Damaged section of Greenway will be rerouted

TALENT — Relocation of part of the Bear Creek Greenway that washed out in a 2005 flood will begin Tuesday. About 500 feet will be moved to the west to avoid future damage.

Greenway pavement was undercut by Bear Creek during the flood, creating a sandy section that users must traverse. Orange plastic construction netting marks the spot.

"We're going to have to close the trail during some of the work week period," said Jenna Stanke, Jackson County special projects manager. "Trail users have been able to go through the area since initial repairs in 2005."

The site is north of a parking area along Highway 99 north of Valley View Road in Ashland, near the intersection with Talent Avenue. Closures will occur Mondays through Thursdays between 7 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.

Federal Emergency Management Agency funds will pay for most of the costs because it is flood repair, with the balance coming from the county's trail fund. Jackson County will perform all the work except paving.

While FEMA is footing the bill, it initially balked at relocating the path.

"It's taken so long to repair because originally we were denied when we asked to relocate it away from the creek," said Stanke. "If we would have built it back in place there was a lot of in-stream work to be done to shore up the bank. We would have needed a permit and it would have cost more."

Originally the stream bed was at least 40 feet farther to the east, said retired Greenway coordinator Karen Smith. A 1997 flood cut away the creek bank and covered the path with sand.

"What we wanted to do was move the trail behind a row of trees and leave the creek bank alone," said Smith. "FEMA said initially the construction was too far from the site of the original damage and they didn't want to pay for it."

County officials kept working with FEMA, which eventually said it made sense to move the path.

"It would wash out again if we rebuilt in the same location," Smith said.

Total cost will be about $200,000, which includes $130,000 for construction and $70,000 for engineering.

Bicyclists on the path Thursday said they'll be glad to see the improvement.

"If you're not paying attention and hit some sand, you're going to go out," said Bob Jones, who was riding north on the Greenway. He bikes the path regularly and said he worries about the sand with his slick tires.

"Any improvement would be great," said Buddy Lauer, who is visiting the area from Maui and biked the section for the first time.

About 2,000 feet of the trail will be closed at various times. Signs have been posted in the work area, at the parking area and Lynn Newbry Park. Trail users can use Highway 99 as an alternate route during closures.

Jerry Bunch, an adjacent property owner, granted an easement so that about 100 feet of the trail can cross his land. Asphalt from the old trail will be removed and the resulting soft surface trail will be retained for hiking and equestrian uses.

Stanke doesn't have path-user figures, but said, "Even in the winter when it's raining and yucky you see people down there."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.

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