Two-legged and two-wheeled adventurers celebrated an expansion at Prescott Park that doubles the length of trails in one of the state's largest municipally owned park areas.
Members of the hiking, mountain biking and trail running community cheered the first phase of the 1,700-acre park's expansion at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning. The new paths add 6.4 miles of multi-use trails to the 6 miles of trails the park already had atop Roxy Ann Peak.
While Prescott Park sits outside the city limits, it is a Medford city park and a popular destination for hikers, bikers, dog walkers and — on the main road at least — even stroller pushers. Most of the land was purchased by the city in 1931 using a federal grant; 200 acres were donated in 1930 by the Lions Club.
Mike Bronze, founder and vice president of the Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association, said he put a lot of thought into the new bike trails he helped design, paying attention to, among other things, the "flow," to ensure the rider carries speed without going too fast, and rising and falling angulation "to try to give it that roller coaster-y feel."
Bronze said designers also considered rider abilities as they sketched out the trail system, for example, putting the .98 mile Greenhorn trail meant for beginner and intermediate riders at the lower level, and the advanced Black Diamond trail with rocky natural elements at the top for experienced riders.
"You gotta really earn it to get to the difficult trails," Bronze said.
Southern Oregon Runners President Justin Rosas commended the marked trails' signage indicating recommended uses. The Black Diamond trail, for example, is a downhill-only trail meant for cyclists.
"We all try to get along," Rosas said of members of the cycling and running communities. "They just don't always mix."
The running organization will utilize the new trails next weekend for the Tough as Nails run, which will mark the new trails' first official footrace, according to Rosas. Registration will remain open until the morning of the race on May 13.
Medford City Councilor Michael Zarosinski praised the views visible from Roxy Ann Peak and the park trails.
"On a clear day you can see well past Crater Lake to the Three Sisters to the north to the Siskiyou range to the southwest, and the coastal range to the west," Zarosinski said. "All this is only 10 minutes away from downtown Medford."
Troy Higgins, who is a member of the Medford Parks and Recreation Commission and president of the Rogue Valley Mountain Bike Association, said many people still don't know about the trail system that's so easy to access. To reach the trails, take Roxy Ann Road off of Hillcrest Road, about a mile east of Hillcrest's junction with McAndrews Road.
"You can ride here from downtown," Higgins said. "I see a lot of future here."
Park visitors will also be able to take advantage of a new parking area that's about a half-mile above a gate that has served as the end point for drivers.
Mountain biker Jeff Sander, who lives near the park and took his bike down Black Diamond, called the views "just stunning." Though he'd ridden and hiked all the trails last fall, Sander hoped to take advantage of recent drier weather to take his bike on the new trails which haven't been compacted yet. Friday rains and overcast weather Saturday, however, made other lower trails still too muddy to ride.
Among the first-timers at the park were mothers Lacie Lacy of Eagle Point and Beth Mayben of Medford, who were making their way up Roxy Ann Peak.
"My kids have always wanted to go up," Mayben said.
"I've always been curious," Lacy said.
New expansions are slated to be finished later this summer, including four more multipurpose trails with designated equestrian sections, according to parks director Rich Rosenthal. The long-term master plan outlines more than 28 miles of trails.
— Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MTCrimeBeat.