A solitary walker makes his way along the Bear Creek Greenway near Hawthorne Park in Medford. About seven miles of the trail will be repaired this summer, thanks to state grants and local funds. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch - Jamie Lusch

Greenway upgrades coming

New projects and newly restored areas of the Bear Creek Greenway will give bikers, runners and walkers a smoother — and possibly longer — trail.

A total of seven miles of trail will be closed for construction at different times this summer. The Oregon Department of Transportation provided a $1.7 million grant for construction, which was matched with $167,000 in local funds, according to Jenna Stanke, bicycle and pedestrian program manager and parks planner for Jackson County.

The 3.5-mile segment from South Valley View Road in Ashland to Suncrest Road in Talent was completed earlier this month. Two sections of the trail that have been closed because of re-pavement since mid-June are set to open in coming weeks. A quarter-mile section from the Ashland dog park through Eagle Mill Road and South Valley View Road is tentatively scheduled to reopen on Wednesday, Stanke said.

Also, a 3.5-mile section from Barnett Road to 10th Street in Medford will reopen July 9. A minor construction project will close a section near the Biddle Road access ramps also on July 9.

Stanke said some sections of the trail needed new pavement while others needed to be widened. By the end of summer, construction crews also will address portions of the trail that have roots pushing up the pavement.

About 400 pedestrians and cyclists use the 17.5-mile trail each day, according to Stanke. The trail, which was completed in 2011, runs parallel to Bear Creek, Interstate 5 and Highway 99. The first part of the trail was built in Medford in 1973 by ODOT and has since been added to, section by section.

Since last year, the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation has focused on a 1.4-mile project that would make the trail span nearly 20 miles. When completed, that segment would bring the trail closer to the Rogue River Greenway, with a goal of creating an uninterrupted 42-mile trail linking Ashland to Grants Pass.

The section between Pine Street and Upton Road in Central Point would be added to the trail during summer 2013. Stanke said the new section of the trail would provide users easy access to the Jackson County Expo.

The project received a $1.7 million grant from ODOT last year, but the foundation can use the grant money only if it raises $190,000 by the end of this year. So far, the foundation has raised $70,000, according to foundation President Lee Mills.

Mills said the foundation has received donations mainly from individual donors, ranging from $50 to $1,000. The foundation also hopes to target long-time donors who can give $10,000 to $20,000 in the coming months.

"We're gearing up for our capital campaign," Mills said. "We expect to have it in full gear this month."

Aside from individual donations, Mills said, some local businesses and organizations have contributed. Orchard Hill Elementary in Medford raised about $310 from a penny drive earlier this year, according to school officials. Other groups, such as The Rogue Run and Silver Striders, have also contributed funds, Mills said.

Stanke said she's confident the foundation can raise the needed funds.

"I think people realize that it doesn't cost to use the trail, but it does cost to build the trail," she said. "A lot of people are willing to pitch in."

Reach University of Oregon reporting intern Josephine Woolington at 541-776-4368

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