently doesn't meet any county standards for a roadway, said Korbulic.

Frost said he's worried that emergency vehicles will take a longer time to get through the two barriers if the road is closed. Neighbors also worry that a potential escape route will be shut off to them in case of fire or another disaster.

Korbulic said the dirt roadway is just one lane currently and is difficult to negotiate. Paving the road would allow emergency vehicles to more than make up for time lost by unlocking the barriers.

If residents don't act now to preserve this area as part of the Greenway, Korbulic said it could be lost to development pressures in the future.

Resident Bob Kirk said officials need to look a little harder at the options.

"I don't think anybody's against the bike path idea, but just because it's the easiest route doesn't mean it's the best," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.