Public health officials say an urban trail system connecting local parks to the Bear Creek Greenway would help combat childhood obesity, a countywide concern.

Public health officials say an urban trail system connecting local parks to the Bear Creek Greenway would help combat childhood obesity, a countywide concern.

Viki Brown, Jackson County's public health division manager, brought the idea before county commissioners Tuesday during a work session. She said the county's Public Health Advisory Board is seeking the commissioners' support in encouraging cities to include urban trails in their expansion plans.

Brown said she bikes 36 miles from her home in Eagle Point to work and back every day and endorses walking and biking on trails for health.

Mike Montero, a member of the health advisory board, pointed out to the commissioners that "as cities plan for the future, the development of urban trails would promote the development of public health," which would help fight childhood obesity.

An example of an urban trail system, Montero said, could be in Medford's Southeast Plan, where trails could connect parks such as Prescott, Chrissy and the U.S. Cellular fields with the Bear Creek Greenway.

Montero said several developers and property owners agreed with the idea and the advisory board anticipated a favorable response from others should the commissioners support the concept.

"It's an incredible regional amenity for walking and biking," Montero said. "The issue here is to ask your support to recognize the urban trails as a public amenity."

Montero said some trails would be made available at no cost to the county or a city, with voluntary right of way given by landowners and construction for the project provided by developers.

Commissioner Jack Walker was reluctant to support the concept before other projects were finished.

"We are struggling to maintain the Bear Creek trail," he said. "It looks like a virtual problem in the future."

Montero said the advisory board would like the county to make a declaration that urban trails can be good for public health, so cities planning future development would consider incorporating them. "We're just asking the cities to think about it," he said after the meeting.

Also after the meeting, Brown said, "We want to get property owners and developers on board early," adding it's easier for developers to plan for trails rather than try to incorporate them after designs already have been made.

After some discussion, commissioners Jack Walker and Dave Gilmour recognized the idea as informational only with a resolution to be presented at a future meeting. Commissioner C.W. Smith was absent.

Vera Westbrook is a reporting intern for the Mail tribune and can be reached a intern1@mailtribune.com.