Grant to fund greenway repairs

A year after fresh asphalt was laid on one of the final stretches of the Bear Creek Greenway, other chunks of the 21-mile path are plagued with bumps, cracks and roots poking through the pavement.

"We have sections of the trail that were built in the early '70s, and they are showing their age," said John Vial, county roads and parks manager.

"No one has ever really cracked the how-to-stop-the-root-intrusion problem," said Vial. "They get worse over time."

Three stretches of the root-damaged Greenway, which runs from Oak Street in Ashland to Seven Oaks interchange in Central Point, are due for new pavement, and money for the project is in hand. Repairs, however, likely won't begin until the 2012 construction season, Vial said.

"When we first got the grant, we had hoped for this summer, but we never had a schedule," Vial said. "We knew it was a long shot."

Nearly $1.7 million has been collected for the project, with roughly $1.4 million coming from the Oregon Department of Transportation Rapid Readiness and Flexible Funding program, and another $145,000 from the Joint Powers Committee, a group that represents the five cities that the Greenway runs alongside. The grants were secured in February, but a lengthy permits process pushed the construction into next year, according to Vial, who says the repairs are urgent.

The three sections are a three-mile stretch from Barnett to Biddle roads in Medford, a three-and-a-half-mile stretch from Valley View Road in Ashland to Suncrest Road in Talent, and a quarter-mile spot near milepost 9 in Ashland.

Lee Mills, president of the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation, agrees that the pathway is in dire need of repairs, saying the section between Ashland and Talent is the most worn.

"They are potentially dangerous, and there are people who have been injured," said Mills, who regularly bikes the Greenway. "The worst is the little volcanoes where a root is trying to come through.

"You hit one of those things and you're not hanging on tight, you could go down, and people have. They come up very suddenly."

Bikers and walkers on the Greenway Friday agreed that the roots could be a potential problem, but still enjoyed using the path.

"It's annoying more than dangerous," said William Irvine, who was walking the Greenway south of Talent with his wife, Jane, Friday morning.

"It seems like there's no base, it was gravel and they just went over it," said Irvine, who has been visiting the Rogue Valley and walking the Greenway for more than 30 years.

"It's pretty ragged right now because of the roots that push up."

Medford resident Jeff Fish said he bikes the path a few times a week and believes that despite some root damage, the condition of the path isn't terrible.

"There are root bumps once in a while, some good spots and some areas that are pretty rough," said Fish, "but overall it's still great."

The three sections of the Greenway will be replaced one area at a time, and Vial expects the project to be quick and simple.

"It will be a short project, and should be without problems," said Vial.

Bids for the project will open Oct. 13.

Teresa Ristow is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4459 or by email at tristow@mailtribune.com.

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