Greenway shuts down for repairs

The Bear Creek Greenway from the dog park to Eagle Mill Road will be closed until early November to repair damage caused by a 2005 flood.

The stretch near South Valley View Road was closed on Monday to allow crews to bolster the banks around the bridge where Bear Creek meets Ashland Creek, said Karen Smith, county Greenway coordinator.

"The bridge is very solid but floodwater has undercut the trail," Smith said. "There's going to be quite a dramatic amount of work to be done to stabilize the bank."

The $268,013 construction contract, won by Johnny Cat Inc., will be financed primarily by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which will take on 75 percent of the bill. The Jackson County Roads Department will fund the rest.

Lee Mills, president of the Greenway Foundation, said funding negotiations and creek regulations have delayed the project until now.

"I think first of all, the county had to work out with FEMA the details of paying for the damage, and that always takes time," Mills said. "They are limited as to when they can do the work because it's going to take place in the stream. This is the first season they've been able to do it."

In-stream work is allowed from June 15 to Sept. 15 under U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department regulations.

Wildlife in the area includes 105 species of birds, including hawks, doves, hummingbirds and woodpeckers. Smith said wildlife was a major concern during the planning process.

"We have made sure not to take out trees during the nesting period," Smith said. "The biggest concern is the fishery. You have to do things like de-water certain places and put up coffer dams to make sure no fish get caught in the area where work is being done."

Relentless rain pounding saturated soils caused Bear Creek to overflow its banks on Dec. 30, 2005. About 600 residents in four mobile parks were evacuated as the creek threatened their homes.

The flood washed away part of the bank where the two creeks converge and eroded some of the Greenway trail.

To reinforce the bank, cranes will be used to place tree trunks along the inside of the creek.

"There's just no way to travel through there without wading," Smith said. "With big machines around it's just not safe."

Bicyclists who use the trail to commute to work in Medford will likely take Highway 99 around the closure.

"They're going to have to find other routes around, for the next couple of months, unfortunately," Smith said. "There's no safe way to do this job otherwise."

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