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Open and shut case

A gate into Prescott Park on Roxy Ann Peak has become a point of contention between the city and a homeowner's group that doesn't like the gate being left open all the time.

Under an agreement with the city, the Eagle Trace Home Owner’s Association used to be in charge of locking and unlocking the gate. But some park users complained that the gate wasn't always unlocked in a timely manner, restricting access to Medford's largest recreational area.

About six months ago, the Medford Parks and Recreation Department decided to leave it unlocked all the time — a situation that alarmed local homeowners worried about fires or vandalism.

“That’s a wildfire area,” said Bob Roe, president of the Eagle Trace Home Owner’s Association. “We’re very concerned about the safety of our homes.”

The Medford Parks and Recreation Commission will discuss issues with access through the gate at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, at the Carnegie Building, 413 W. Main St.

The Eagle Trace Home Owner’s Association has an agreement with the city to open or lock the gates according to the times when the park is open.

“The biggest issue is the opening and closing of the gates,” said Brian Sjothun, director of Medford Parks and Recreation. “They are not opening on time.”

Two gates on the road in the park are separated by about three-quarters of a mile. The lower gate had been open or closed depending on the time of day, while the upper gate marks the end of public access for vehicles, although it is left open for trucks coming to or from a gravel pit on the hill. Vehicles driven by the public are typically parked near the upper gate, but if the lower gate is left locked park visitors are faced with a much longer hike.

The 1,740-acre park takes up much of the upper reaches of Roxy Ann Peak, which is criss-crossed with gravel roads and trails used by hikers and cyclists.

Over the years, various issues have confronted parks employees.

If drivers parked at the upper gate didn’t leave at closing time, they would find themselves locked in, forcing them to dial an emergency number to get out. On several occasions, the lower gate was not unlocked on weekends. The gate was also closed but not locked during the day, and visitors assumed they couldn’t get into the park.

Park users have requested the gate remain open longer during spring and summer to take advantage of the longer days.

Under a proposal being considered by the Medford Parks and Recreation Commission, the gates could remain open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from April 1 to October 1 compared with the current 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Another idea is to install an automatic gate, but the cost hasn’t been figured out yet.

“That sounds like a good idea,” said Megan Mackenzie, a 20-year-old Medford woman who hiked Roxy Ann with her sister and friend Monday.

Medford resident Jeremy Sinks, 34, cycled up the peak Monday.

“I never understood the purpose of the lower gate,” he said. “Why are there two gates?”

The lower gate was put in years ago after it was discovered people were driving into the park at night and finding it a good place to have a party, Sjothun said.

He said there are potential barriers to installing an automatic gate, including a lack of power nearby. He said solar panels might not provide sufficient power to move a heavy gate.

For the time being, the Eagle Point Home Owner’s Association would like to continue its practice of opening and closing the lower gate. The parks department pays $2,000 annually for the service.

Roe said the association would be willing to open the gate earlier in the day and close it later if the Parks Commission approves the idea.

“I have no objection,” Roe said. “If they want the gate open longer hours, we’re good with that.”

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

From the left, Megan and Madison Mackenzie and Carla Hanson, all 20, pass Monday through the upper gate on their way up Roxy Ann Peak in Prescott Park. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell