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More Bear Creek Greenway sections to open

Jackson County Parks officials hope to reopen two more sections of the Bear Creek Greenway by the end of the week as removal of hazardous trees and restoration work on the roughly 9 miles of multi-use path impacted by the Almeda fire continues.

The stretches expected to reopen next run from Oak Street to South Valley View Road in Ashland and from Suncrest Road to Lynn Newbry Park in Talent, according to Steve Lambert, Jackson County Parks program manager. A section that runs from Talent’s Suncrest Road to U.S. Cellular Community Park reopened Tuesday.

Next week, the focus will turn to the most heavily impacted part of the Greenway, which runs between Talent and Ashland.

Greenway restoration work began about two weeks ago following the 3,200-acre Almeda fire, which started Sept. 8 in Ashland. The blaze destroyed thousands of structures, forced thousands of residents to evacuate and left three dead.

The flames also affected roughly nine miles of the Greenway. Work left to do in the first phase of restoration includes repairs to damaged bridges and hazard trees that are still standing but could easily fall onto the trail during a wind event. Initial tree clearing work following the fire started at Northridge Terrace in Medford, with arborists from Bartlett Tree Service working south.

“Their main focus at this point has been any trees that, in their professional arborist view ... pose a significant hazard to folks that are on the paved path,” Lambert said. “So if it’s leaning over the trail, if it appears ... it could fall on the trail, we asked them to take those trees down.”

Lambert estimated hundreds of hazard trees have been removed so far. Officials are asking anyone using the path to stick to the pavement and stay out of burned areas.

“We’re trying to get the work done as fast as we can,” said Jackson County Sheriff Nathan Sickler.

County officials are also working with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments, Freshwater Trust and other local groups on a plan to reseed a sizable area of public land that borders the creek.

“We’re very concerned, obviously, with the amount of burned area there and the hazards that it might pose to water quality ... if we get some significant rainstorm events that might cause erosion into the creek,” Lambert said.

County officials have asked for assistance from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management and plan to start some of that seeding within the next two weeks.

Reach Mail Tribune web editor Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@rosebudmedia.com.

Bridges along the Bear Creek Greenway were damaged by the Almeda fire.{ }
Arborists are cutting hazard trees along the Bear Creek Greenway in the aftermath of the Almeda fire. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch