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BLM eyes first phase of Jack-Ash non-motorized trail

Construction of nearly four miles of trails is proposed by the Bureau of Land Management's Medford District to implement the first phase of the Jack-Ash Trail, a 50-mile, non-motorized link between Ashland and Jacksonville.

Siskiyou Upland Trails Association first put forward the idea in 2009. The proposed 15-mile first section would include unpaved roads in the area between Sterling Mine Ditch Trail’s southeast end and Anderson Butte Road.

“We are a ways from work on the trails because we have to do the environmental assessment statement,” said SUTA President Hope Robertson. “There are lots of challenges, but we are up for it.”

BLM sought public comment on the proposal after putting out a scoping letter Dec. 22. Comments received by Feb. 2 will help guide work on the environmental assessment, said Zach Million, BLM outdoor recreation planner.

“We’ll take a look and see what public comment brought to light,” said Million. “Then we’ll look at spring and summer workload projections.”

Resource specialists will do surveys of the proposed work areas starting in the summer, Million said. They will determine how the project would impact wildlife, vegetation, historic items and other features.

Federal Title II grant money that SUTA has received will help pay for BLM staff time and a consultant to write portions of the assessment, Robertson said. Cost of the assessment will be between $10,000 and $20,000, she estimated.

BLM can contribute labor and staffing, but its money is limited for trail work. Million said. SUTA would seek grants and use volunteers for the trail work if approval is granted, Robertson said.

The trail segments include:

  • A 1.75-mile route on west slopes below Anderson Butte to connect Anderson Butte Road with Armstrong-Deming Road
  • A 1.75-mile segment to connect Armstrong-Deming and Grub Gulch roads
  • A quarter-mile length to connect to a trail through private property to link Grub Gulch ‘A’ spur to Griffin Lane. SUTA obtained an easement for the trail through private property, and it is not part of the project.

“Part of the reason so much of the route is on existing BLM roads is because we don’t have to build those, and we don’t have to maintain them,” said Robertson. “It really minimizes the cost of this trail for everybody.”

There is little traffic on the roads, said Million. Portions of the Pacific Crest Trail are located on roads, he noted.

Phase I sits in the middle of Jack-Ash. Only 2 percent of the portion connecting to trails near Ashland crosses private land, said Robertson. More problematic will be the link from Griffin Lane to Jacksonville, where up to half may be in private ownership, she said.

Community support for the trail and use of the Sterling Mine Ditch Trail, where SUTA led restoration efforts, continues to grow, Robertson said.

“It doesn’t matter what day of the week you go out. We see cars parked at the trailheads,” said Robertson. “To me, it’s a big economic positive for the area.”

Comments can be submitted and will be reviewed until a project decision is made. The scoping letter is at www.blm.gov/or/districts/medford/plans/index.php under Plans and Projects, then Existing/Historic Documents. Comments can be emailed to Medford_Mail@BLM.gov (Attention: Stephanie Kelleher).

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.