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Talent mulls greenway, again

TALENT — Cleanup work at Wagner Creek Park on Rapp Road has opened up the area, and a group is again considering establishing a greenway along the creek within city limits.

Crews from the county's Community Justice Transition Center earlier this spring removed blackberries and other debris and limbed pines to create more open space for people to walk in the ¾-acre park on the north side of the creek.

"Kids come with schoolteachers. They like to hike it so it's a little more open to them," said Parks Commissioner Carl Schauger, who created plans for the revitalization.

"They want to keep it natural," said Schauger. A park sign will be put up, along with a picnic table and a couple of benches, he said.

Wagner Creek has significant riparian vegetation, so all work was conducted after consultation with Oregon's Department of Fish and Wildlife, said City Manager Tom Corrigan.

"You have to have a plan to work so many feet back from the creek," said Corrigan. "If a tree falls over, you just can't pull it out."

Schauger is also a member of the Friends of Wagner Creek subcommittee of the city's Together for Talent Committee. The friends are reexamining a 2007 plan for a greenway along the waterway from Rapp Road to Bear Creek. Portions of a trail already exist.

Other creek issues the group identified at an April meeting were water quality, flood prevention awareness, and the creek's role as a corridor for wildlife, fish and pollinators.

Just south of Wagner Park, a city greenway about 75 feet wide runs 900 feet beside the creek, from Rapp Road to the railroad trestle. City crews keep the pathway mowed. Thick blackberries obscure the creek in most locations.

"The greenway could be made to look beautiful if the blackberries were out," said Schauger. "In summer, you could walk here and enjoy the creek."

At Thursday's Parks Commission meeting, Schauger proposed a bridge to link the greenway to Joseph Park on the north side of the creek. The park was created where two houses were destroyed by a 1997 flood.

A bridge would give students living in the Parkside Apartments complex an alternative to get to the elementary and middle schools instead of crossing the narrow Rapp Road bridge. Schauger estimated the cost at $40,000 and said grants would be needed to fund construction.

There's also a trail from Talent Avenue to Highway 99 along Wagner Creek's south side. Part of the path is a 670-foot concrete walkway that starts at the Talent Avenue bridge in common space for Old Bridge Village. That development's homeowner association is in discussion with the city about potentially turning the site over for use as open space or a park.

Beyond the sidewalk, 250 feet of chip-covered trail connects to Highway 99. A group of volunteers created the path in 2011 after removing brush. Property owner SOS Plumbing welcomed the project.

Schauger was a draftsman for Bell Telephone in New Jersey and a scientific illustrator at University of California, Davis. He previously volunteered on a watershed rehabilitation project at Clear Lake, Calif.

An in-city greenway along the creek would total 11/2; miles according to the 2007 study. Both Corrigan and Schauger say obtaining right of ways for the greenway would be a major challenge. The 2007 study also identified crossing Highway 99 and West Valley View Road as obstacles.

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.