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Motorcycle group adds land with state grant

A state grant will allow the Motorcycle Riders Association to add 402 acres of land to its holdings in and above Jacksonville’s watershed in the Johns Peak/Timber Mountain area.

The grant is for $770,000, and the MRA will supply $154,000 for a 20 percent match required by the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation all-terrain vehicle grant program.

The acquisition will give the MRA more than 1,300 acres that is accessed through the adjacent Jacksonville Forest Park, a former city reservoir site.

“We have ridden on the property for several decades with permission,” said MRA executive committee member Steven Croucher. “This particular property sits right in the middle of the (ATV) portions there.”

MRA sought the grant when the property recently came on the market.

“The key part of the grant is that they have secured this piece in forests where the MRA already has parcels of land or easements,” said Ian Caldwell, with the department’s ATV grants program. “It provides connectivity to the different areas.”

State parks wanted local community involvement and insisted a government entity be listed as a successor, said Croucher.

Jacksonville City Council last week agreed to be the operating successor organization on the title. The city already has that status on a piece of former city property that was transferred to the MRA as part of a land swap in 2013. In the deal, Jacksonville received $684,000 and 40 acres with improved parking next to Forest Park, while the MRA got 380 acres in the upper watershed. A state grant was also awarded to the MRA to assist with that purchase.

Successor status gives the city a voice in how the area would be operated were the MRA to cease to exist, Croucher told the council. The agreement notes the city would not be liable for or assume any debts, liens or claims against the MRA arising before the date the city became a successor. State parks would be on the title to take ownership in such an event.

Croucher urged — and the council agreed — that the management agreement for the other piece of land be duplicated on the new site. The parties worked to achieve compatibility between motorized and nonmotorized activities. The agreement covers timber management, road maintenance, law enforcement, access and other factors.

The new site also will provide the city access to a piece of property it owns higher up the hill.

“It’s really going to give you a bigger seat at the table,” Croucher told the council. “You can dictate, to some degree, how the property is then maintained in the future if the club fails.”

Unlike other areas in the West where motorized and nonmotorized groups are banging heads, the MRA and the city have used compromise to successfully manage forest areas, said Tony Hess, a founding volunteer in the creation of Forest Park.

“I’ve heard it described as a model the Oregon Recreation Commission thought would never be achieved,” said Hess. “A vote for this is as much a vote for Jacksonville as it is for the MRA.”

Grant funds probably will be made available to the organization in early July, said Croucher, at which time the association would complete the purchase. 

Money for the grants is generated from gas taxes paid when ATV riders purchase gasoline and from sale of $10 annual stickers required for riding on public land or developed trails.

The ATV program awards only 10 percent of its grant funds for land purchases and development. Another 60 percent goes to operations and maintenance, while 30 percent is allocated for law enforcement, said Caldwell. The MRA grant was the only one awarded for land purchase in the current cycle.

The MRA is currently soliciting donations for its part of the matching grant, due by June 30. For more information, visit http://motorcycleridersassociation.org.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com