Ripple Effect: Future of Bear Creek Greenway
Jackson County leaders say the Bear Creek Greenway is getting more attention now, than maybe it ever has in the past. Several parts of the more than 20 mile stretch along the creek were destroyed or damaged by last year’s Almeda Fire.
“The county just authorized a feasibility study to be done. We’re going to be talking to other stakeholders, other jurisdictions about what they would like to see, but really what we’re looking at is trying to do things that possibly can restore the greenway back to the wonderful amenity, the family and recreational amenity it was intended to be,” says Rick Dyer, Jackson County Commissioner.
Dyer says the greenway has been a project in the making for decades. The idea came up in 1899, and residents raised $500 in bicycle taxes to start it, “but then Al Densmore brought it back to the legislature in 1991 and then it was finished and completed in phases ever since,” Dyer says.
He’s hoping positive changes will begin for the greenway, where it’s needed.
“Some of the things we’re talking about is better lighting, brush clearing, just a more open feel, and then even the presence of some safety and security personnel down there and just a presence in general,” Dyer says, “it’s a great place, when it’s a safe place to go. 7:30
Steve Lambert, Parks Program Manager for the county says there are six different jurisdictions the greenway goes through, each one helping with maintenance and repairs.
“We can coordinate repairs like pavement repairs, bridge repairs, a great example of the cooperation and coordination as the Almeda Fire and getting the facility opened and safely to the public,” Lambert says, “it can be challenging when you’re dealing with policy level issues like our houseless community and some of the other issues, as far as some of the other governing bodies may have different opinions on things facility wide.”
Lambert says there’s also a misconception of the greenway, that crime exists along the entire stretch. He says depending on where you are, it can be a completely different experience.
“That southern portion of it from Phoenix south, that gets a lot of really heavy use. You go out there on any given day and there’s people on bikes, walking, running, and walking their dogs, so the problems the greenway is experiencing in that downtown Medford section are not in any way, shape or form, a blanket experience across the entire greenway,” Lambert says.
The focus right now for the county is restoration and prevention, as we head into fire season.
“There are discussions and plans in place and being made to mitigate some of the more concerning issues, which of course, we all know about the environmental issues, we all know about the safety and the fire hazard, those absolutely have been and will be continued to be discussed and plans put in place to mitigate those to the greatest degree possible,” Dyer says.
“From a fire and fuel perspective, what we’re really wanting to focus on with the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District and some of our other partners is keeping some of the invasive species from coming back so blackberry, poison hemlock, etc.,” Lambert says, “our focus right now is making sure the facility remains safe for the public to use from a fire and recovery perspective, and to really start having a discussion later this year with the public about what they want to see on the greenway moving forward.”
“When I put on my rose colored glasses, I do see this amenity being returned to what it was intended and that is a safe for families, for individuals to go and be able to recreate, to be able to ride a bike, jog, exercise,” Dyer says, “it’s going to take buy in from all of the jurisdictions that are effected, all the stakeholders and it’s going to take time as well, but that’s the goal.”