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Finish it now

Editorials

Completing the Greenway will benefit the entire Rogue Valley

For years now, completion of the Bear Creek Greenway has seemed just out of reach. Road projects have stalled plans. Funding has been delayed. A flood swept away pieces of trail.

Through 30 years of effort, the boosters of the 18-mile bike path from Ashland through Central Point have quietly kept the pressure on, progressing at a pace that sometimes has seemed better measured in inches than in miles.

Somehow, they've said, we'll get this done.

Now they're asking the rest of us to help. The foundation that supports and promotes Greenway development has hired a director and has launched a campaign to raise the &

36;3 million needed to build the final 4 miles of path. Organizers hoped to finish the missing links south of Medford and between Phoenix and Talent by 2005.

Not everyone will sign on. Some people won't put a bike path high on the list of priorities in a time dominated by problem budgets throughout government and, in many cases, economic worries at home.

But &

36;3 million is a bargain given what a completed Greenway could do for the county.

It would, first, give something to each of the five communities it touches. Today, you can ride your bike from Ashland to Talent or from Medford to Central Point, but no one can ride across the gaps in the trail. When the path is done, bikers and walkers in every city it touches suddenly will have access to 18 miles of nature.

That kind of access can only become more important as Jackson County grows. Already, outdoor lovers would be hard pressed to find another green route through the cities that's close enough for an afternoon stroll or ride. As subdivisions fill up nearby land, the Greenway will become even more critical than it is today.

Greenway boosters have done their homework, and they've waited a long time to make the path complete. Today, they say, they've collected most of what they need to connect the dots: the land, the environmental approvals and the people to get the job done.

What they lack is &

36;3 million. That's not much in a world of projects that reach into the billions of dollars, but it is keeping the Greenway incomplete. Residents who value nature can change that by chipping in now.

Way to go

Some cities might have given up, but not Medford. It took 10 years, but the East McAndrews Road extension from Foothill Road to Tamarack Drive opened for public use last Thursday.

The extension will help ease congestion on Hillcrest Road and provide access to residential neighborhoods, including future developments, on Medford's east side.

City Attorney Ron Doyle said that after 10 years of debates, settlements and property condemnation, he's glad to see the project reach completion.

Begun in 1993, the project was fraught with controversy and disputes with property owners over rights of way. But eventually, settlements were reached and construction was completed this month.

If nothing else, the city officials who oversaw the project during the past decade deserve a slap on the back and a thanks for hanging tough for so long. The extension will eventually serve hundreds of homes in the area, and East McAndrews Road will be an increasingly important arterial in the city's future.