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Greenway reaches out

Medford's bike and trail system will branch out under a $540,000 project to extend a path from the Bear Creek Greenway to Ellendale Avenue.

A 1,500-foot portion of the Larson Creek Greenway Trail, which will begin near Interstate 5's south Medford interchange, is the first phase of a pathway that ultimately will extend to North Phoenix Road.

Jerome Johnson, a 58-year-old Medford resident who pedals 20 miles three times a week, said he's all for more trails to cycle on.

"The Greenway path — that's a beautiful place," he said.

According to the city's master plan, the Larson Creek trail eventually will wend its way around the Quail Point Golf Course, then behind St. Mary's School.

The City Council approved an agreement Thursday with the Oregon Department of Transportation to proceed with the project.

Even with the agreement in hand, work on the trail is still about two years off.

Easements for rights of way, which include land owned by Rogue Valley Manor, could be purchased by July 2013.

Plans for the project should take shape by December 2013, then it could go to bid by April 2014.

The project will have federal and state oversight because federal transportation dollars make up the bulk of the funds.

St. Mary's Principal Frank Phillips said there is already a small section of the pathway that has been paved for many years, running along the east side of Black Oak Drive.

The trail from Black Oak to Murphy Road would need to be widened and improved, with increased setbacks from existing properties.

He said Sacred Heart Parish, which owns St. Mary's, already has made provisions for the extension of the path behind the school.

"Eventually, as a citizen of Medford and not as a principal, it would be pretty nice to have bike paths throughout the city," he said. "Bike paths in Eugene definitely make it more livable."

Tom Feld, who was pedaling his recumbent tricycle along the Greenway Friday, said he supports more trails, but would like more work put into the existing path.

"They ought to take that money and repair parts of the trail that are dilapidated," the 57-year-old Medford resident said.

Feld said some parts of the asphalt trail are washed out or cracked.

Three sections of the Greenway are due for new pavement this year: a three-mile stretch from Barnett to Biddle roads in Medford, a three-and-a-half-mile stretch from Valley View Road in Ashland to Suncrest Road in Talent, and a quarter-mile spot near milepost 9 in Ashland, Greenway officials said last summer.

Sitting inside his recumbent tricycle, Feld said he carries a small broom with him to clean up portions of the trail. He said glass wine bottles are sometimes broken on the asphalt and can puncture tires.

He did say the portion of the Greenway near the south Medford interchange was in good shape.

"This is one of the newer, safer parts of the trail," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

Tom Feld, 51, left, and Chris Brooks, 43, compare modes of bike path transportation near the area where a planned branch of the Bear Creek Greenway will extend to Ellendale Avenue. - Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell