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New Larson Creek Trail is in a squeeze

Medford City Council on Thursday stumbled over a proposal to extend a walking and biking trail behind 12 townhouses in east Medford.

“The chain-link fence would be rubbing against their decks,” Councilor Bob Strosser said.

The council tentatively approved spending $1.08 million for the second leg of the Larson Creek Trail, which ultimately will link the Bear Creek Greenway to North Phoenix Road. However, councilors didn’t unanimously approve the resolution supporting the trail, so it will be up for a second reading in two weeks.

The city will meet with officials from Rogue Valley Manor, which owns property near the trail, to discuss seeking additional right of way that would allow the trail to be situated a little farther from the back decks of the townhouses.

“I would like another five feet,” Strosser said.

The council agreed to spend $217,000 out of its own budget for the project, and has received grants for the remaining $868,000.

A 1,500-foot section of the trail is under construction from the Greenway to Ellendale Drive. The second leg, which will run past the Manor's Quail Point Golf Course and the townhouses on Hilldale Street, will extend from Ellendale to Black Oak Drive, a distance of about 3,500 feet.

The property lines for the townhouses currently are only a few feet off the back decks, and the city owns the right of way between the back decks and the golf course.

Many property owners purchased their townhouses with the assumption they owned the land some 10 to 12 feet behind their decks up to a chain-link fence abutting the golf course.

Some of the property owners have expressed concern about vandalism or illegal camping once the trail is extended.

Strosser said the decks likely were installed by the builder in the 1990s, and they may have been approved by the city at the time.

Councilor John Michaels said he could foresee problems building the trail so close to houses.

“Putting it to their back door — there’s going to be lots of issues,” he said.

Cyclists who use the Bear Creek Greenway applauded the new trail.

Dean Walker, 56, of Medford is a huge fan of the Greenway and has used it for the 15 years that he’s lived in the valley.

“The Greenway has been one of the best things ever,” he said. “I think communities that are putting in bike routes and trails should be encouraged.”

Pete Maciejewski, 60, of San Mateo, Calif., comes up every couple of months and enjoys the trail system through Jackson County.

“The more bike paths, the better,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

Dean Walker, 56, of Medford pedals past the new Larson Creek bike path's intersection with the Bear Creek Greenway. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell