Vandalism, fights and other unwanted behavior have been a nuisance in Medford's 27 parks and along its seven-mile stretch of the Bear Creek Greenway.
"I've seen plenty of people on the trail, tweaked out of their minds," said Zac White, a 29-year-old Medford man who cycles to work in Central Point. "They look like zombies."
While White uses the Greenway, he said he doesn't think it's safe for his mother or girlfriend. He said he would support more efforts to make the Greenway and local parks more family-friendly.
The Medford Parks and Recreation Department has proposed an initiative that would put more eyes on its green spaces to quickly alert officials if something is wrong. It will ask the Medford City Council Thursday to start a new program called Park Watch that would be made up of neighborhood volunteers.
Park Watch's goal would be to lessen vandalism and other unwanted activity.
A Park Host program would organize a group of volunteers to be the eyes and ears of a neighborhood park.
In addition, the Adopt-a-Park program would coordinate with volunteers and city staff to clean up parks or help with beautification efforts.
Medford police don't have the manpower to continually oversee the parks, and they would rely on these volunteers to watch over parks when a patrol officer isn't around.
The parks department has asked the council to approve $5,000 to kick-start the program with signs, promotional materials and a part-time staff member.
In the case of a real emergency, residents are urged to call 911, but for other problems, residents can call 541-776-7206.
White said he doesn't have all the answers as to how to clean up parks and curtail unwanted behavior, but he would be willing to call the city if he sees anything.
He said the Medford portion of the Greenway seems to have been cleaned up considerably, but the stretch from Railroad Park in Medford to Central Point appears to have the most underbrush.
He said he's seen a couple living under a bridge with a couch and a queen-sized bed.
In a letter White sent to the city Oct. 25, he stated, "The amount of homeless, drugs and gangs on and or leaving their mark on the path is very high."
Park Watch is based on similar programs in Grand Junction, Colorado, and Wichita, Kansas.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.