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Greenway fundraising effort aims at final gap

Bikers, runners and Sunday strollers soon may be able to enjoy nearly 20 miles of uninterrupted trail along Bear Creek, but only if the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation can raise $190,000 to match a $1.7 million grant awarded by the Oregon Department of Transportation for construction of a final connecting segment.

"Last year we finished the latest section of the trail," said Jenna Stanke, Jackson County Bicycle and Pedestrian Program manager and parks planner. "This new project will fund the gap between the newest section and the existing trail."

Meandering along Bear Creek from Nevada Street in Ashland to Dean Creek Road outside of Central Point, only a 1.4-mile segment between Pine Street and Upton Road in Central Point prevents it from being a continuous trail.

"It's an important recreation corridor," Stanke said. "It has benefits to the Expo, and it has benefits to the community, to Central Point."

The Greenway has been built piecemeal over the past 30 years as property is donated to the foundation by individuals or paid for by government agencies, and in October 2009 the Naumes family donated the land to bridge the final gap in the trail.

"The first step when you're building something is to own the property," said Stanke. "People get cranky if you build on their property. The whole Greenway has been constructed as we receive property rights."

The $1.7 million grant comes from federal Transportation Enhancement Funds, which are managed by ODOT. In order to be eligible for the grant, the foundation must raise $190,000 in matching funds, a goal it is well on its way to reaching.

"We've raised a little over $60,000 so far, and we're going to really start to fundraise next year," said Lee Mills, foundation president. "We have to have it by the end of next year." Stanke said funding is due in chunks as each part of the project is completed. Engineering consultations are estimated to cost $27,000, while the remaining $163,000 is due when the bidding process for construction begins at the end of the 2012.

The foundation's plans for the Greenway don't end at Central Point.

"There's a lot of hope to connect the dog park in Ashland to North Mountain Park," said Stanke.

"It's a way of connecting communities," Mills said of the Greenway. "Roughly 80 percent of the population of Jackson County lives within a mile and a half of the trail ... when you look at gas prices being $4 a gallon, people need to get out and exercise."

"Ideally it would connect with the path through Rogue River to Grants Pass," he said. "But the biggest goal right now is to connect these two segments."

Reporting intern Nils Holst can be reached at 541-776-4477 or by email at holstn@sou.edu.