George Adams powers his wheelchair along a path he helped create on a ridge on Roxy Ann Peak he’s never seen.
Adams stops, then pivots his chair toward the immense panoramic view available for those who may not be on top of the world, but definitely atop Medford. It’s like a kid seeing snow for the first time.
“This is the very first time I get to see the view of Medford, Talent and even all the mountains back there,” Adams says.
With Adams’ help, the Medford Parks Department has created its first wheelchair-accessible trail at Prescott Park at the eastern edge of Medford.
The new half-mile trail is accessible off the main paved road. It represents a sea-change for those like Adams who pine for the outdoors and don’t want their physical limitations to keep them at bay.
“We like to have people with disabilities to have more independence,” Adams says. “This is an immense opportunity.”
The trail on the peak’s west slope offers impressive views of the region, including Upper and Lower Table Rocks.
The trail is a breakthrough for Adams, who has been wheelchair-bound for more than two decades and has advised Medford officials about wheelchair accessibility for more than a decade.
“It makes me feel good to do things like this, it makes me feel better about myself doing things like this,” Adams says.
And Adams won’t be alone.
The Medford Parks Department is in the midst of buying a wheelchair-accessible bus to ferry people with disabilities from downtown Medford to the new trail, where conventional buses currently don’t go.
“This is our first (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible trail at Prescott, and we hope to build some more and see what kind of options we have,” says Haley Cox, the Medford parks planner who helped create the trail.
“Everybody deserves these views,” Cox says. “That’s the goal.”
Prescott Park has been a cornerstone of Medford’s recreation scene for more than 90 years.
Situated off Hillcrest Road, the 1,600-acre Prescott Park is a Medford keepsake that dates back to 1930 when the city acquired what is now the second-largest municipal park, dwarfed only by Portland’s Forest Park.
Though not actually within city limits, Roxy Ann Peak is 3,571 feet in elevation, and that’s about 2,200 feet above Rogue Valley floor.
It was named in 1937 for Medford police Constable George J. Prescott, a Lions Club member and park supporter who was shot and killed in the line of duty March 16, 1933.
The Civilian Conservation Corps built some of the outbuildings and picnic grounds, but very little was done here over the years.
It was pretty much a dump when the park’s first management plan was written in 1984, and the last revision was done in 2008.
In 2017, the park added about 6.5 miles of trail. Today it has about 13 miles of trails for hikers, runners, mountain bikers and horseback riders.
But wheelchair access was not an option until the city forged this new paved trail with the help of Adams.
First, finding good road access was important, Cox says. Then equally relevant was finding a hillside profile that allows for wheelchair-accessible contours.
The city found both at this turnout near the top parking lot at Prescott Park.
The work is not cheap, Cox says.
Most trails cost about $17 per linear foot to build, Cox says. This one pushed close to $30 per foot, she says.
Adams has been wheelchair bound since a vehicle accident 22 years ago in Alaska. He says he decided long ago not to feel sorry for himself and instead has looked to stretch the boundaries of his outdoor opportunities while forging paths for others like him.
The new trail creates not only adventures for him but also for others who have been unable to access Roxy Ann.
“I decided to go out and do things like this instead of staying home and feeling sorry about myself,” Adams says. “It helps other people, and that’s what really matters.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MTwriterFreeman.