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Bill McDonald plays with his pit bull-mix dogs Player and Mini at Gold Hill's beach park on the Rogue River. City officials say dogs running off-leash and alcohol-fueled parties are ruining the beach for families. Residents who use the beach say the lack of a restroom and city maintenance contribute to problems. - Bob Pennell

Beach bummed in Gold Hill

GOLD HILL — City officials say an ongoing party by residents who drink alcohol, let dogs wander off-leash and don't pick up after themselves are ruining a sandy beach along the Rogue River for families.

"It's every day," said Councilwoman Donna Silva. "They start about 9:30 in the morning and the cases of beer start down. By 2 and 3 p.m., they're carrying two and four (beer cases) at a time down there."

The city has been fighting against vandalism for several years at both the beach park underneath the bridge at the east entrance to town and the sports park upriver.

Incidents range from graffiti and fecal matter smeared on the walls of a portable restroom to alcohol-fueled parties and large dogs chasing children on a nearby bike path.

Lisa Baird, who relaxed with several friends and their dogs by the river on a sunny afternoon, said the beach is popular with residents from "all walks of life."

She argued that removal of the much-needed restroom after vandalism earlier this summer and sparse city maintenance of parks keep local families away. She said she and her friends, who use the park four to five times a week, try to keep transients at bay and provide a watchful eye on children.

Resident Jeremy Nelli scoffed at the notion the beach park was being avoided by young families or that locals would destroy a restroom provided for their benefit.

"People are afraid to come down here? Come down here when it hits 90 degrees. and there're 100 people," he said.

"And if anything, us being here, we help run the transients off because they do tear up the beach. I don't think there's as much trouble as the city is saying.

"As far as the bathroom," he added, "I was glad when they took it out of here because they never cleaned it. It was so bad I'm surprised it didn't blow up."

Vandalism also forced the city to temporarily close a volunteer-built rest room at the sports park for repairs earlier this year. Now that the rest room is open for restricted hours, the problems have subsided, officials said.

Public Works Director Mike Edwards, who answered his phone from the city boat ramp Friday after yet another break-in at the pay station was reported, said both the sports and beach parks have issues, though sports-park users seem to show "a great deal of pride" in trying to keep the park clean.

In recent weeks, citizens and the Jackson County Sheriff's Department met to discuss using a "Neighborhood Watch" approach to policing the town, but no decisions have been made.

City Recorder Mary Goddard was directed this week to write a letter requesting assistance from the county commissioners, animal control officials and the sheriff's department.

Sheriff's Lt. Bob Sergi said the beach is the city's responsibility, although residents are entitled to protection by the county.

"We have taken some selective enforcement there in the past, but the beach is the city's responsibility. And there's the rub," he said.

"They don't have a police department, so we answer calls for service like any other part of the county. Priority calls are handled immediately, while other calls have to wait. Sometimes we can get there and sometimes it takes a little bit."

"The question is, how to you get a community to take enough pride in itself to police itself?" Edwards said.

"A citizen told me that one young lady, he called her a fiery redhead, was on the beach yelling at people to pick up after themselves. I think that's what it's going to take. A lot of self-policing. People wanting to take back their community."

Baird said increased maintenance efforts from the city, along with citizen clean-up efforts, would be a good start.

"As far as I'm concerned, they put in bathrooms at the sports park where the tennis courts are when they could have put in rest rooms over by where the softball fields are or here at the beach, where people would actually use it," she said.

"If the city would work with people, we could make things better. What would be nice would be to see the community get together and do a beach clean-up day. We even come down in the winter with the dogs and feed the ducks. There are a few issues, but for the most part it's still a nice park."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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