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Cyclists eye new off-road trails at Prescott Park

A network of 34 miles of trails on Roxy Ann Peak could open up a new world for Medford cyclists looking for a challenge close to home.

"The general consensus is it's just awesome," said Alex Hayes, owner of Medford Cycle Sport.

The City Council at noon Thursday in City Hall will consider a conceptual plan for a network of trails in Prescott Park that would open up wilderness areas that now are difficult to access.

The entire project would cost $360,000 to $720,000, with trails crisscrossing the park's 1,740 acres that are generally above the winter fog line. Elevations range from 1,960 feet to 3,576 feet at the peak.

Phase 1 of the project calls for 10 miles of new trails at a cost of up to $200,000. The Parks and Recreation Department has $100,000 available and could apply for grants.

Another project proposed for the future is to create a new trailhead with a bathroom.

Hayes said Medford off-road cyclists generally load their bikes into their cars and head to Ashland, the Applegate or the John's Peak area."When they don't have to drive, it appeals to cyclists," he said.

Prescott Park sits at the top of Roxy Ann Peak, on Medford's east side.

The city-owned park encircles the mountain and already is a popular draw for hikers, cyclists and horse riders.

The trail system in Prescott would have signs designating their difficulty and suitability for hikers, bikers or horses, although there will be no prohibitions on use of any of the trails.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association of Boulder, Colo., which undertook the $8,000 study for the city, provided detailed instructions on trail construction, taking into account slopes, drainage and taking care to preserve trees and other vegetation.

Some existing trails would be abandoned or improved as part of the project.

Brian Sjothun, director of the parks department, said the trails would be designed for multi-purpose use, although each trail would be marked to indicate the appropriate use. Some are marked for bikes, others for hikers and others for bikers, hikers and horses.

It will be up to individual users to determine whether they want to hike or ride a horse on a trail designed for cyclists, Sjothun said.

Signs should help keep most users on the appropriate trail, he said.

Most of the trails would loop around the entire flank of Roxy Ann, but the greatest concentration of trails would be on the west side, Sjothun said.

Work on the trail system could begin later this year if funding is secured.

When the project will be completed would depend on how fast grants and private donations can be raised, Sjothun said.

"In working with RVMBA (Rogue Valley Mountain Biking Association), we're trying to create the equivalent of a U.S. Cellular Park for trails," he said, referring to the city's sports park with its numerous fields for baseball, softball, soccer and other sports.

Prescott Park could host national competitions, offering a drier and warmer spot in the state for mountain biking during the middle of winter.

Mike Bronze, president of the RVMBA, said a cycling trail system would be a tourist draw for Medford, particularly because it's close to Interstate 5.

"Ashland is already a pretty big draw for cyclists on the West Coast," he said.

Ashland has about 40 miles of trails, many of which were illegally built and known as "rogue trails." Trails in Ashland can start at above 6,000 feet and drop to 2,000 feet.

The trail system in Prescott Park will be designed to the highest possible standards to ensure longevity and minimal impact, Bronze said.

Trails for hikers will feature a lot of switchbacks that will slow down and discourage cyclists. Trails for cyclists will be designed for speed, which will discourage hikers, Bronze said.

Prescott Park would have about 12 miles of cycle-specific trails, he said.

The RVMBA is already working on grants that could be applied to the trail system. Bronze said his cycling association has built four miles of trails in Jacksonville.

A resident of northwest Medford, Bronze said he usually goes to Jacksonville to ride.

"Once the trails get built, I would consider moving to the east side of town to be closer to the trails," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

Cyclists eye new off-road trails at Prescott Park