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Greenway survey is a chance to be heard

The Bear Creek Greenway represents decades of hard work and dedication by many people to create a bicycle and walking path that now stretches 18 miles along the creek from Ashland to Central Point. Multiple agencies are conducting a survey of public attitudes about the Greenway. It’s an opportunity to make your voice heard.

In 1973, a bill in the Oregon Legislature sponsored by then Rep. Al Densmore created the Bear Creek Greenway and allowed Jackson County to begin planning and acquiring land. The Oregon Department of Transportation built the first 3.4 miles of trail through Medford that year.

Decades later, that initial stretch presents one of the biggest challenges to keeping the Greenway a usable public resource, because it has become a favored spot for illegal camping by some of the local homeless population.

Another problem for the Greenway is the prevalence of nonnative blackberry vines that pose a wildfire hazard. Blackberry thickets helped fuel the Almeda fire that raced along the Greenway in 2020, destroying thousands of homes and businesses in Phoenix and Talent.

The blackberries also provide concealment for those looking for illegal campsites. Removing them is difficult and expensive, but it is one of the goals of the Rogue River Watershed Council.

The Greenway is jointly developed and managed by Jackson County and the cities of Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, and Central Point. The Envision Bear Creek survey project also involves the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

The project’s organizers want to know how people use the Greenway now, what would help them to use it more and how they see the Greenway’s future.

To learn more and to contribute your views to the survey, visit www.envisionbearcreek.com. In addition to survey questions, the site includes an interactive map where visitors can click on specific spots along the Greenway to mark areas of concern, project opportunities, barriers to travel and other concerns. Participants can also respond to notes left by others by clicking “like.”

The Greenway is a valuable community asset, and it can be made more accessible and useful to more people by adding improvements at key spots along its length. But to use available resources most efficiently, the entities that manage the Greenway need to hear from residents about their concerns and desires.

To participate, visit the website by May 6. On Wednesday, May 11, online open house sessions will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Links to the sessions are on the website.

As of Monday, organizers said they had received more than 800 responses. In a county of more than 200,000 people, that number should be much larger. Check out the website and get involved.