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A welcome opening

It’s been far too long, but a new rest area and welcome center south of Ashland on Interstate 5 is scheduled to open by the end of April, in time for the summer tourist season.

The previous rest area and welcome center, just downhill from the Siskiyou Summit, was closed in 1996 after a series of crashes attributed to the steep grade.

Opening a new rest area in a safer location was delayed first for lack of funding, then by vocal opposition from residents of the Oak Knoll neighborhood, which is about half a mile from the new rest area. Opponents raised issues of noise, crime and safety, all of which have been addressed.

Trucks will not be allowed to use the center, which will be surrounded by a chain-link fence topped by barbed wire. The welcome center will be staffed year-round, and the building also will house an Oregon State Police office.

Since the closure of the Siskiyou Rest Area, the next available rest area is at Valley of the Rogue State Park.

People who look up information about this area on their smartphone or tablet are likely already planning a visit. Those bound for other destinations may not know much about what the Rogue Valley has to offer. When they stop for a stretch and a bathroom break after crossing the Siskiyou Summit, that’s a great opportunity to show them why they might want to stay longer next time. An opportunity that has been missed for the past 22 years.